The International Journalism Festival in Perugia (part 1)

April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

At School of Data, we care about making sure that our teaching spreads beyond the people we train directly and expands its impact.

The third edition of our School of Data Journalism is happening soon. Rahul Ghosh investigated the impact of our previous Schools of Data Journalism, and this is what he found out.

Held in the beautiful Italian hilltop city of Perugia, the annual five-day International Journalism Festival has grown into the largest event of its kind in Europe, with almost 50,000 participants in 2013. The Festival, uniquely free of charge for all participants, is known for its informal and participatory approach.

The Festival is an extraordinary opportunity to listen, learn, and network with many of the best journalists around the world. To name just a few, speakers in the past have included Aron Pilhofer, Emily Bell, Seymour Hersh, Mathew Ingram, Harper Reed, Paul Steiger, and Pulitzer Prize winners Steve Doig and Sarah Cohen.


Since 2012, Open Knowledge and the European Journalism Centre (EJC) have been invited to run the School of Data Journalism at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. The School of Data Journalism track runs a series of panels and workshops at the festival, designed to introduce data journalism to beginners. In this age of information, Open Knowledge aims to provide change makers around the world (like journalists and civil society organisations) with the appropriate set of skills and tools to gather, analyse, interpret, and visualise data and to turn it into useful insights to benefit citizens and society.

In 2012, the Data Journalism Handbook was also launched at the festival. The Handbook was the result of another collaboration between Open Knowledge and the EJC, with contributions from data journalists from top media institutions, including the BBC, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times.

The growing field of data journalism in Italy

In the last the decade, with the traditional model of journalism in crisis, data journalism has caught the imagination of journalists around the world. In data journalism, data – which we can also think of as digital information – can be either the source or a tool for storytelling and, at times, may be used for both. With the sheer scale and range of digital information now available and the tools being developed to process this information, it has become vital to journalism and storytelling itself.

Data journalism is still relatively new to Italy, though there is already a small but vibrant and growing community of advocates. Guido Romeo, Data & Business Editor at Wired Italy, has been one of the organisers at festival for the last couple of years, leading various panel discussions and workshops on data journalism. Romeo feels that the School of Data journalism has become “one of the main assets” of the festival.

“I teach in several journalism schools in Italy. You won’t get this sort of exposure to such teachers and tools in any journalism school in Italy. They bring in the most avant-garde people and have a keen eye on what’s innovative and new. It has definitely helped me understand what others around the world in big newsrooms are doing and, more importantly, how they are doing it,” he said.

Romeo explained that the School of Data Journalism’s work has been most influential in raising the profile of data journalism in Italy and in helping him and others in Italy to take the necessary practical steps needed to fully embrace the field. He explains that until last year there was not a single newsroom in Italy that had a data journalism unit.

“Data was sort of a geeky, niche thing until a couple of years back, but from 2013, it has become the buzzword because of what we saw in Perugia. Last year, at Wired, we also set up the first formal data journalism unit in a newsroom in Italy,” he said.

Romeo emphasised how inspiring it was, especially for young journalists, to meet the top journalists from around the world and be able to freely share experiences and listen to their advice in an informal atmosphere.

Elisabetta Tola, an Italian freelance researcher and data journalist, has been both a participant and panel speaker at the School of Data Journalism’s sessions. She agrees with Romeo that the School of Data’s journalism’s seminars and workshops have helped inspire journalists in Italy to become aware of open data and enter the field of data journalism.

image00 “Apart from the useful things you learn at the seminars and workshops, the exposure and networking is also very beneficial. Most of my students – I teach in two places, one the School of Journalism and the other a Masters in Science Communication course – were so enthusiastic after the event that they became part of the open data movement in Italy. One of them did her Masters thesis in Data Journalism, others becoming active by attending regular hackathons and things like that, and collaborating with others on data journalism projects,” she said.

Next up: the impact of the School of Data Journalism.

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