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Data journalism becomes a global field

“As director of the Data Journalism Awards I saw a record number of entries in 2018 — nearly 700 — from 57 countries, and half from small newsrooms.”

In 2019, it will be 10 years since the launch of the Guardian Datablog, when my own particular journey into data journalism began. In the last decade, governments around the world have opened up their data, through official sites such as data.gov. Sophisticated data visualization and analysis tools such as OpenRefine and Flourish became freely available as the field went from niche to mainstream. Journalists, generally comfortable dealing in the economy of words, now appear finally to have thrown aside their fear of math and numbers.

What is new is how widespread this has become. Data journalism now belongs to the whole world — and 2019 will see that expand to the point that it will become a truly global field of work, with some newsrooms and journalists pushing the boundaries in using data to tell compelling stories.

As director of the Data Journalism Awards, I saw a record number of entries in 2018 — nearly 700 — from 57 countries, and half from small newsrooms. There were entries from India, Cuba, and the Philippines. We saw pieces that were at the edge of newsroom innovation. The winning project from a large data journalism team was Caixin in China, for instance, which has become a global leader in the field through its innovative visualizations — such as this beautiful project on high-speed rail in China.

Another example is Yudivián Almeida of Postdata.club in Cuba, who was mentioned for his “great cross-border data journalism” and his work reporting on the elections in Cuba.

Data journalism has always been about collaborating, sharing and spreading the knowledge amongst the community. This work doesn’t live in a silo — now we can learn from what these new outlets and reporters have done to teach the rest of the world. The new Data Journalism Handbook, published in its first edition since 2012 this month, reflects this new world — with chapters from authors writing about the rise of data journalism in China; how to report on social media data and how to practice the field in the Caribbean.

In 2019, data journalism will go beyond the mainstream to be a part of how journalism works everywhere.

Simon Rogers is data editor at the Google News Lab and director of the Data Journalism Awards.

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