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Trinity Mirror is to launch a "digital journalism unit" which will focus on data journalism, supporting regional titles with "engaging content ideas".

According to a release, the establishment of the data journalism-driven operation has been prompted by the "potential value of data" which Trinity Mirror titles have experienced first-hand through their own "data journalism tests".

Digital publishing director for Trinity Mirror's regional titles David Higgerson added in the release that "there has been an explosion of freely available data from various sources over the past few years".

"We need to go through that data, identify which of it is of interest to our readers and then turn it into compelling content which gives people context as well as the ability to search the data for information which will appeal to them."

The unit will start by working with four newsrooms, including the Manchester Evening News, Huddersfield Examiner, North Wales Daily Post and Wales Online.

Higgerson told Journalism.co.uk the unit will work directly with local newsrooms on data sets relevant to them, rather than producing numerous variations of the same content for titles across the group.

While it will start by working with the four titles, in time the unit - which currently consists of Manchester Evening News's David Ottewell and Wales Online's Claire Miller - will be rolled out across Trinity Mirror regionals. A third member of the team is to be recruited.

The members of the unit will remain in their current locations and support the data journalism projects from within their local newsrooms. The unit will also produce its own data-driven content, as well as helping titles produce theirs.

Ottewell told Journalism.co.uk the launch of the unit is "a really exciting and ambitious development".

"Data is a huge and growing source of both stories and other 'useful' content - but journalists are only beginning to realise its potential.

"There is a massive opportunity for creative, data-savvy reporters to revolutionise part of our industry, using new tools to do what we have always done best - bring important truths to light, hold the powerful to account, and provide vital information to our public in a compelling, easily-digestible way.

"We aim to do just that."

He added that in some cases, data may reach across "local geographic borders, so a centralised unit makes perfect sense in terms of generating content and sharing best practice".

"There's a huge amount to do in terms of finding and interrogating data sources, exploring opportunities to create data sources of our own, and presenting this in ways that chime with our readers' lives and interests."

A number of Trinity Mirror titles already have strong records in data journalism. Wales Online, for example, has a dedicated datastore which Miller has been an integral part of growing.

Fellow Trinity Mirror title the Birmingham Mail also signalled its commitment to data journalism earlier in the year, launching its own datablog ‘Behind The Numbers’ in February, in partnership with Help Me Investigate.

In the same month Trinity Mirror also shared details of its "newsroom 3.0" plans with staff, which the company said would mean a "greater emphasis on the production of digital content".

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