Launching the DJA 2016

The international awards for data journalists

17 December 2015

Marianne Bouchart

The Global Editors Network is very excited to announce the launch of its fifth Data Journalism Awards competition. In an ever expanding industry, bolder and more interactive projects have come to life over the past few months. Large news organisations and small startups alike are invited to submit their data-driven projects on the GEN Community platform.

Sponsored by the Google News Lab and the Knight Foundation, the DJA 2016 promises to reward the best work that the world of data journalism has to offer.  

Participants can find all the information about this year’s awards on our dedicated page and have until 10 April 2016 to submit their work.

In this interview, we hear from President of the DJA Jury Paul Steiger (ProPublica) and DJA Director Simon Rogers (Google) on what to expect from this year’s competition.


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Photo by Lars Klove

Paul E. Steiger, President of the DJA Jury and Executive Chairman of ProPublica's board of directors 

What makes the DJA competition stand out? What makes it unique compared to other contests?

The DJAs are unique in that they are the first and largest competition for data journalism that is truly global and that focuses on work that uses data for a journalistic purpose.

What are the biggest changes since the competition began four years ago?

Several important changes. First, the entries have gotten significantly better every year, because the capability of data journalists is growing rapidly, and the number of people trained to do the work has expanded. Second, the size, capability, and diversity of the final judging panel has grown. We have more women, and more countries and regions represented. Third, the awards have gained in visibility and desirability for the winners.

What do you expect from the 2016 competition? Are you looking forward to anything in particular? 

One of the most engrossing aspects of serving as a judge is that one is always surprised at the themes and styles and topics that tend to emerge each year. Sometimes, it is the presentation that is most spectacular, and other years it is the impact of some of the winning work in influencing change. It is always a joy for me to get the first look at the 80 or so short-listed entries.

What will make this year different (better?) than previous years in terms of changes to the competition itself (new rules, new application process) and how you think it will improve the DJA experience?

There are only minor changes this year in the rules. One tweak that will help the judging is to have entrants report on the entry form whether they qualify as a small newsroom   less than 25 people. Last year's form required the screening judges and the final judges to research who should be included as coming from a small newsroom. More broadly, the goal this year is to expand the number of entries. We saw lots of great work last year, the best ever, but we know there was excellent data journalism that wasn't entered. We especially want to increase this year's entries from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.  

What advice do you have for people applying for the DJA 2016?

It's very helpful if entrants tell us in an accompanying short letter what challenges they overcame in getting the data they needed and working with the data to get important, meaningful results. It's also helpful if entrants report what is new, in data analysis, in conclusions, and in impact.  


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Photo by Rob Nikzad

Simon Rogers, DJA Director and Data editor at Google News Lab

What do you expect from the DJA 2016 competition? Are you looking forward to anything in particular (generally and also in terms of projects themes, technologies, graphics)?

I'm really excited to see which organisations are now punching above their weight in this area. Last year it was such a great surprise to see broadcasters and website not known for data journalism really producing great work. I'm also keen to see more entries from around the world, to show how this isn't just a phenomenon in Europe and the US.

Data journalism has been a fascinating field to follow this year as we saw many projects coming out of startups and smaller organisations rather than typical big news organisations (example: Lucify and their Flow Towards Europe dataviz). What do you think about this and how do you think it will impact this year's competition?

It's great to see entries from organisations of all sizes really leading the way in innovation in the field. In some ways they are the best placed to try out new things.

Do you think it is possible to monetise data journalism, as in selling it to customers as a specific service? Can it be a prosperous business of its own?

There are a number of businesses out there already who make money from data journalism, agencies such as Pitch Interactive and Periscopic. I think it is absolutely possible. But will that come from news organisations? I hope so.

How easy is it to find data as a journalist in 2015 (compared to previous years)?

Now there's a lot more competition from a lot more amazing people. Your voice is just one of many at a time when there's always a new shiny object to follow. But data is so much a part of many newsrooms now that it's also the best possible time to do this work.

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The Two Billion Miles interactive video story by Channel 4

Any other new trends in data journalism you think have stood out this last year? Do you have examples?

I think there's a real move to simple design but also using new tools. Take the Two Billion Miles project, which blends many different storytelling techniques into one.

How do you think the field of data journalism will evolve in the next few years? Should we look out for anything specific? Any challenges data journalists are doomed to face in 2016?

This year, I'm hoping to see entries using VR, drones and video to tell stories in amazing ways. There's so much technological innovation going on right now, wouldn't it be great if we could see more data journalism using those methods?

What advice do you have for people applying for the DJA 2016? If you had to pick 3 details that make a project stand out, what would they be?

- Data transparency - sharing your work

- Making it work on all formats, from mobile to desktop

- Innovation in blending data with new technology

What will your role as DJA director involve?

I have the great job of working with one of my heroes, Paul Steiger, and a great jury of the best in their field to look at every significant piece of data journalism in the last 12 months. I can't think of anything better.


Learn more about the Data Journalism Awards here, and register to our monthly DJA Newsletter, curated by DJA 2016 Manager Marianne Bouchart.