Data Driven Journalism, EditorsLab in Lisbon

Ricardo Lafuente of Journalism++ talked about data journalism. He talked Thursday at 15:30, in Portuguese.

Ricardo started by recalling that, in 2013, the New York Times interactive had 18 journalists and 30 graphical designers. If we have less money than them, we must remain frugal.

In summary:

  1. Use free and open tools. Open tools foster a community.
  2. Structure and share the data. Make data easy to access.
  3. Contact with people in different circles.


The first step to frugality is to reuse what is available, instead of reinventing the wheel. Several open source tools are available for free using only a browser:

Practice self-reuse by creating your own templates. Each of your own projects becomes a resource for the next projects. For example: elections, World championships, floods, fires, ...

Put all the templates in the same place. Think about the community. Share publicly, for example on Github.

Create structure

Finding, refining and maintaining a set of data takes time. Organize the datasets so that they can be easily queried. Store the data in the same place, so that the whole newsroom can have access.

Freeware tools: SQL tables, OpenRefine (exceptional to filter and clean data), Google Docs.

An example: on September 21st, 2013 there was a shooting in a mall in Nairobi. Using a clean and filtered database on terrorism, journalists used OpenRefine to find previous terrorist attacks in Kenya, graph the results, and conclude that terrorism has increased in the past ten years.

Tools for newsrooms: (people and relations), LocalFocus, PANDA.

More examples:

Expand the networks

Specialized work is expensive, but not always. For example (in Portuguese), and Public Portuguese Law (converts the official publication to text instead of PDF).

Create meeting points between journalists (hacks), developers (hackers), and citizens. These meetings are common in Berlin. In Portugal, we have Transparency Hack Day in Oporto.

Connect with other journalists, and with people from different circles.


Slides of the presentation, using Reveal.js to convert Markdown to slides. There is also a visual editor at
Journalist++ at Porto
The Portuguese branch of Journalism++, a duo of Ricardo Lafuente and Ana Isabel Carvalho. Other branches include Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, and Stockholm.


This article is part of EditorsLab in Lisbon: