By Guido Romeo
We are pleased to announce the winning stories for the recent Data Journalism Awards, the first International contest recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide.
These stories cover issues about anti-terrorism and public spending, health and education systems, always with a strong investigative push and great accuracy in data use. Among others, an inquiry by the Seattle Times on painkiller methadone overdoses and people income had already been awarded with the Pulitzer Prize.
Three of the 16 stories selected for the data-driven investigative journalism category (the other two were data visualisation & storytelling, and data-driven applications ) are the result of partnerships between media outlets and non-profit journalism programs, such as the Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, the Center for Investigative Reporting and The Center for Public Integrity.
Published last Fall by US monthly Mother Jones, Terrorist for the Fbi explains how the FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But the actual target become American citizens “at risk”, and the data set provided show the details about the prosecutions of 508 alleged “domestic terrorists”. Readers can even “play” with such data to check their own outcome.
Methadone and the politics of Pain, is another first-class investigation on the many distortions of the current US health system. Medicaid patients are encouraged to use a narcotic that costs less than a dollar a dose, insisting that methadone is safe. But hundreds die from it each year — and more than anyone else, it’s the poor who pays the price.
Both inquiries integrated several formats and tools, both online and on print editions, producing a variety of interactive infographics that directly engage readers on very controversial and often “forgotten” topics. They are perfect examples of a data journalism that supports truly important stories in the public interest.
Given the many data and tools freely available today, there is no excuse to avoid a flow of experiments and data journalism projects. Based on this suggestion by Simon Rogers on The Guardian’s DataBlog, here is a summary of the second day events at the Data Journalism School promoted by Ahref Istat in Rome (#djs12).
Stefano De Francisci dealt with principles and statistics behind visualizations, moving from Edward Tufte to Stephen Few (author of “Show with numbers”) and Hans Rosling, founder of Gapminder and developer of Statistic eXplorer, adopted by Ocse and Istat (and also the same engine of Google Fusion). Federico Geremei and Fabio Lipizzi focused on a critical use of source and repositories, while Tomaso Pisapia addressed the crucial issue of data access.
Paolo Ciuccarelli (Density Design Lab at Milan’s Politecnico) said that a graphic data presentation should not be reduced to a visualization, adding that a developing visual story about complex can never be neutral (despite Tufte). To support his point, Ciuccarelli illustrated the Napoleon’s March to Moscow in Russia (1912) byCharles Minard, the Data Visualization Serendipity by Joe Boeckenstedt, and Newsmap, a visualization of Google News.
Several tools introduced at the event seemed very easy to use right away: Many Eyes, Tableau Public and Google Fusion, already included in a toolkit by Elisabetta Tola; Visual.ly, to visualize social media data; an intuitive Infogram, and Fineo, a great tool for flow charts launched one year ago by Density Design.
Finally, Ciuccarelli threw a provocative idea: is data visualization another bubble ready to burst? Most probably that’s the case right now, but after that we will surely have an innovation wave of best practices and tools.
Data Journalism is gaining more and more attention in Italy, but how to translate and use csv files and spreadsheets in a journalism story? To answer similar questions, Ahref and Istat promoted the Data Journalism School – with support from Enel, the first major public corporation that made available its own datasets.
The event gathered in Rome 23 attendees and got started with a presentation by Elisabetta Tola (@elisabetta_tola) and Guido Romeo (@guidoromeo) titled: an overview of best practeces worldwide and Italy.
Ettore di Cesare and Vittorio Alvino, Openpolis "civic hackers", detailed the basic mechanisms and difficulties in the building of OpenParlamento and the upcoming OpenMunicipio. They also discussed the potentialities of open data in the upcoming future and their (not so easy) relationship with traditional media.
Istat’s Vincenzo Patruno explianed that journalism should embrace and re-use open data, taking advantage of ad hoc platforms such as socrata, datamarket and buzzdata, along with a Scraper, an easy-to-use plug-in for Chrome. Francesca Fuxa Sadurny talked about specific laws and procedures (particularly the 196/2003 Act) that relate to such issues in Italy.
Anna Maria Tononi, communication manager at Istat, proposed an in-depth analysis about the need to further increase a collaboration between open data and media outlets. In fact, TV is still the main source of information for most citizens, particularly in Italy (runner up are the press, and far distant, the Internet). How can we improve the overall distribution of data and their re-use by common citizens? «By promoting storytelling», said Tononi: all of us should learn how to tell good stories based on actual data, starting of course with online journalists.
The Data Journalism Awards, a sort of Pulitzer Prize for data journalism, will take place in Paris during the News World Summit 2012 at the opening gala dinner on 30 May 2012. The jury is chaired by Paul Steiger, managing editor of top investigative journalism newsroom ProPublica (www.propublica.org).
Last month, the 58 semifinalists were introduced at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia – including two Italian projects: Toxic Europe - , about toxic waste trafficking in Europe, and Peoplemovin on migration flows. A few days ago the finalists were also announced, including Peoplemovin by Carlo Zapponi. There three nominations are a great success for the Italian journalism community, particularly given their independent nature in a context where most other projects are proposed by large news organizations.
In any case, as Nelson Mauro points out in his Digital First, some of them are quite interesting ideas and provide good insights also for Ahref’s iData project.
For instance, Riot Rumors (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/interactive/2011/dec/07/london-riots-twitter) how misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis (The Guardian) helps to quickly find and fix inaccurate news that spreads so quickly in current events, such as in the London riot last August.
Country equivalents – interactive comparisons (The Economist) provides an interactive map of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data across the world – a useful tool in the on-going discussion about the GDP role for actual development and prosperity in any given country.
Every death on every road in Great Britain 1999-2010 (BBC) offers an interactive map covering 36,000 accidents that occured in the last ten years in the UK, with descriptions, icons, and other clickable options – something that would be very useful in Italy too.
Your School (The Australian) lists over 10,000 National schools with related performances, equipment and other specific data. Last but not least, Phone-hacking scandal: Who’s linked to who? (BBC News), an interactive map of people, events, and timeline about the scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch and News of the World. A similar project would be crucial to expose the economic and political intrigues that characterize the Italian scene since a long time ago.
Four regions in Southern Italy (Calabria, Campania, Sicilia, Puglia) received EU funding as part of the Programma Operativo Nazionale (PON) to improve teaching and learning processes in middle and high schools -- for a total of over 5 million Euro. This map provides more information such as funding amount for each province and locally financed projects.
View Distribuzione fondi PON Scuole medie in a full screen map
The Data Journalism Awards is the first International contest recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide. The six cash prizes for a total of 45,000 Euro will be awarded at the News World Summit, (30 May - 1st June 2012, Paris), and submissions are open until 10 April 2012. In a project that could easily be dubbed as the “Pulitzer prize of data journalism,” the competition covers three categories -- Data-driven investigative journalism; Data visualisation & storytelling; Data-driven applications (mobile or web) – and includes stories published or broadcast between 11 April 2011 and 10 April 2012.
The president of the jury is Paul Steiger, Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica, the non-profit investigative newsroom based in New York, and member of the <ahref Foundation’s scientific committee. Other jurors are top executives of prominent publishing ventures, such as Thomson Reuters, The New York Times, and Les Echos. Launched by the Global Editors Network in collaboration with the European Journalism Center and with support from Google, the contest includes also the Ahref Foundation among its media partners.
In particular, the competition seeks to contribute to setting high standards and highlighting the best practices in data journalism and to inspire journalists by showcasing outstanding work. Also important is to attract the attention of publishers and investors interested in promoting ventures focused on a full integration of journalism and technology skills. In this context, some innovative projects are ProPublica’s inquiry on school disparity (the “opportunity gap”) and the investigative report on property insurance – both concerning the US State of Florida – carried out by Paige Saint John of the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
For this latter report, Paige Saint John was awarded the 2011 Investigative Reporting Pulitzer Prize. She will be speaking at the upcoming International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy (25-29 April 2012).