AMA with La Nación
Conversations with Data: #42
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Buenos días! Welcome to our final edition of 2019, where we’ll be heading down to Argentina to find out more about how data journalism is practiced in Latin America.
It’s hard to think about Argentinian journalism without thinking about La Nación. The daily is considered one of the region’s powerhouse outlets and, since 2010, it’s also boasted a cutting-edge data department.
Whether it’s exposing Argentina’s biggest corruption scandal, or putting a data lens to breaking reports of a missing submarine, La Nación’s Data Team doesn’t shy away from challenging stories. Founding team member, Momi Peralta, joins us in this edition.
What you asked
How does data journalism in Argentina compare to the rest of Latin America?
Momi: “I think there is good data journalism in Latin America, where many of the initiatives are led by independent media and also by NGOs. In Argentina, we have a strong relationship with transparency NGOs, hacktivism, and universities since 2011, when there was no transparency law or open data. Together with the open data community, we’ve built some datasets from scratch, many of them in events, hackathons, and meetups, and now we continue demanding better and more frequent open data formats and documents.”
On the topic of open data, how important is it in your reporting?
“Open data is very important for our reporting, and our reporting is very important to the open data movement and the health of transparency in Argentina.
Using open data is how we can bring it to life, and closer to our users, the citizens who can see and participate through applications or visualisations. For example, we build datasets and then open them for others to reuse, like our open statements of assets, or the dozens of daily and monthly indicators that we update from PDFs and open in CSV.
Our belief is that we are not only telling stories, we are also offering others the opportunity to add value after our initial effort of processing this data, saving them time and effort.”
Which of your investigations has had the biggest social or political impact in Argentina and what can other journalists learn from this work?
“Our collaborative investigation in the Death of the prosecutor Nisman case. In this investigation, we listened to more than 40,000 audio files of phone interceptions, using a platform we developed for crowdsourcing, and worked together with universities and volunteers. Collaborating allowed us to classify the audio data and transcribe some extracts, which helped us to build a dataset, discover new people involved, new stories, and develop an application that runs like a playlist.
After that, the Judge in the case asked for our La Nación investigation and our findings from the dataset, and this was included as proof in the case.”
What are the most valued skills in your team?
“Teamwork, perseverance, and a love for learning and creating.”
What are some of your go-to datasets?
“The census, the official statistics bureau, central bank data, the national and city of Buenos Aires open data portals, the national budget and national purchases and contracting site, and data from the Congress and Senate.”
What can audiences expect from your team in 2020?
“More interactive and data driven investigations, more technology and data applied to produce better services for our users, and more innovative ways of telling these stories on every platform available. We’re also looking for more open collaboration with universities, who are applying data science and AI to produce knowledge and content.
In addition, this year we are helping position an urgent agenda in La Nación, also using data, in our Nature Project (Proyecto Naturaleza). It is about changing the way we tell stories on the climate and extinction crises. In this project, which is being run across many of La Nación’s sections and magazines, we want to use data visualisation, public information monitoring, and dashboards.
Supporting climate and nature stories with data and evidence-based journalism will make a difference to our readers, so that they can increase their participation as we facilitate their access to information and other ways to act on this urgent topic. La Nación has already participated in the Covering Climate Now initiative from the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, and was a media partner in the #6D it Now! global initiative.”
Follow La Nación’s work here.
ICYMI: other happenings on DataJournalism.com
Geographical information systems, or GIS, provide one of the most efficient means of uncovering patterns in geographic data. But what is GIS? And how can it be used in journalism? Jacques Marcoux answers these questions and more, in our entry-level introduction to GIS and spatial analysis for reporters. Check it out here.
Our next conversation
...okay, so we’re not ready to reveal the topic of our next conversation just yet -- for good reason. In 2020, DataJournalism.com will be launching an exciting new initiative and our first edition of the year will be dedicated to informing you all about it. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement in your inbox shortly and our call for contributions!
On a personal note, I’ve decided that this edition will be my last conversation with you. Starting as a risky idea that we trialled in May 2018, Conversations with Data has now grown to 42 editions, reaching 7000 of you on bi-weekly basis. Thank you for all of the support so far! I’ll be leaving you in the very capable hands of our new Data Editor, Tara Kelly, who’ll be continuing our conversations in the new year.
Madolyn from the EJC Data team