Dataviz tool BEAT wins Australia's first Editors Lab

09 March 2016

The Walkley Foundation and the Global Editors Network, with major support from Google, holded a two-day hackathon on 3-4 March 2016, in which teams from across Australia competed to develop innovative data journalism prototypes.
Beat, a data visualisation project by the team from The West Australian, won the contest and is now invited to compete at the Editors Lab Final in Vienna on 15-17 June 2016.

On 3-4 March 2016, The Walkley Foundation and the Global Editors Network, with major support from Google, gathered some of the best Australian media innovators in Sydney for a two-day hackathon in which teams from across Australia competed to develop prototypes that dig up or tell data-driven stories.

Fourteen three-person teams — each with a journalist, a developer and a designer — converged at Macleay College in Surry Hills for the event, part of GEN’s global Editors Lab hackathon series. A full list of teams and more information is available at walkleys.com/editorslab.

 Beat Copia

The winning project was "BEAT: A real-time visualisation of breaking news" created by the team from The West Australian made of Ben Martin, Joe Hardy and Sophia Lewis.

"The crux of everything we do is telling stories and telling them well. Beat will help us identify those stories quickly, and respond quickly," Ben Martin said.

"It’s mostly designed for use by our senior staff on our super desk, which sits at the centre of our integrated newsroom and where all editorial decisions are made for Seven News’s Perth bulletin, thewest.com.au, and The West Australian newspaper."

"Now, we have put people with technical and creative skills in the thick of the news business. It’s the start of something exciting and innovative, and to go to Sydney and win the hackathon was reassuring evidence that we have the talent to keep being successful in the world of digital journalism."

"Just being exposed to other teams’ ideas was valuable, and the expertise from speakers like Jonathan Richards from Google, was really helpful in teaching us how to define our ideas and refine our solution."

Ben and the rest of his team from The West Australian, will compete against other Editors Lab winners from season four during the Editors Lab Final — the World Cup of Newsroom Innovation. The latter will be held at the GEN Summit 2016 in Vienna on 15-17 June 2016.


The hackathon is part of the Walkleys’ program on innovation in journalism, also sponsored by Google. Innovation Grants for unique projects that further Australian journalism are open now. Applications are due March 18. Learn more at walkleys.com/innovation.

“Everyone wants to talk about innovation. We’re really encouraging it,” said Kate McClymont, Sydney Morning Herald investigative reporter and Walkley Advisory Board chair. “And who knows, some of these prototypes may go on to have a life of their own and become full-fledged apps that solve journalistic problems!”

Sydney innovation experts from Fusion Labs also awarded an informal Launch Ready award to the team from the Sydney Morning Herald — they win up to two days of free consulting and training from Fusion Labs to help them take their prototype to a product launch.


The winning project

BEAT… real-time visualisation of breaking news


Beat puts live information from the police despatch system in an easy-to-understand, usable, graphical interface for our newsroom. MatCAD, the Western Australian police computer aided despatch system, is made available to newsrooms via a password-protected website. But it’s hard to read and there's too much data. Beat polls MatCAD for new data every 30 seconds. It categorises each event by urgency, seriousness and newsworthiness, and delivers it on a dashboard accessible to anyone in the newsroom at a glance. Beat can identify trends by plotting incidents by type, area and time. It's much quicker than waiting for the monthly crime stats. We can do it live and give our audience hyper-local, real-time information. [Read more…]



There were also two special mentions: 

  • Time Serious by the team from The Guardian which is a system that takes a data input, analyses it, and outputs a news report in natural language, with publication-ready graphics.
  • and Dex by the team from The Age which seeks to put data at the fingertips of the reporter writing the story, while they are writing it.

All projects from the Editors Lab Sydney can be found here.


To learn more, contact Kate Golden at (02) 9333 0951 or kate.golden@walkleys.com. To learn more about the Global Editors Network series, contact Evangeline de Bourgoing at edebourgoing@globaleditorsnetwork.org.

The not-for-profit Walkley Foundation, based in Sydney, celebrates and encourages great Australian journalism, telling the stories of our nation and strengthening our democracy.

The Global Editors Network, based in Paris, is a cross-platform community empowering newsrooms through programmes designed to inspire, connect and share.

Editors Lab in Sydney is made possible with the support of our partners. Major support for the entire global series is provided by Google. In Australia, our venue partner is Macleay College and our workshop partner is Tableau Public.