What makes an award-winning data journalism project?

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What makes an award-winning data journalism project?

With less than a month left to apply for this year’s Data Journalism Awards, here are some inside tips from the jury that may help you win one of the twelve prizes up for grabs.

A guest post by Marianne Bouchart, manager of the Data Journalism Awards

For the eighth year in a row, the Global Editors Network is organising the Data Journalism Awards competition to celebrate and credit outstanding work in the field of data-driven journalism worldwide.

The 2019 round is now launched and data journalism teams, big and small, from around the world are invited to take part. Last year was another record year for the competition: We received 630 entries from 58 countries, representing the 5 continents. Previous winning organisations include BuzzFeed News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ProPublica, La Nación as well as smaller organisations such as Rutas Del Conflicto, Civio Foundation, InfoTimes and Convoca.

Simon Rogers, data editor at Google and director of the competition, argues big budgets won’t necessarily get you the upper hand:

“This isn’t about which teams are biggest or who’s spent the most money. Winning projects, for me, are about innovation and accessibility. They should be accessible to as many as possible, using the latest storytelling techniques to make the data as clear as possible.”

Simon Rogers, Data editor at Google, Data Journalism Awards Director

Simon Rogers, Data editor at Google, Data Journalism Awards Director

Going through thousands of data journalism projects throughout the past few years has enabled the Data Journalism Awards jury members to not only see what trends have hit the industry, but also what makes a good data project. We’ve recently asked them what they look out for while picking the winners of the competition.

“I pay more and more attention to design, to usability. I ask: can that one piece of data journalism appeal to a wide range of users? We know how short digital attention spans are. The really good entries hook their audience and keep them lingering (and sharing).”

Esra Dogramaci, digital strategist and editor

“The first thing to look for is whether the project grabs your attention either with a powerful topic or with powerful visuals. After that, I look for effectiveness and beauty in presentation, and for how well the form of the story is adapted to the content itself.”

Alberto Cairo, Knight Chair at the University of Miami

Alberto Cairo, Knight Chair at the University of Miami

Originality, ambition, impact. It doesn’t have to be the most sophisticated analysis or visualization using the most cutting-edge tools. What matters most is that you saw an issue that needed to be addressed – whether something to be investigated, information that the public needed, or data that should be available to the world – and you used skills, smarts and determination to solve it.”

Reginald Chua, president of the Data Journalism Awards jury, editorial operations, data and innovation at Thomson Reuters

Reginald Chua, president of the Data Journalism Awards jury, editorial operations, data and innovation at Thomson Reuters

“I look for the effort behind the scenes, the creativity and the openness.
Sometimes the effort is to open and collaborate with others, with more focus in the methods and processes than in the technologies used.
Sometimes the effort of a team is seen in the implementation of new technologies, such as data science, algorithms or data storytelling through visualisations. […] We must recognise this effort, and the Data Journalism Awards help raise awareness about this new challenge which includes understanding and making AI and data science accessible for more people and for good.”

This year, participants have until 07 April 2019 to apply. There are 12 prizes up for grabs, which will be awarded on 14 June 2019 at a special ceremony and gala dinner in Athens, Greece,  during the GEN Summit 2019. Winners will get an all-expenses covered trip to Athens and the GEN Summit. Among the twelve categories you will find, for example “Investigation of the year”, “Best individual portfolio”, or “Open data”.

The categories “Best data journalism team” and “Small newsroom” were changed to “Best data journalism team portfolio (Large newsroom)” and “Best data journalism team portfolio (Small newsroom)” for this year. This makes things much clearer for everyone. We received amazing entries from smaller organisations in the Best data journalism team category last year, so much so that we ended up giving three prizes in that category: Caixin VisLab (China) won the Best large data journalism team award. InfoTimes from Egypt and Monitor de Victimas from Venezuela both won the Best small data journalism team award (joint winners). So it made more sense to have two separate categories for data journalism teams this year.

In total, small newsrooms with an editorial staff of less than 30 people made for half of all entries last year, and a third of the winners were from those small organisations. Simon Rogers:

“We are genuinely on the lookout for innovative work from all types of journalists from around the world. My advice is to focus on the stories told, the impact they have and in showing us how data told a story that nothing else could have.​”

The Data Journalism Awards 2019 competition is organised by the Global Editors Network, with support from the Google News Lab, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Microsoft and Chartbeat. To submit an entry (or two, or twelve…), all you have to do is fill the Data Journalism Awards application form.

You can also keep up with the latest data journalism news and projects from around the world by signing up to the Data Journalism Awards newsletter.

Best of luck!

Note: A version of this text was first published in our data-driven Advent calendar 2017. You can check it out here.

Featured image: Phil Ninh. Photos: Global Editors Network.

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