Augmented Reality, machine learning, and other new ways of telling stories with data that could get you an award in 2019

As the 2019 competition launches, we talk latest trends, great examples of data journalism, and what makes a winning project...

Simon Rogers (left), Data Editor at Google and director of the competition, and Reginald Chua, Editorial Chief Operating Officer at Thomson Reuters and president of the jury, tell us what are the latest trends in data journalism and what are their expectations for this year’s competition.
What a year it’s been. In 2018 we’ve seen hardcore fact-checking work on the US President, satellite imagery and machine learning track illegal amber mining in Ukraine, and data journalism spread further across new territories (see these examples from Pakistan, Malaysia, Cuba, and Colombia).

It is that time of the year when many of you have to hand out end-of-year reports, when you look back and evaluate the amazing projects you’ve done in the past twelve months. And for us, it’s that time of the year when we launch another season of the great and inspiring Data Journalism Awards competition.

Each year we call for entries to wow us and open our minds to the incredible work done by data-savvy journalists from around the world. Last year we got 630 projects, from 58 countries, representing five continents. As we launch the Data Journalism Awards 2019, we hope to get even more incredible projects to look at.

To get new sets of eyes on how the industry is doing and to select the 2019 winners, we are welcoming four new people to the jury this year: Feilding Cage (former Guardian visual editor, UK), Cheryl Philips (journalism professor at Stanford, US), Monia Ben Hamadi (Editorial director at Inkyfada, Tunisia), and Sarah Cohen (Knight Chair in Data Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of journalism, US).

New members of the Data Journalism Awards Jury: (from left to right) Feilding Cage, Sarah Cohen, Cheryl Philips, and Monia Ben Hamadi

2019 is also the year Reginald Chua takes on the role of president of the Data Journalism Awards jury. “I’m thrilled and honored to be able to continue playing a role in helping recognise and encourage great data journalism,” he says.

“Paul Steiger (the former president) deserves all the credit for the success of the Data Journalism Awards, and I’m hoping to be able to at least partially fill his shoes. Our main priorities this year have been to ensure that there’s clarity about the award categories, as well as to encourage more entries from Asia and Africa.”

In the interview below, we ask Simon Rogers, Data Editor at Google and director of the competition, and Reginald Chua, Editorial Chief Operating Officer at Thomson Reuters and president of the jury, what are the latest trends in data journalism and what are their expectations for this year’s competition…

What new ways of telling stories with data have impressed you this year?

Reginald Chua:The art of journalistic storytelling has really progressed dramatically over the past year or so — from deeply immersive interactives to stories that much more seamlessly integrate text, video, photos and graphics, to better-designed news games to interesting simulations.

Extrapol is an augmented reality app (iOS and Android) that were launched a month before the french presidential campaign in april 2017. Everyday, official candidates posters could be turned into new live datavisualizations to inform the audience on the candidates.

But some of the most interesting storytelling has come from exploring completely new ways to informing audiences, such as the project ExtraPol(pictured above) by WeDoData (France) that used augmented reality on campaign posters to give users more information about candidates. Arguably, too, sometimes the most non-digital presentations are the most effective — from publishing children’s storybooks to staging plays. What’s critical is finding the most appropriate way to engage an audience and communicate important information, and less how new or innovative something is.

Simon Rogers: We’ve seen some interesting developments using machine learning to really create fascinating pieces of great data journalism. I’d love to see that democratised so that more and more teams can use it, regardless of resources.

What are your expectations for this year’s competition? Are you looking forward to anything in particular (in general but also in terms of topics, trends, technologies)?

RC:Some newsrooms are experimenting with AI and machine learning systems to do better and more insightful journalism; I’d expect that trend to accelerate as technologies become cheaper and more accessible.

But beyond new technologies, a more important trend has been the spread of data journalism more generally around the world. Even the smallest newsrooms are actively using data journalism techniques to improve their journalism, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more entries from a broad spectrum of news organisations.

SR:I think we’re going to see more and more innovative work from around the world. One of the most encouraging factors for me last year was the rise of great data journalism is countries new to the field, with amazing entries from Cuba, the Philippines, Afghanistan and so on. I really expect we’re going to see an increase in that in 2019.

What makes a winning project in your opinion?

RC:A good project is one that finds or presents information that’s important and as-yet unknown, and then manages to communicate that information in an engaging and interesting manner. It doesn’t have to be hugely complex or employ lots of technology; what it needs to do, most of all, is serve a public need in a way that others haven’t done before.

SR:Innovation, accessibility, transparency and beauty. Just the best storytelling experience.

What advice do you have for participants?

RC:Just do great work, serve your audience well, and then tell us clearly how you did that. We’re all looking forward to being wowed by the best of data journalism around the world.

SR:Enter! Don’t assume that the big news organisations will automatically win. Every entry has an equal chance!

Data teams worldwide are facing challenges, and one of the biggest for 2019 will be funding, says Simon Rogers, data editor at Google: “There’s a lot of upheaval in the news industry now — and that will undoubtedly create issues for data teams looking for resources. Hopefully, the utility of data journalism is well-enough established to provide a cushion.”

To carry on that thought and to mark the launch of Season 8 of the Data Journalism Awards, we’re gathering members of the jury today at 9AM Pacific Time (that’s 12pm on the East Coast, 5pm in the UK, 6pm in Europe, 10:30pm in Mumbai, 1am in Beijing and 4am in Sydney) for a Slack discussionon where data journalism is going these days and what challenges they see data teams facing in 2019. Plus we’ll talk about the launch of the competition and what expectations they have this year.

Confirmed speakers: Simon Rogers (Google, director of the competition, US), Reginald Chua (Reuters, president of the jury, US), Aron Pilhofer (Temple University, jury member, US), Kuek Ser Kuang Keng (Data Journalism Awards competition officer, Malaysia), Stephanie Sy (Thinking Machines, jury member, Philippines) and more.

The Data Journalism Awards 2019competition is organised by the Global Editors Network, supported by the Google News Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Microsoft, and Chartbeat. Today, it’s the biggest international competition recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide.

The deadline to enter the Data Journalism Awards 2019 is 7 April 2019. You will find all the details about the competition (including , key dates, rules, and categories) on our funky new website. The latter got a revamp with brand new sections such as “News” (with great examples of data journalism from around the world), “Resources” (for tutorials and tools) and Community (so you can chat with other data journalists). This means we get more ways to communicate with and tell the stories of the international data journalism community, and that’s something we are very excited about.

More exciting news on our data journalism projects: In the next few days the platform you know as the Data Journalism Denwill become the new Data Journalism Awards community website.

As the Global Editors Network’s work in the field of data journalism is evolving and growing, we thought it made more sense to keep it all in one place, under one roof. So from now on you will be able to get the latest news about data journalism, apply to the Data Journalism Awards competition and interact with the data community members from around the world, on one website. Datajournalismden.orgbecomes!

The profiles from the DEN community stays the same, and you will still be able to use the DEN features once the website changes take effect.