AMA with Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

Conversations with Data: #33

Do you want to receive Conversations with Data? Subscribe

Conversations W Data header

Helo! Apa khabar? Welcome to our 33rd edition of Conversations with Data, where we’ll be taking a trip over to Malaysia with Kuek Ser Kuang Keng.

Previously an alumni of Malaysia’s leading data journalism outlet, Malaysiakini, and now founder of DataN and co-organiser of Hacks/Hackers Kuala Lumpur, Keng’s got plenty to share from both the region’s traditional outlets and grassroots communities.

HH 59

Kuek Ser Kuang Keng.

What you asked

What is the data journalism scene like in Malaysia, and how does it compare to other countries in Southeast Asia?

“Data journalism has caught the attention of many journalists and newsrooms in Malaysia but it is still in a nascent stage in terms of practice. Besides news website Malaysiakini, which set up its news lab team last year to experiment with data and visual storytelling, other media organisations are yet to allocate resources for data journalism.

There's still a huge gap between Malaysia and other countries in this region including Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, where the practice of data journalism has been going on for several years. This also means there are ample opportunities for Malaysian journalists.”

How do community driven organisations, like Hacks/Hackers, benefit the practice of data journalism?

“Through Hacks/Hackers Kuala Lumpur, we were able to bring together talents from different disciplines, including data scientists and programmers, to discuss the future of journalism with journalists. This is something local journalists have never experienced before. We brought in data journalists from both within and outside of Malaysia to share their experiences and projects. We also held an event to connect senior government officials in charge of Malaysian open data policy with journalists and other data users to talk about how they can build the open data ecosystem together. For Malaysian journalists, this is a unique platform for introducing them to technologies, tools, resources, ideas, and talents that can improve their reporting and journalistic products. We have also successfully built a multidisciplinary community that has a shared passion for enhancing journalism through innovation, technology, and a culture of knowledge sharing.”

59342865 839009703102212 3585023560046870528 o

Discussing Malaysia’s open data journey at Hacks/Hackers Kuala Lumpur.

What are some regional topics and data sources that you recommend for journalists to integrate simple data analysis into their work?

“Regional topics that can be better reported with data include labor migration, human trafficking, deforestation, and environmental issues like the annual haze and illegal trading of endangered species. However, the accessibility of data is still a huge challenge for journalists in this region as many governments here are also struggling with their own digital infrastructures and a lack of meaningful open data policies.

Cross-border collaboration among journalists and newsrooms in the region, such as this one, is one of the ways to overcome this challenge. International data portals like the World Bank Open Data Portal, Migration Data Portal, and Global Forest Watch are good data sources when governments don't share data. For more regional specific data, you might want to check out the Asian Development Bank Data Library.”

What are some of your favourite examples of local data journalism and why?

“In Southeast Asia, media organisations that have used data extensively in their reporting include Malaysiakini from Malaysia, Katadata from Indonesia, Straits Times from Singapore, and Rappler from the Philippines. I would like to highlight two projects from them.

The first is Rappler's #SaferRoadsPH campaign that won the Data Journalism Website of the Year in the 2018 Data Journalism Awards. It is not just a data journalism project. It combined both online data driven reporting and an on-the-ground campaign to drive real impacts in local communities.

Secondly, there’s the May 13, Never Again multimedia project by Malaysiakini. It revisits the racial riots in 1969 by weaving together geolocation data, historical images, archival documents, and never-before published testimonies in an engaging multimedia package.”

Are there any up and coming journalists from within your network that we should be following?

Lee Long Hui, who leads Malaysiakini's Kini News Lab, Mayuri Mei Lin from the BBC World Service's East Asia visual journalism team in Jakarta, Gurman Bhatia from the Reuters Graphics team in Singapore, and Rebecca Pazos from Singapore's Straits Times. Yan Naung Oak, a Singapore-based Burmese dataviz developer, who works with media in Myanmar, and Thiti Luang, who founded a data startup in Bangkok, are also worth watching.”

And, finally, we had one reader from Johor asking how they can make money in journalism?

“I've spent almost 15 years of my youth in journalism and I can say that a career in journalism rewards you with much more satisfaction that money can give you.”

Our next conversation

Like learning a new language, getting started with coding can be daunting. But that’s no reason not to try! Do you have any tips from your first programming experience? Or insights to share on dappling with code for the first time? Help out your colleagues by commenting with your advice.

As always, don’t forget to comment with what (or who!) you’d like us to feature in our future editions.

Until next time,

Madolyn from the EJC Data team

subscribe figure