Frank Belyeu shares his thoughts on data journalism

After my uplifting and inspiring experience at La Nacion Data (Argentina), the
best piece of knowledge I take back to Spain is that the primary quality of a
good data journalist is to be humble. Without humbleness it is not possible to be
cooperative, and without collaborative working a data journalist will never achieve
anything meaningful.

Too many different and complementing skills are involved in the data analysis
process to be arrogant. Momi Peralta, editor of La Nación Data, knows this very
well and transmits those values every day, showing her interest for every single
suggestion her co-workers have, and encouraging that continuous information
exchange.

My experience in Argentina was very useful. Apart from learning practical skills
that I will later on apply to my work, I understood what a data journalism team
needs to be successful: everyone needs to have a different but equally important
role in the team. That’s what every handbook calls multidisciplinary team, but one
thing is to read it and another completely different thing is to see it with your own
eyes.

I also learnt that, in big newspapers, which obviously have their own political and
economic interests, the data journalism team has to assume a “revolutionary”
role. It has to try to move away from the editorial line, thinking by itself,
and investigating what it truly believes affects the public interest. If such
investigations go against any of those interests, the team must defend them and
try to persuade the journalists for them to publish them.

Commonly these journalists will take that information (because it’s privileged)
and stress on something that is convenient for the newspaper. But, as the
open data movement pursues, all the databases will (or should) be available
to the public so they can draw their own conclusions, in case they want to
dig in deeper. And hopefully they will, because data can be used in the most
mysterious ways.

Today, I am only sure of one thing: I want to be a data journalist. I want to serve
the citizens by informing them thoroughly, and by providing them tools to inform
their selves. If the ultimate goal of a journalist is to contribute to the democratic
values of a society, I believe data journalism is the correct path to follow, as its
core function is to provide context to the news we read on a daily basis.

The first step I am taking in this direction is the foundation of a data journalism
media company in Spain: The Spanish Centre for Investigative and Data
Reporting
(CEPID, in Spanish). Hopefully, this way I will be able to make a
contribution to my fellow citizens.

Posted in news & events