School of Data training: Welad El-Balad

March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

What is data journalism? How to clean, analyze and visualize data? What are the best ways to put the election results in an interactive map? All these and many other questions were in the heads of Welad El-Balad team, and they communicated them to the International Budget Partnership and the School of Data, asking for a hands-on training and workshop. Welad El-Balad is an Egyptian organization that is working on developing local news outlets in different Egyptian cities. They also offer training services to local journalists and perform media studies. They currently have 10 local newspapers in 10 different parts of Egypt.

There were nine attendees in the training that was run by two School of Data mentors, Ali Rebaie from Lebanon and yours truly from Egypt. The training lasted for four days, and the following are some of the topics tackled there:

  • Introduction to Data Journalism
  • Data Visualisation and Design Principles
  • Critique for Data Visualisations
  • Data Gathering, Scraping and Cleaning
  • Spreadsheets and Data Analysis
  • Charting Tools
  • Working with Maps
  • Time Mapper and Video Annotation
  • Preparing Visuals for Print

The handouts prepared for the different sessions will be released in Arabic and English for the wider School of Data audience to make use of them.

After the training, the attendees were asked to rank the sessions according to their preferences. It was clearly shown that many of them were interested in plotting data on maps after scraping, cleaning, and analysis to report different topics and news incidents. Design principles and charting where are also a common need among the attendees.

Different tools were used during the training for data scraping and cleaning as well as mapping and charting. Examples of the tools covered are TileMill, QGIS, Google Spreadsheets, Data Wrapper, Raw, InkScape, and Tabula.

In the end of the training, we also discussed how the attendees could arrange to give the same training to other members of their organization, how to plan it, and how to tailor the sessions based on their backgrounds and needs. Another discussion we had during the training was how to start a data journalism team in a newspaper, especially the required set of skills and the size of the team.

Finally, from our discussions with the Welad El-Balad team as well as with other journalists in the region, there seems to be a great interest in data-driven journalism. Last year, Al Jazeera and the European Journalism Centre started to translate The Data Journalism Handbook into Arabic. Online and offline Data Expeditions are also helping to introduce journalists and bloggers in the region to the importance of data journalism. Thus, we are looking forward to seeing more newspapers in the region taking serious steps towards establishing their own data teams.

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