The new team will be led by Karsten Polke Majewski, previously deputy editor; business editor Philip Faigle; digital and data protection expert Kai Biermann; and Sascha Venohr, who will remain in his post as head of data journalism alongside his new role.
"For us, the main point is that we have four people doing the big stories from the whole perspective of doing investigations based on data," Venohr told Journalism.co.uk, "and on the other side doing telephone investigations still. It's not only a data-driven team."
Zeit Online has been producing data journalism stories for the best part of three years, but the new team will give Zeit "the structure and the time" to work on in-depth stories on a regular basis, as well as daily reports, said Venohr.
Rather than a separate and specific team for investigations and data stories, the investigative team will partner with the rest of the outlet and take the lead on specific areas and big stories when necessary.
"We have a lot of sources for our stories but what we see is if you do investigative journalism you need the capability to dig into data," he said. "So, for example, if we looked at the activities for German members of parliament then the main source for our investigations would be the logs and protocols from the daily work of the parliament."The important thing is the team are the centre for the stories and ideas and we still have people around to pursue the stories and do great jobs with interactivesSascha Venohr, Zeit Online
With the new team leading investigations into such documents, they are able to decide how other news desks will pick up elements of the story and where, or how, those journalists should be digging.
"Something that is very important," Venohr continued, "is our team will have the opportunity to tell the story in the best way".
"It could be an interactive or a normal article for text-based storytelling. That's where I come in, making the bridge between the typical journalism research and investigation, to another storytelling idea if we make the decision to jump out from the article."
Recent examples have included an interactive visualisation of Germany's Winter Olympics medals since 1952; an article and interactive map looking at where the most legally-owned firearms are in Germany; and an interactive database detailing MP activity in Parliament for the last legislative period.
Screenshot from Zeit.de
"It's very important that we want to tell the stories in the best way," Venohr said, "and sometimes we will use a lot of time to make the polish, to make it very reader-friendly."
Not everyone will have the skills and knowledge of "complex tools" to create the visualisations, he said, but the important factor is that everyone is aware of what is possible from a data set, story lead or storytelling platform. Then, if everyone is involved in and aware of the ideas process, different journalists can offer their best skills and abilities to the story from start to finish.
"The important thing is the team are the centre for the stories and ideas and we still have people around to pursue the stories and do great jobs with interactives," Venohr said. "This won't change."
Correction: This article has been amended to refer to Zeit Online as the website for weekly newspaper Die Zeit. It previously refered to Zeit Online as a "German daily".
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