Data Journalism: Number Crunching in Poland

November 12, 2014 • Digital News, Specialist Journalism • by

Data journalism is being increasingly promoted and supported by media organizations and universities in Poland. Interactive data platforms have recently been launched by two of the country’s biggest newspaper groups, and academic courses in data journalism are now offered at leading universities.

The new websites represent a turning point for data journalism in Poland. The newest, Biqdata, was launched in September by Gazeta Wyborcza, a quality newspaper. Polityka Insight was started in 2013 by the publisher of weekly opinion magazine Polityka. The platforms, which are both behind paywalls, demonstrate that commercial media companies finally recognize the potential of data-driven reporting.

This potential has been already discovered by leading Western media organizations. Journalistic projects, built on the use of large data sets and (sometimes) impressive visualizations, such as those undertaken by The New York Times and The Guardian, have gained international attention and recognition, as an important sub-discipline of professional journalism.

Over the past year, as commercial investment in this innovative form of journalism increases in Poland, educational initiatives, including academic research and journalist training, have been developed.

At least two universities are currently teaching data journalism: the Strzeminski Academy of Art in the city of Lodz, and the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. The Strzeminski Academy offers “Data journalism – Journalism based on data”, led by Jan Kubasiewicz from the Dynamic Media Institute, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The course offered by the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University is even more advanced: “Data Journalism, Infoaesthetichs and DTP”. This course consists of a two-part teaching module: Data Journalism, 15 hours of theoretical introduction to data journalism taught by Piotr Celiński, and “Infoaesthetichs and DTP”, 30 hours of workshops and practical exercises, taught by Robert Zając, a designer.

At the same time, two promising new non-academic initiatives have appeared.

In May 2014, Media Lab Katowice started Urban Data Stories. These consist of a series of meetings – normally three to four day of workshops and lectures given by invited guests, such as Nicolas Kayser-Bril, the French data journalist who describes himself as someone who ‘tells stories out of data for a living’.

Another new project is, an e-learning platform, launched in 2013. This is based on educational materials provided by DataBlog founder and blogger, Piotr Kozłowski.

Before 2013, data journalism education in Poland was less structured but was based on occasional initiatives, such as workshops or conferences organized by media or non-governmental organizations. These included Data journalism w praktyce [Data journalism in practice] organized by Gazeta Wyborcza, Google and Press (a trade magazine) in 2013, as a part of an event entitled Digital Journalism Days. Lectures and workshops were coordinated by Esa Mäkinen from Helsingin Sanomat. A second group of initiatives included Euro Hack, part of Open Government Data Camp 2011.

It is interesting to note that education about, and practice of, data journalism seem to interrelate, at least partially. Investments in data journalism projects, made by some of Poland’s biggest media companies, have probably helped to catalyze the development of new educational opportunities in this field.

On the other hand, people participating in data journalism education initiatives have also became involved in business projects, for example the founder of DataBlog, Piotr Kozłowski, is now a member of Biqdata’s editorial team.

Photo credit: Flikr, Luc Legay

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