Data Journalists Gather, Transparency, and Data Viz

Notes and links from the data journalism beat

Data journalism is becoming a truly global practice.  Data journalists from the UK, China, and the US are sharing data-oriented best practices, insights, and tools. Journalists in Latin America are meeting this week to push for more transparency and access to data in the region. At the same time, recent revelations about NSA domestic surveillance programs have pushed big data stories to the front pages of US papers.  Here are a few links from the past week:

Transparency…or Lack Thereof

  • OpenData Latinoamérica: Driving the demand side of data and scraping towards transparency (Neiman Journalism Lab)
    “There’s a saying here, and I’ll translate, because it’s very much how we work,” Miguel Paz said to me over a Skype call from Chile. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s illegal. Here, it’s ‘It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” Paz is a veteran of the digital news business. The saying has to do with his approach to scraping public data from governments that may be slow to share it.
  • The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism (
    On Thursday, June 6, the Washington Post published a bombshell of a story, alleging that nine giants of the tech industry had “knowingly participated” in a widespread program by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). One day later, with no acknowledgment except for a change in the timestamp, the Post revised the story, backing down from sensational claims it made originally. But the damage was already done.
  • We are shocked, shocked… (
    Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.
  • Big Data Has Big Stage at Personal Democracy Forum (
    Engaging News Project’s Talia Stroud tackled the issue of public engagement in news organizations. Polls on websites don’t yield scientifically accurate results, nor do they get people to address difficult issues, she said. “These data are junk. We know they’re junk,” Stroud said. “City council representatives know they’re junk. Even news organizations know that the results of these data are junk. The only reason that this poll is being included on the news organization’s site is to increase interactivity and increase your time on page.”

Tools and Resources

Data Visualization 

  • Why The Global Mail has focused in on data and investigations (
    The not-for-profit investigative outlet launched data visualisation “Behind the Wire” today, as part of a new focus on data and ‘more editorially ambitious’ stories. Part of the evolution of Behind The Wire will rely on users actively engaging with the data, both in terms of flagging certain reports and pursuing FOI requests. Bungey said while there have been similar attempts by other news outlets to get the audience involved in looking through data, he has not previously seen a visualisation which “actually changes” based on users’ inputs, and gives the ability for them to actually contribute “graphical evidence”.
  • Q&A: Data Viz Expert, Amanda Hickman (
    There have always been charts in the newspaper. What’s new is the really incredible mapping and collaborating and exploring that we’re doing online. As data visualization gets more popular in newsrooms, newsrooms are more and more likely to show their work, to publish their raw data, which I think is incredibly valuable. We expect to be able to explore the news, to question reporters. That seems like a good thing to me. The open data movement has gone hand in hand with this transformation–as more journalists do more with data it gets more appalling when a government agency tries to pass off a photograph of a data table as “information.”
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