Lessons from the School of Data Journalism

    by Lucy Chambers
    May 7, 2013

    Another busy year has passed since the first School of Data Journalism at the [International Journalism Festival in Perugia](http://www.journalismfestival.com). Last year, the [Open Knowledge Foundation](http://okfn.org) and the [European Journalism Centre](http://www.ejc.net/ejc/) launched the [Data Journalism Handbook](http://datajournalismhandbook.org), and this year, the two organizations were back organizing the festival within a festival. Here are a few highlights.

    i-abadbdb5ca8e07673348cb5cf9caf04a-school of data journalism perugia.jpg

    Attendees of the School of Data Journalism at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia take notes.

    The School of Data Journalism, Europe’s biggest data journalism event, brought together around 20 panelists and instructors from Reuters, The New York Times, Spiegel, Guardian, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews and others, in a mix of discussions and hands-on sessions focusing on everything from cross-border data-driven investigative journalism to emergency reporting and using spreadsheets, social media data, data visualization and mapping for journalism.

    More than 300 people — up from last year — registered to attend the workshops this year, and in some cases, people were sitting on top of each other just to get into the room!

    In case you missed it, the following contains all the links and tipsheets to the sessions, as well as a few highlights.

    Video recordings 

    Panel Discussions

    Panel 1: The State of Data Journalism in 2013.

    Our first panel kicked off with some thought-provoking questions: “Have Nate Silver’s correct predictions about the U.S. elections pushed data journalism into a new age — are journalists now expected to also be pundits?”; “When will Italy get an effective Freedom of Information law?”; “What are the key changes we’ve seen over the past year in the field of data journalism?”

    Panelists: Guido Romeo (Wired-Italy), Aron Pilhofer (New York Times) and Dan Sinker (Knight-Mozilla Open News).

    Panel 2: Data and Investigations: Collaborating Across Borders.

    Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration was the theme of this panel — all panelists recognizing that with shrinking newsroom budgets and increasing international focus on stories, organizations needed to collaborate successfully to pool strengths. However, collaboration does not mean that you have to share your scoops. Building shared resources is a fruitful approach — but you can keep your leads to yourselves!

    Panelists: Friedrich Lindenberg (Open News Fellow), Jack Thurston (FarmSubsidy.org), James Ball (The Guardian), Paul Radu (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project).

    Panel 3: Data Journalism in Southern Europe.

    With the launch of initiatives such as datajournalism.it, we’re seeing that the data journalism wave is spreading to the Mediterranean, but is it as easy to get the same quality data as a raw material there? Our panelists compared their experiences in trying to get the same data they had managed to get abroad, talked through some of the most effective ways of getting data (in some cases, slipping someone a bribe to oil the wheels to getting machine-readable data), and discussed some of Italy’s first data-journalism projects on whether schools were complying with building regulations in seismic zones.

    Panelists: Elisabetta Tola (Formicablu), Mar Cabra (Multimedia Investigative Reporter), Marko Rakar (Windmill).

    Panel 4: Covering Emergencies in the Age of Big Data.

    Recent events such as the Boston Bombings, hurricane Sandy, and the Syrian refugee crisis provoke debate about whether journalists can keep up with data streams. Panelists discussed both man-made and natural disasters, including how long it takes to verify a single social media account. In addition, The New York Times took its hat off to smaller newsrooms, who, thanks to excellent preparation and forward planning, produced superb data services hitting right to the heart of what citizens wanted to know when Sandy struck with as few as two people in a team.

    Panelists: Anthony De Rosa (Reuters), Aron Pilhofer (New York Times), Christopher Reardon (UNHCR), Rina Tsubaki (European Journalism Centre), Claire Wardle (Storyful).


    The School also gave the participants an opportunity to get hands-on with data as well as to dig into the philosophy and best practices of visualization. See below for quick links to resources, videos and slides from the sessions.

    Slides, tutorials, articles

    Tools and other resources

    • Source — An index of news developer source code, code walkthroughs and project breakdowns from journalist-coders.
    • School of Data — Online tutorials for working with data.
    • The Data Journalism Handbook — Reference book about how to use data to improve the news authored by 70 data journalism practitioners and advocates.
    • Open Refine — For data cleaning.
    • Gephi — For graph visualizations.
    • Hashtagify — Visualization of Twitter hashtags related to a particular #tag.
    • Investigative Dashboard — Methodologies, resources and links for journalists to track money, shareholders and company ownership across international borders.
    • Tabula — Open-source application that allows users to upload PDFs and extract the data in them in CSV format.
    • Topsy — Social media analysis tool mentioned in panel on covering emergencies.
    • DataSift — Mentioned in panel on covering emergencies.
    • Storyful — The social media Newswire for Newsrooms
    • GeoFeedia — Search and monitor social media by location.
    • Spokeo — “Spokeo is a people search engine that organizes White-pages listings, Public Records and Social Network Information to help you safely find & learn about people.”
    • The Tor project — Useful in environments likely to suffer from censorship. Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

    Projects and organizations


    Enjoyed this? Want to stay in touch? Join the School of Data Announce Mailing List for updates on more training activities from the School of Data or the Data Driven Journalism list for discussions and news from the world of Data Journalism.

    Lucy Chambers is a community coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. She works on the OKF’s OpenSpending project and coordinates the data-driven-journalism activities of the foundation, including running training sessions and helping to streamline the production of a collaboratively written handbook for data journalists.

    Tagged: data journalism ddj ddjschool excel open data open knowledge foundation visualization

    One response to “Lessons from the School of Data Journalism”

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