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The Panama Papers put the world on notice about the reach of data journalism

by: Nancy Yoshihara |

A global partnership of 100 publications mined the huge data leak of a law firm’s financial records, which led to the outing of offshore accounts and shell companies tied to many current and former world leaders.

The Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved more than 400 reporters in 80 countries, according to Robert Hackett at Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. And it was technology that enabled them to collaborate across borders and time zones. “This would not have been possible without technology,” Mar Cabra, head of the data and research unit at ICIJ, told him.   

She tells him about the use of open source info-retrieval software that was helpful to the investigation of the 2.6 terabytes of data lost by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The big story comes at a time when the interest in and the practice of data journalism are rising. Academics are studying data journalism. Reporters are learning about mining data to spot and find a story. So it’s no surprise that many newsrooms, especially small and new ones, are interested in acquiring data journalism skills.  

At Journalist’s Resource at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, John Wihbey has put together a quick primer about how to get started with data charting and visualization. He provides of sources of information, tutorials and tools. 

Interested in starting a data journalism team? Check out the eight tips offered by Scott Klein of ProPublica. He came up the list in response to a post by journalist Miguel Paz on a data-journalism email list asking for tips for starting a data-journalism team. “I had many thoughts on the subject, and nothing to read on the subway, so I ended up writing this long response on my smartphone,” Klein writes in his report, co-published with Nieman Lab.

Nancy Yoshihara

Nancy Yoshihara is content manager at KDMC and its website with a focus on News for Digital Innovators and Tools, Tips
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