What makes a winning data journalism project?

Over the past seven years, the Global Editors Network has organised the Data Journalism Awards competition to celebrate and credit outstanding work in the field of data-driven journalism worldwide.

For this Advent Calendar, Marianne Bouchart, manager of the competition, shares with you some tips that may help you win one of the twelve prizes up for grabs at the Data Journalism Awards 2018 (with a little help from the jury)...

The Data Journalism Awards 2018 competition is now launched and data journalism teams, big and small, from around the world are invited to take part. Last year was a record year for the competition, we received 573 projects, from 51 countries, representing the 5 continents. Previous winning organisations include BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ProPublica, La Nación as well as smaller organisations such as Rutas Del Conflicto, Civio Foundation and Convoca.

Simon Rogers, data editor at Google News Lab and director of the competition, argues big budgets won’t necessarily get you the upper hand: "Last year we really saw an explosion of great data journalism from around the world — and we saw how the winners' list reflected that. ​Data journalism is not about how much money your organization has but about how you use the resources you do have."

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. Here is what they had to say:

"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 of DW.

"I obviously tend to focus on the visuals and try to think whether each story belongs to either of these mental categories: either very straightforward graphs and maps, elegantly design, and that tell the story deeply and clearly or very creative and innovative uses of animation, interaction, visual encodings, etc. Either is fine, but the choice needs to be made based on the nature of the story." Alberto Cairo of the University of Miami.

"The main things I look for are the design, the meaningfulness of data, the source, the analysis, the storytelling as a whole." Mariana Santosof Chicas Poderosas.

"I'd say the things I look for are impact, transparency (and how open the data is), innovation, and storytelling." Simon Rogers of Google News Lab.

This year, participants have until 26 March 2018 to apply. There are 12 prizes up for grabs, each are worth $1,801 (US) and will be awarded on 31 May 2018 at a special ceremony and gala dinner in Lisbon during the GEN Summit 2018. Among the twelve categories you will find "Best data journalism team", "Data visualisation of the year", and "Open data".
There is also a new category called "Innovation in data journalism" to reward teams around the world who have the willingness to take risks and act innovatively, as Simon Rogers explains:

"Data journalism is always at the cutting edge of technology, and there have never been so many great ways to tell stories, such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and VR. But it takes a leap of faith by a news organisation to commit to trying out something untried.​ We want to reward those organisations brave enough to try something new."

And if you think only the big news organisations will win, think again, and listen to this one last piece of advice from 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 2018 competition is organised by the Global Editors Network, with support from the Google News Lab, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 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!

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Marianne Bouchart

Marianne Bouchart is the manager of the Data Journalism Awards competition organised by the Global Editors Network. She’s also the founder and director of HEI-DA, a nonprofit organisation promoting news innovation, the future of data journalism and open data.

Before launching HEI-DA, Marianne spent 10 years in London where she worked as a web producer, data journalism and graphics editor for Bloomberg News, amongst others. She created the Data Journalism Blog in 2011 and gives lectures at journalism schools, in the UK and in France.

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