diving into data: ijf12 school of data journalism

Diving into Data: The School of Data Journalism at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia

This article is cross-posted on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog and on DataDrivenJournalism.net. By Liliana Bounegru, project coordinator at the European Journalism Centre, and Lucy Chambers, community coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

In the past investigative reporters would suffer from a scarcity of information relating to questions they were trying to answer. While this is still the case, today journalists are also faced with an overwhelming abundance of data. In an age of information overload, to stay relevant to society journalists need to learn to separate signal from noise in order to provide valuable insights. Journalists need to be equipped with knowledge of the tools, techniques and tactics of working with data in order to derive maximum value from for their readers.

The European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation are pleased to invite you to the School of Data Journalism hosted at the sixth edition of Italy’s leading journalism event, the International Journalism Festival. The 2012 edition takes place in the beautiful city of Perugia from 25 to 29 April. Entry to the School of Data Journalism panels and workshops is free. Each workshop has a limited number of places and therefore registration will be necessary. Please note that not all requests to participate in the workshops will be accepted.

What is the School of Data Journalism and who is it for?

The School consists of three panel discussions and five workshops.

The panels attempt to provide answers to crucial questions for aspiring data journalists, editors and decision-makers in newsrooms:

* What can aspiring data journalists learn from the successes of the past?
* How can data journalism save your newsroom?
* How do you start a data journalism operation?
* How can you become a data journalist and what do you need to do?

In the workshops journalists who are interested to get started with reporting with data and budding data journalists will learn from experienced data journalists and open data experts essential skills related to how to get the data you need, how to analyse it, how to get stories from data and how to present your stories.


Panel 1: News and numbers: from CAR to data journalism (Thursday, 26 April)

Journalists have always used data and numbers to produce stories…and win Pulitzers. From Philip Meyer’s coverage of the Detroit riots in 1967 to Steve Doig’s ‘What Went Wrong’ analysis of the damage patterns from Hurricane Andrew, data-driven reporting has brought valuable public service and won journalists recognition and prizes.

Whereas there may be distinguishing aspects about the data journalism of today and the computer-assisted reporting of the past, it is crucial to learn from successful examples, techniques and approaches of the past.

* How can we bring the data journalism community and the CAR community closer together?
* What can aspiring data journalists learn from the successes of the past?
* What is the future of data journalism?

Panel 2: How can data journalism save your newsroom? (Friday, 27 April)

Journalism is under siege. Traditional models are collapsing. Developing the know-how to use the available data more effectively, to understand it, communicate and generate stories based on it, could be a huge opportunity to breathe new life into journalism

* What is the potential of data journalism?
* How do you start a data journalism operation?
* How can you start thinking about making money with data journalism?

Panel 3: You Too Can Be A Data Journalist! (Saturday, 28 April)

Where can I find data? How can I request data? What tools can I use? How can I find stories in data? How can I make money with data journalism?

Several leading data journalists, CAR specialists and journalism professors from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune, Medill School of Journalism and Cronkite School of Journalism worked together to answer these questions in the Data Journalism Handbook.

The handbook, the first comprehensive practical guide to data journalism, will be officially launched in this session. The session will provide the opportunity to meet and greet authors of the book, exchange knowledge and learn from them what you need to know to be a data journalist, as well as get a printed copy of the book.


Caelainn Barr, EU data journalist, formerly with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London
Sarah Cohen, Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, Duke University (Pulitzer prize winner)
Steve Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Arizona State University (Pulitzer prize winner)
Mirko Lorenz, data journalism trainer, Deutsche Welle
Dan Nguyen, news application developer, ProPublica
Aron Pilhofer, editor of Interactive News at The New York Times and co-founder of DocumentCloud.org
Simon Rogers, editor of the Guardian Data Blog


Workshop 1: Scraping data & cracking PDFs (Thursday, 26 April)

Hands up who knows what machine-readable data is? You will soon, and more importantly, how to get it and what you can do with it once you have it!

A workshop targeted at scraping from scratch, including:
> What PDFs and webpages look like to your computer – An introduction to machine-readable / non-machine readable data
> The Scraper Cookbook – an overview of the key things you need to know to write a scraper
> Hands on session – learning to screen-scrape. Main focus: hands on session using tools such as ScraperWiki. If sufficient interest & time, we will also touch on some of the tools & skills needed to extract data from PDFs.
> Error checking – how to check what you have makes sense, spotting the types of errors sometimes introduced if you don’t get it quite right!

Workshop 2: Information wants to be free – Freedom of information requests and how to use them (Friday, 27 April)

Freedom of information requests are constantly evolving. Law changes and technological advancements make it increasingly easier to file and systematise FOI requests, and importantly track their progress through the system. This workshop includes demonstrations and case studies examining the current state-of-play with FOI requests in Europe and beyond and looking into what’s next for the freedom of information movement.

Workshop 3: Making data pretty (Friday, 27 April)

Journalism is no longer just a block of prose on a page. The modern reader often demands maps, infographics and visualisations to make the story jump out at them, particularly in digital environments.

There are a vast array of free tools available on the web to allow data-journalists to quickly and easily digest, process and display the data powering their stories. This workshop aims to give a good overview of what is currently available and delve into depth on one of the most powerful: Google Fusion Tables.

Workshop 4: Getting Stories from Data (Saturday, 28 April)

Enormous datasets can often prove extremely daunting to the unfamiliar. Mistakes and crimes have historically benefited from, and triumphs and good decisions been obscured by, a mask of bewildering numbers and statistics and gone unreported.

Large datasets often hold a wealth of undiscovered stories for those willing to invest the time into exploring them. This workshop is a ‘spotters’-guide’ for things to look out for and where to look for datasets.

Workshop 5: Spending Stories (Sunday, 29 April)

To get to the bottom of a story, you need only to ‘follow the money’. The same is true of government: budgeting is where policies and priorities are broken down into figures. Financial programming has a direct influence on all political areas: while other data on health or social help us understand what challenges society faces, looking at spending data allows us to see how government reacts to all of these.

There are many spending databases available on the web, some impenetrable, some accessible for analysis. We’ll show how we enable journalists and researchers to make sense of the data and what strategies can be used to investigate stories and policies.

* Overview: What datasets are out there? Where can you look for more?
* Interrogating databases, how to extract the maximum amount of data out of tricky databases
* Tools for spending analysis, how to slice and dice once you have your data

Workshop leaders

Caelainn Barr, formerly with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, working on the award-winning Structural Funds investigation
Lucy Chambers, Open Knowledge Foundation, Community Coordinator for OpenSpending and the Spending Stories project.
Steve Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Arizona State University (Pulitzer prize winner)
Friedrich Lindenberg, Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland, Developer on OpenSpending
Dan Nguyen, news application developer, ProPublica
Simon Rogers, editor of the Guardian Data Blog

When and where?

The Data Journalism School takes place at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia between 25 and 29 April 2012. The schedule of the Data Journalism School, with confirmed speakers for each panel and workshop, will be posted on the festival website in early February.

How to register?

Entry to the festival and the School is free. There is no registration process to attend the festival. For the workshops there is a limited number of available seats. To secure a seat in the workshops please register via this form. The deadline for workshop registration is 20 March 2012. You will be notified by email by 25 March at the latest if we were able to confirm you a seat. The workshops are entry-level. Consideration will be given to your experience, skills and motivation to attend the workshop when making the selection.

What do you need to bring?

A lot of enthusiasm and a laptop are required for the workshop sessions. Please note for hands-on workshops tablet PC’s will not be appropriate.


If you have questions about the School of Data Journalism get in touch with the coordinators: Liliana Bounegru or Lucy Chambers.