Now in its seventh year, The Data Journalism Awards received a record 630 submissions from 58 countries.
Marianne Bouchart, the programme manager of the awards, highlighted some recent innovations in the field of data journalism as reflected by the projects submitted, speaking at the GEN Summit in Portugal yesterday (31 May) ahead of the ceremony announcing the winners later in the day.
“Data journalism is still spreading internationally, which is great news. We see more and more projects coming from countries that have never applied before.”
Here are five recent changes in the data journalism field:
“We’ve changed the way we do maps,” said Bouchart.
“Newsrooms are getting better at it. Maps are more interactive, more granular, prettier too, and integrated in the narrative.
“More and more journalists don’t do maps for the sake of doing maps, but for good reasons.”
She pointed to “The five main projects of the Belt and Road Initiative” project by the South China Morning Post as a good example of the way journalists now use maps in their storytelling.
“We’re not talking about boring, static maps anymore,” she said. “This is an example of how newsrooms around the world are aiming for more interactivity and better user journey through data stories, even when the topic is complex.”
“New innovative storytelling techniques have arrived,” she continued.
Drones can become a useful tool for journalists looking to get a birds-eye view over a community or local area, to update their data or to get a better idea of what stats and figures look like in real life.
For “Roads to Nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality”, a story revealing how US city planning has a divisive history, The Guardian used drone footage to illustrate how city planning decisions have made their mark in a number of neighbourhoods.
There has been a lot of talk about the potential of machine learning to change the media industry, but so far it has been sparingly used in newsgathering or storytelling.
BuzzFeed News used an algorithm to sift for planes with a certain kind of flight pattern, in order to reveal the extent of the use of surveillance aircrafts in the United States. The project earned them The JSK Fellowships award for innovation in data journalism at this year’s Data Journalism Awards.
“Without using machine learning to identify aircrafts, the activities of many of those devices would have remained hidden,” explained Bouchart.
“Only a few stories use machine learning as a core tool for reporting which is why this project is quite important.”
AR technology has also made an impact on data journalism – an app called ExtraPol by WeDoData combined the two ahead of the French election in 2017.
Candidates’ campaign posters could be turned into a new live data visualisation, using for example information about their travels in France or the number of years they have held on to their political mandates.
The app was recognised with a Citation for Excellence at the Data Journalism Awards 2018.
More and more newsrooms are experimenting with gamification in order to provide their audiences with a more engaging experience or to identify a better way to tell complex stories.
The FT’s Uber Game has been “a key player inspiring newsrooms around the world” in this space, said Bouchart.
A way to present data reporting in a new format, The Uber Game took about 10 minutes for a player to complete, and 67 clicks.
Two thirds of the people who started the game finished it, earning it a spot on the shortlist for “News data app of the year”.