Pan-European approaches to data journalism

“The challenge for the data journalism model across Europe is creating an European ProPublica,” said Jacopo Ottaviani at the International Journalism Festival.

During the panel ‘Pan-European approaches to data journalism’, Ottaviani presented  ‘The Migrants’ Files‘, a project launched in August 2013 alongside a team of European journalists, including Nicolas Kayser-Bril, Daniele Grasso and Katerina Stavroula. The project was partially funded by the non-profit organisation and it won the prestigious Datajournalism Award.

The Migrants’ Files came to life in order to provide data and analysis related to an important, but overlooked issue: the number of deaths of emigrants seeking asylum in Europe. “Knowing how many people die when trying to come to Europe is an information none of the bigger organisations wants to have,” said Kayser-Bril.

Photo: Isabella Borrelli
Photo: Isabella Borrelli

The data was collated from different sources, including the NGO network United for Intercultural Action and the blog Fortress Europe. A consistent “open-source intelligence” methodology was applied to it, which monitored real-time global news about asylum seekers, migration and human trafficking activities around Europe.  Upon its completion, the project was simultaneously published in 12 countries around the world.

Another data-driven project developed by Ottaviani, Grasso, Stavruola and Sara Moreira in roughly six months is ‘Generation E‘, which focuses on European youth migration. “This topic was widely covered in Spain,” said Grasso, “but we tried to figure out how to give it another angle and tell a story that nobody had told.”

Generation E uses survey crowdsourcing as a method of collating stories from Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Greek expats. According to Ottaviani, one if its findings was that “people from developed countries prefer to consider themselves as expats, whereas those from south-European countries are migrants.”

“We wanted to find the common narrative in people leaving south European countries in order to go abroad,” added Grasso. Each of the team members contributed data from their own country to the project and one of the common goals was fighting out the cliché that emigrants are “lazy, south European people” badly perceived by both the country they are leaving and the one they are moving to. “It’s not just about migrants betraying their country, they are contributing to building a new society in Europe,” Ottaviani said.

Generation E succeeded in gathering more than 2,000 first-person stories of 20 to 40 year-old migrants. The survey consisted of questions about the reasons of their departure, their intentions of returning and their educational background.

“As a business model for the future, we would like such initiatives to be replicated every year, producing investigations or reports targeting politicians, the European Parliament or the national powers calling for an European reform,” concluded Ottaviani.

Note: This article was amended on 27/04 to reflect that Generation E has gathered more than 2,000 stories, not 200,000 of people between 20 and 40 years old, not 18 to 24 and that Sara Moreira was a contributor to Generation E, not The Migrants’ Files project.