25 March 2015

Brussels News Impact Summit

by Elise Féron


The News Impact Summit is an event dedicated to media innovation and aimed at journalists and editors from all over Europe. Speakers are journalism professionnals, managers, editors, or data journalism practitioners. It took place in Brussels from the 23rd to the 24fh of February.

One of the first speakers on stage was Mirko Lorenz, co-founder of Datawrapper. He was then followed by John Burn-Murdoch from the Financial Times, Winny De Jong from the magazine oneworld.nl and Jacopo Ottaviani, initiator of the pan-European project E-Generation.

"It’s not data journalism, it's data driven journalism. Still journalism, still telling stories" - @mirkolorenz, speaking of the way journalists work with data.

Mirko Lorenz uses data to tell stories. Through a series of examples, he gave the participants an overview on existing tools to create the best visualizations. « You need to compare your data. First the data, then the story. And ask yourself questions: What is my topic? Why should we care about? How can I explain it? »
Common tools for sorting out data are Excel or Goolge sheets, Open Refine, Scrapper, Formeln… Mirko Lorenz advised the participants to work with designers and developers, “they are very interested in working with journalists”. Tools are numerous to create data vizualisation : D3.js, datawrapper, Juice labs charts chooser... « Databases are the new printing press. Today's new oppotunities for media is to make easier for your reader to find your information. We need to move from attention to trust ».

John Burn-Murdoch and his colleagues at the Financial Times know very well how to use those tools. Financial news actually becomes fun... when you give it the right look.

« Cartogram work often better than chloropleth map » - @jburnmurdoch talking about the efficiency of maps and charts for data visualization

This is what John Burn-Murdoch, interactive data journalist at the Financial Times demonstrated with a few charts. However the complexity of some issues and their visualization, the appearance they gave  to it makes the visualization very easy to understand. « The reader should only be thinking about the story. Not about the dataset behind it ». Following this idea, the renting crisis in London (http://on.ft.com/1ClCYaN) is simply summarized in one question : where can you afford to rent a flat in London (if you can) ? Murdoch explained that « data journalism helps the Financial Times attract new young audience. Part of the unique value of Financial Times interactives is revenue protection. Data journalists sit on a goldmine ».

Before you start visualizing anything, you need an idea. Winny de Jong, data journalist for the magazine OneWorld.nl in The Netherlands is always looking for ideas.

"You don’t get the ideas you wished for, you get the ideas you work for" - @winnydejong explaining how she finds ideas.

She spends hours reading on feedly, follows blogs, to find inspiration. A few months ago, she wanted to show the roads followed by migrants in Europe. How can you represent efficiently the complexity of migration flow ? The journalist rapidly thought of a metro map (http://bit.ly/1OvpgHK) , and to know if that could work, she sketched it. 30 minutes later she came to the conclusion that it was obviously the ideal representation of the issue. The difficulty is to find the right idea to illustrate your subject.

The 4 journalists from Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy who started the project “E-Generation” did have a really good idea.

Generation E, a youth European data-driven project

Their project deals with youth emigration in Europe. They used existing data, but quickly realised that it did not cover the probem entirely. So, they released a simple google form (http://www.generatione.eu/en/) to gather the information they needed directly from the people they wanted to talk about. They collected over 1600 answers.

Their stories are only starting to get published, in several languages accross Europe, online, but also in printing press .

Their project, like the previous examples, showed limits and potentials, as Jacopo Ottaviani (@JacopoOttaviani) concluded in his presentation, « the methodology behind the dataset is not scientific. But still, it is a gold mine for narratives and stories ».

The examples given by Mirko Lorenz, John Burn-Murdoch and Winny De Jong perfectly illustrate the main goal of data visualization : communicating information clearly and efficiently to the readers, by using the most appropriate visual representation. But this is only one aspect of working with data. Jacopo Ottaviani's E-Generation project shows that you can go much further : using very simple tools, you can gather the data you lack and create your own databases. Alongside Mirko Lorenz, Winny De Jong and John Burn-Murdoch, Jacopo Ottaviani summarized the possibilities given by data in one word : a goldmine, for journalists and media.



The renting crisis in London 
Mapping migration on onewrold.nl
Google-form for the E-Generation project