Nieman Foundation at Harvard
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Dec. 4, 2019, 3:15 p.m.
Aggregation & Discovery

If you’re seeking a community around data journalism, fear not: Several are bubbling up in the wake of the Global Editors Network’s closure, which was announced a month ago. GEN had maintained the Data Journalism Awards ceremony and Slack for the past several years.

This year, the DJAs brought in 607 project contenders (a third of them from Asia) from 62 countries, highlighting work like the investigation of the year, Hurricane Maria’s Dead from the AP, Center for Investigative Journalism and Quartz; the best data journalism team portfolio for a large organization, Argentina’s La Nacion; the best portfolio for a small newsroom, India’s; and more. Unfortunately, the Data Journalism Awards, along with other assets of GEN, are currently in the liquidation process, with folks expected to bid on taking control of some; DJA project manager Marianne Bouchart is working on HEI-DA, a nonprofit promoting data journalism innovation.

In the meantime, jury members Reginald Chua of Reuters (most recently jury chair) and Aron Pilhofer of Temple University — both leaders in data journalism known for past work at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times/The Guardian, respectively — are working with a few others to develop a new group and recognition process independent of the original awards. The Google News Initiative will be the first sponsor of the new initiative, according to Google data editor Simon Rogers, and Pilhofer and Chua plan to keep the project housed in a nonprofit.

“Our mission is to identify and honor the best data journalism around the globe…to use the awards as a center of gravity for the data journalism community around the globe to build connections, and to elevate and empower others who could learn from the kind of work being done,” Pilhofer said.

“The awards have surfaced really small newsrooms around the world working under incredibly difficult circumstances — it’s not just for the state-of-the-art data ninjas but really how people in small newsrooms with limited resources can do something else,” Chua said. And expect the categories of the as-yet-unnamed project to be in flux: “People are inventing new things every year, coming out with new methods, new presentations, new ways of telling stories,” he added. “If we don’t keep current you’re rewarding best horse and carriage in the motor show.”

I reached out to Bertrand Pecquerie, GEN’s founder and former CEO, for comment; it seems like they’re all on the same page that this new venture will not be part of GEN’s legacy but instead will have no relationship with the organization. “When a programme or a product is successful, platforms want to control it or to manage it and they just have to find third parties playing their game. As the news industry depends more and more on platforms’ money, it is not difficult to find such allies,” he said over an email. “Be sure that all my energy will be dedicated to save the DJA from unfriendly and toxic third parties or platforms. It will be the task of the liquidator of GEN to chose the best organization for managing the 2020 DJA competition.”

The new version will open award submissions later this month — “we want to make sure the world doesn’t skip a year doing this,” Chua said — but until then, he and Pilhofer would appreciate any suggestions for a name.

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