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TABL EOF CONT ENTS1. INTRODUCTION12. TELLING UNTOLD STORIES3a. What is data journalism?b. Five myths about data journalismc. Searching for facts4673. THE DATA JOURNALISM PROCESS9a. Storyboardingb. Getting datac. Cleaning and analysingd. Delivering your story101112134. EXAMPLES FROM THE ARAB WORLD14a. Al Jazeerab. Noon Postc. 7iber1517195. HOW TO GET STARTED21a. Bridging the gap between editorial and technologyb. Developing a successful team21236. TOOLS AND DATASETS25

1. INTRODUCTIONData Journalism is a flourishing field ofjournalism that actively looks for, analyses and interprets various forms of datafor storytelling.More than half of all news organizationsin the US and Europe now have at leastone dedicated data journalist working intheir newsrooms.An assortment of newsrooms with dedicateddata journalists1

There are also now over two hundreddata journalism modules and programsbeing taught in journalism schools allover the world. These programs are setto prepare journalists for the next waveof analytical and accountability-drivenjournalism.For the average global citizen, more andmore of our everyday lives are impactedby computers and data. In order to holdpower to account, journalists should beempowered with the skills and tools tomake sense of this data.By working through real case studieswithin Al Jazeera, we hope to providereaders with a concise and practical introduction to data journalism as seenthrough the lens of an Arab audience.This guidebook will move beyond thetechnical details and rather focus onhelping you think critically and creativelyabout telling human stories hidden withindata.Whether you’re a novice or experiencedjournalist, this guidebook is for you.An assortment ofuniversities with datajournalismmodulesand programs.2

2. TELLING UNTOLDSTORIESAt its core, the principles of data journalism and traditional journalism are the same.Both involve asking questions to paint a truthful and accurate picture of the world.In the case of traditional media, this information is usually obtained from an individual person’s account of a story (a singledata point). Data journalism takes this one step further by askingquestions to a collection of data points (many people’s stories).This approach can help reveal the larger context of a story.JournalismUntoldstoriesData analysis3Data Journalism is the intersection between journalism and dataanalysis - often through the use oftechnology

a. What is datajournalism?When people hear the phrase “datajournalism” most automatically think ofcharts and infographics.However, data journalism is a largerfield. It’s the entire process of deriving meaning from data to develop astory - not only the visual output.A written story that relies on dataanalysis and interpretation is abetter example of data journalismthan an infographic with dozensof meaningless numbers. Thekey ingredient is asking questionsto our data just as if we were interviewing it.In brief:Data journalism is a form ofjournalism where your interviewsubject is data.4

This means that a data journalism story is often PLATFORMINDEPENDENTMapVideochartarticleYour output can take on the form of a map, video, chart, written article and evensocial media posts. This allows you to be very creative with your output and not beconstrained by a specific medium. This cross-platform approach is a very importantpart of digital content creation.Data-led stories have the power of reaching and engaging with new audiences bymaking sense of the data-rich world that we live in.It is important to remember that data journalism is not about using shiny new technologies, rather it is about using technology to help extract contextual information foryour readers.5

b. 5 myths about data journalismWe asked a few journalists from our newsroom to share some of the biggest mythsabout what data journalists do. Here’s what they had to say:MYTHREALITYMore than anything, data is about stories thatplay a direct role in people’s lives.“That data journalism isn’t personal.”“Data journalists are not realjournalists, they’re only interested innumbers, not telling stories.”“Data journalism is for programmersand designers”“Data journalism is all about makingcharts and infographics.”“Data journalism is expensive andtime-consuming.”Many data stories have the ability to not onlytell individual stories but also contextualise astory by placing a person in his or her neighbourhood or country.Data journalists do more than just sift throughmountains of data and identify trends.They can often provide a creative perspectiveto a story which allows them to engage withnew audiences.While it’s true that data-driven stories canbenefit from people with technical and design skills, most of the work stems from aneditorial understanding of a subject.As long as you have an eye for a story andare willing to collaborate with others, you canbecome a good data journalist.An infographic or chart without an underlyingstory is not data journalism.A data journalism project should involve theuncovering of a story from a dataset.Within Al Jazeera we’ve produced award-winning data journalism projects with a mobilephone, camera and computer (as will bedemonstrated in our case study below).While, longer-term investigative projects maytake time and resources to develop, there aremany daily stories that newsrooms are producing that involve analysing and presentingdata.6

C. Searching for factsThe spread of misinformation online hascreated a huge problem for news consumers. Building your audience’s trust inyour data stories requires that you treatyour data sources like every other sourceof information.Your data must be verified for accuracyand truth.Tips for sourcing reliable data:1. Use trustworthy sourcesFinding good data sources can be difficult. However, it’s always better to buildupon an incomplete data source that youcan trust rather than blindly using a complete dataset that you cannot.2. Cross-reference datasetsAlways cross-reference your data withnews stories, reports or other data. Thiswill save you a lot of time and effort once itcomes to cleaning and analysing your data.3. Watch out for missing oroutdated valuesJust as information becomes outdatedso too does data. Always try to find themost relevant and up-to-date dataset toensure that your story best representsthe current facts.7Data Truth

4. Understand the datacollection methodologyPeople are often responsible for gathering raw data. To avoid unnecessaryerrors always ask yourself how was thisdata collected and what does it actuallyrepresent?5. What are the consequencesof getting it wrong?Data-driven stories have a big advantageover traditional stories in that they canmore objectively be validated and confirmed. If you’re uncertain about a dataset speak to the people or organizationswho produced it.To help build credibility and transparency among your readers it’s a good ideato open-source your raw data. This willallow others to build upon and add authority to your work.Remember:It’s easy to lie with data, but it’seven easier to lie without it.8

2. THE DATAJOURNALISMPROCESSThrough our own experience, the bestdata-driven stories start their lives as aseries of questions.E.g. - “How many people are affected by.”, “Where are the most cases of .” or“Is this a pattern?”Now that you have a basic understanding of what data journalism is, let’s havea look at how it is done.By focusing on first asking questions andthen looking for data to find answers,your story is more likely to have a realimpact on people and make them care.The 4 step data journalism process:2. Get data1. Storyboardyour ideaBe flexible to adjustparts of your story basedon the available data3. Clean andanalyse dataCheck for missing orincomplete values and lookfor supporting data at neededCheck for missing or incompletevalues and look for supportingdata at needed4. Deliverinsights9

STEP 1:StoryboardingThe main ingredient to a successful datastory is creativity.Data by itself is not a story. It requiresyou to think creatively about what’s relevant to your audience and what is not.On the flip side, a great story idea without data is also not a data-driven story.Often, finding the right balance betweenwhat story you want to tell vs. what datayou have requires some trial and error.A mistake a lot of inexperienced datajournalists make is thinking that theyneed to analyse big datasets to tell a story. A better approach is to start off withsmaller datasets and develop them overtime. This will help develop data-fluencyand ensure more effort is placed on extracting the story’s meaning.What makes a gooddata-driven story?1. Contextual and explainer storiesAs we’ve mentioned several timesalready, data-driven stories shouldfocus on telling a story. To attract larger audiences, these stories should benewsworthy and topical. The mostdesirable stories weave data withinthe fabric of the story to enhance theunderstanding and provide context toa topic or issue.2. Dense or complex storiesStories shrouded in numerical complexity are great candidates for datajournalists to tackle. With the rightanalysis and interpretation, data journalists can transform a complicatedstory into something that is manageable and easy to digest for readers.3. Exploratory or interactive storiesInteractive stories can help personalise or reignite interest in an ongoingtopic. These types of stories involvereaders by allowing them to search orfilter through a dataset. While givingreaders access to raw data can sometimes be helpful, you should alwaysstrive to deliver this data within a storynarrative.4. Investigative storiesMany investigative journalism projects involve analysing a large collection of documents or datasets to understand why and how something hashappened. Data journalists can playa key role in extracting and analysingthis information in order to inform thepublic.Remember:Not every story has to find a hidden meaning in the data, sometimes you can just use data toenrich the understanding or experience of your story.10

STEP 2:Get dataSourcing good data is often cited as the biggest challenge data journalists in the Arabworld face today.While this problem is not unique to Arab journalists, it does create an additional barrierto adopting data-driven reporting within newsrooms. The flowchart gives you sometips on how to find the right data for your story.How can I find the right data for my story?Freedom of information legislation exists in Jordan, Tunisia and Yemen.11

STEP 3:Clean & analyseOnce you have your data you can beginthe process of cleaning and analysing it.Cleaning data starts with converting itinto a format that you can make senseof, for example, extracting tables from apdf document into a spreadsheet1.The next step is to check for incorrect,missing or duplicate values.Spending additional time thoroughlycleaning a dataset can significantly reduce the chance of drawing the wrongconclusions during your analysis.How to analyse or “interview”your data?1. Get to know your data - very wellAnalysis involves deriving meaningfrom your data. To do this, you shouldask your data a series of questionssuch as: What real-world observationis my data measuring? Does it accurately represent my target population?What are the biggest, smallest andaverage values?12. Ask critical questionsThe quality of a data journalist can bemeasured by his or her ability to ask adataset critical questions. Good analysis stems from knowing the subjectmatter very well and cross-referencing what you expect to happen withwhat your data is telling, OCR tools12

STEP 4:Deliver your storyThe final step in the process is to deliveryour story. Remember not all data-drivenprojects need to be visual.Choosing your delivery mechanism willdepend on what type of data you’d liketo present and what skill-sets you haveavailable in your team.13MapVideochartarticle

4. EXAMPLESFROM THEARAB WORLDIn preparation for this chapter, wereached out to several thought leadersfrom around the region to share with ustheir experiences in working with datajournalism.Around the Arab World, data journalistsfrom Al Jazeera, Inkyfada, 7iber, InfoTimes, Noonpost and the Arij networkhave produced various forms of data-driven stories.In the next chapter, we’ll be sharing a fewcase studies from Al Jazeera, Noon Postand 7iber.14

a. Al JazeeraBroken homesAl Jazeera’s data and interactive journalism unit is known as @AJLabs. Formedin 2011 during the height of the ArabSpring, the team, which is based in theDoha headquarters, focuses on tellinghuman stories behind data.One of the team’s most widely circulatedprojects is Broken Homes published inEnglish, Arabic and Bosnian.Broken Homes is the most comprehensive project to date tracking home demolitions in Jerusalem, the eastern portionof which has been occupied militarily byIsrael for over 50 years.Working closely with the United Nations,Al Jazeera tracked every single homedemolition in East Jerusalem in 2016.It turned out to be a record year, with190 structures destroyed and more than1,200 Palestinians displaced or affected.This project contextualizes this data byrevealing the human impact these demolitions have on the people living there.360-degree photos and video testimonies were gathered from some of themajor sites to allow readers to witnessthe remains of a demolished home. Ourreporter on the ground travelled throughout East Jerusalem over the course ofthe year to speak with many of the affected families.15

We decided to tackle this project afterwitnessing an escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians in late2015.The goal was twofold: to see how Israel’s home demolitions policy would beaffected by the increased tensions, butalso to convey to readers that demolitions data is about more than just numbers. Each number represents a family,and each number tells a story.To provide geographical context to thestory we decided to use a map to pinpoint the locations of each of the destroyed homes. At the end of eachmonth we wrote a short commentary andproduced an infographic to provide additional context.Read the story here:

b. Noon PostThe ‘Generals of Gold’:In 2017, Noon Post published the Generals of Gold, an ambitious project whichaimed at untangling the complex relationship between the Egyptian army andits control of the country’s economy. Released over 12 episodes, this project isone the largest Arabic Data Journalismproject in the region.The team used network diagrams andanalysis to show the systematic exploitation of the Egyptian economy favoringthe ruling elites.The project allows for any researcher orjournalist to access the data and contribute to it. By taking this approach NoonPost was able to transform this story intoan ongoing resource.The project succeeded in making senseof a large amount of data which wouldhave otherwise been neglected in thepolitical and economic scene.The first big challenge the team facedwas sorting through the piles of unstructured data. If this wasn’t enough, weknew that each piece of information hadto be fact-checked and validated beforeit could be used.Prior to this project, no one in the teamhad any experience with graph analysisor network modeling. We spent a lot oftime teaching ourselves this form of analysis and looking for the right tools to use.17

We considered many open-source andproprietary solutions. In the end, wechose Linkurious - an advanced graphanalysis platform - which was also usedin the Panama Papers.One technical limitation for analysing Arabic text is support for UTF-8 encoding.With very minimal tweaks we were ableto utilise most of the natural languageprocessing (NLP) rules to make our application searchable.The project was featured in several prominent Arabic media outlets including AlJazeera and Al Araby. While the subjectwas well received we don’t think the datareporting received enough exposure.Data journalism is still largely confusedwith visual journalism (such as infographics). This awareness is improving thanksto workshops and training programs thathave been hosted across the region.Working on “Generals of Gold” was avery satisfying early-stage endeavor. Itprovided us with many opportunitiesto find new ways of reporting which wehope will encourage others to seize anddevelop this form of journalism.By Ossama Al-Sayyad, former SeniorEditor at Noon Post. Currently working atTRT ArabiView the story here:

c. 7iberThe Arab world has some good datajournalism websites such as Inkyfada,7iber and InfoTimes, in addition to fewinvestigative journalistic reports produced by the Arij organization.Yet many factors have interfered withthe adoption of data journalism by theArabic media and these include the lackof data or categorized data, and the inability to make it available because theprocess often takes a lot of time. Moreover, quick news have become the mostcommon type of content for media companies in the Arab World and there aren’t manycompanies that use data as aprimary source of content. Many mediacompanies in Jordan for instance monetize from advertising, which imposes acertain type of content, that is quick andtime-sensitive, to optimize readership.This forces editors to limit themselves totimely news, without having the luxury ofwaiting for data to be collected and analysed in order to develop hypotheses,hence narrowing down their field of work.When discussing the factors that aredelaying data journalism developmentin the Arab World, we must always lookat the political side of the problem. Thelack of public data is one of the methods authorities use to prevent peoplefrom accessing information and buildingtheir own hypotheses and arguments. Ifjournalists succeed in overcoming thisobstacle, they will learn how to use information and develop new skills, to theextent that some organizations will beforced to regard these skills as a journalistic art that requires prioritization andfinancial support. Other factors include19

weak archiving, classification and datanumbering, especially from official institutions.In some Arab countries, the ‘right toinformation’ act is often used againstjournalists. Even though it forces institutions to share information, it also allowsthem to take more time to respond. Thismeans journalists might end up waitingup to 30 days to get answers and their requests could get rejected. If they do getrejected, the appeal procedures won’tbe binding unless they turn to court andthis can be costly. That said, the right toinformation act is worthless without thedevelopment of confidential laws and thesecurity of state documents.This is needed because data and information are being classified as confidential without being really linked to statesecurity, so when someone requests information, they get told that the information they’re seeking is confidential.The other problem in data journalism isthe inability to differentiate between datavisualization and producing journalisticreports based on data analysis.I believe that some of the stories thatsucceeded in communicating their hypotheses by using data, have made datajournalism an important subject for organizations concerned with investigationsand in-depth stories. If these organizations were able to offer financial support,then they should allocate few departments to data journalism work.By Dana Jibril, journalist at 7iber (Jordan)20

5. HOW TO GETSTARTEDStarting your first data project will requireassembling the right combination ofjournalists and technologists. This ofteninvolves breaking down organisationalsilos and working across departments.The first step will involve obtaining management’s buy-in to the project. From ourown experience, the best way to achievethis is to speak with other teams aboutthe kind of work that they do. Your goalshould be to bridge the gap between editorial and technol

Data journalism takes this one step further by asking questions to a collection of data points (many people’s stories). This approach can help reveal the larger context of a story. Data Journalism is the intersec-tion between journalism and data analysis - often through the use of technology Journalism

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