We brought a bunch of data journalists together into a room and this is what happened

The Data Journalism Unconference gathered data journalism experts from around the world on 10 May 2016 to tackle cross-border data journalism challenges and initiate international collaborations. Guests from 20 different countries attended the event, representing five continents.

It all took place at Thomson Reuters’ headquarters in New York, U.S.A., was organised in partnership with Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and sponsored by Vocativ.

Amongst the themes discussed that day were “leadership challenges in the data journalism world”, “what tools are still needed to facilitate data journalism” and “the future of cross-border data journalism investigations”.

Peter Bale (CPI), Michael Hudson (ICIJ), and Giannina Segnini (ICIJ) talk Panama Papers at the #ddjunconf

Peter Bale (CPI), Michael Hudson (ICIJ), and Giannina Segnini (ICIJ), led a fishbowl discussion on the Panama Papers investigation as its searchable database had gone live just one day prior.

So what happened when we brought a bunch of data journalists from around the world into one room and got them talking?

Here are some of the most influential people in the field telling us what they thought:

“The conference was a smashing success. I heard from the inspiring and courageous journalists who put a big story above antique notions of competitiveness, talked through thorny problems (even coming to some important insights if not conclusions), and met up with friends I hardly ever see. I also saw the New Years Eve ball close up! A bargain at twice the price.” Scott Klein of ProPublica
“It was so inspiring to meet up with old friends and make new ones. Data journalism has changed from being a minority interest in newsrooms to becoming the mainstream. But there are still challenges for journalists working day to day. What happens when a key editor leaves the newsroom, for instance? How do small operations deal with huge data dumps? But despite these issues, getting a bunch of data journalists in a room always produces great ideas and makes us feel part of a global group.” Simon Rogers of Google News Lab
“The need is there to start figuring out ways of doing peer-to-peer work on leadership in the data journalism world and at OpenNews we’re excited to help make that happen.” Dan Sinker of Knight-Mozilla Open News
“Being my first unconference, I was amazed by the very fruitful exchange between the attendees. I learned so much from them on so many levels. Thanks to a session about tools, I got lots of inspiration for two blog posts in which I’m reproducing the same chart in twelve chart libraries and with twelve tools.” Lisa Rost of NPR
“Many of the intriguing insights and tools at the GEN Data Journalism Unconference were beyond state of the art, and instead spoke to a new, and perhaps immediate future. These are exciting times to be a journalist, and the feeling of anticipation in the room reminded me of the heady days of pioneering digital journalism. Those days are memorable not just for the pioneering work that was being done, but also for how abysmally traditional media organisations prepared themselves for the future rushing toward them.
I was reminded of this during the panel discussion on the Panama Papers leak, and specifically the bit about why the New York Times wasn’t part of the ICIJ partnership of newsrooms that broke the story. It seemed clear that the Times wasn’t prepared to embrace the new way of doing journalism — collaboration on big data stories across multiple newsrooms. This, for many, is the inevitable course journalism must now take.
The days of single titles owning big stories are numbered, in the same way that the days of being able to ringfence your audience were curtailed by the rise of digital platforms. As with the rise of digital journalism, this is something we can either waste time lamenting, or embrace for the many opportunities it provides to do better journalism.” Chris Roper of Code for Africa

Flourish, a platform to make your data visualisations future-proof, was also showcased at the #ddjunconf

Data journalism teams can work months — sometimes a whole year — on an investigation, creating some of the most mind-boggling interactive data visualisations. But how sustainable are these graphics over time? Does the code behind them get reused for other projects? Most of the time, the answer is no. So the team at Kiln, an award-winning studio based in London, is set to change this by launching a new platform called Flourish.

Flourish creates stunning data visualisations, interactive stories and presentations.

It also allows media organisations, agencies and developers to turn their bespoke interactive projects into reusable templates that non-coders can easily use with their own data, text, colours, etc. It provides a simple and structured way to tell a story from one or more graphics, enabling users to create interactive walkthroughs, social media videos or offline presentations.

Duncan Clark, co-founder of Kiln, came to the Data Journalism Unconference in New York and showcased Flourish. He explained how templates can be kept private, released to the public or even sold to other Flourish users. And because there is no restrictions on what can be in a template, non-coders can create genuinely stunning professional-quality interactive visuals — such as the evolving WebGL globe shown in the image below, created as a template for Flourish development partner Google News Lab.

Flourish is a new platform for visualising, presenting and telling stories with data. Powerful, flexible, responsive — and coming soon.
“It was fantastic to be able to unveil the Flourish prototype to such an engaged and expert group at the Data Journalism Unconference. I got loads of great feedback and ideas, and encouraging lots people there were keen to sign up as beta testers to help us make Flourish as good as it can be.” Duncan Clark, Kiln

To register as a Flourish beta user or to receive email updates, visit Kiln’s website.

For more info on the Data Journalism Unconference, go to our website.

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