Journalism’s new scoop, learning from Harry Potter, and meeting designers more than half way.

As an aspiring journalist, I worked in the Washington Post newsroom in an entry-level position that used to be known as a “copy boy”. (Later updated to the more inclusive “copy aide.”) I loved taking in the energy of the reporters, especially when they had pulled off a “scoop,” or a story that the other papers didn’t have yet. There was a pall over the newsroom when other papers “scooped” us, and published a story that the Post reporters had been too slow to report.

Finnish data journalist Esa Makinen says that data visualizations are journalism’s “new scoop.” Text stories can be quickly re-published by competitors, Makinen told, but data visualizations can not be copied. Makinen works on the data desk at Finland’s daily paper and website, Helsingin Sanomat, and spoke this week at the Digital Journalism Days conference in Warsaw.

A new tablet-first investigative publication is in the works from a team of data journalists around the world. Acuerdo (an old Spanish word for ‘agreement’) bills itself as “long-form journalism for pissed off readers.”  The first edition will be published next month in three languages. If you self-identify as a pissed-off reader, consider making a contribution to Acuerdo’s Kickstarter campaign.

Two data journalism stories worth reading appeared on Medium this week. Nathaniel Lash, the Google Journalism Fellow at the Center For Investigative Reporting, writes about what computer-assisted reporters can learn from Harry Potter in Mudbloods and Muggles and Data Journalism. And Jess Bachman, Creative Director at, says that elevating good stories to great stories requires data journalists to become familiar with names like cloropleth, sankey, and radial tree. In other words, meeting designers more than halfway includes learning about a wide variety of data viz styles.

Finally, the Investigative News Network profiles two data journalism pioneers this week:, which created a campaign finance database for Vermont residents, and New Mexico In-Depth, which attempts to make government documents in New Mexico more accessible.

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