New Skills for the Next Generation of Journalists


Working and teaching with data in the digital age – How developed is the field of data journalism in the NEWSREEL countries?

Data journalism and data visualization become more and more important in the new media landscape, while most of the journalists need to acquire skills like how to collect, organise, analyse and present data at an advanced level. Our research report highlights the role of data journalism in the four partner countries of NEWSREEL and how this field appears in the higher education of Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Romania.

Data journalism in the media

Regarding data journalism in practice, this field needs to be improved in all four NEWSREEL countries. Although there are some good practices everywhere, the number of data journalists are very low even in Germany, which has the highest number of data journalists among the partner countries (about 50). This number is in sharp contrast with the Hungarian reality, where only one journalist calls himself a data journalist.

Difficult circumstances 

There are several problems to face with, e.g.  the lack of time and (re)sources, as well as the shortage of technical skills. According to a Hungarian specialist, Attila Bátorfy, the large newspapers in the Western European countries could set up teams for data journalism, but their counterparts in Hungary  have to do all the programming, data extraction, analysis, interpretation and data visualization on the their own. Moreover, the limited access to data often hinders journalists to do this specific type of journalism.

Although data journalism is very expensive, it is mostly applied by non-profit media organizations everywhere, which often cooperate with independent and innovative media outlets.

Types of data journalism

The different national overviews point out that data journalism is mostly used in investigative, economic or political reports, like in articles on elections. In Germany, data journalism appears also in the field of entertainment, such as sports.

From the interviews with the German and Portuguese journalists, it emerges that most of the work in data journalism is linked to collaborative investigative journalism, like in the case of the Panama Papers, where there were massive amounts of data and a big team had to collaborate.

In Hungary and Portugal, there are only a few examples for data journalism, whereas in Germany there are many interesting data journalism projects. Actually, two foci have been evolving there. One of them is the interactive and visual data journalism, practised by the Berliner Morgenpost e.g.. The other one is a type of investigative data journalism, which can be observed in the works/projects of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, BR Data or Correctiv.

Data journalism in the higher education

In all four samples of the NEWSREEL countries, there are universities that offer courses on data journalism, however there are huge differences in to what extent these institutions pay attention to this specific field.

Extensive offer in Germany

Maybe it is not surprising that Germany also leads the line concerning university courses of data journalism. We can find data journalism courses in all six German journalism programmes, however, the amount of acquired knowledge and practice is very different (this is also true for the offer of other partner countries). On BA level in the science journalism programme at the TU Dortmund University, data journalism has a significant role.  Other faculties in other universities have modules and workshops or integrate some aspects of data journalism into their curriculum. The departments at Hamburg, Dortmund and Cologne are eager to enhance their data journalism offer in the future.

Adequate offer in Romania

In Romania, the University of Bucharest and the Babeș-Bolyai University offer basic and advanced level courses in the field of data gathering. Moreover, at the University of Bucharest, there are data journalism courses both at Bachelor and Master level. The Journalism and Communication Sciences Department at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University also offers a data journalism course. At the Lucian Blaga University, on the other hand, there are no special courses in data journalism, but some elements of data journalism are integrated into the online journalism course. The West University of Timișoara give only the basics of data journalism. To date, Spiru Haret University does not run a course in data journalism.

Small supply in Hungary and Portugal

Hungary has only two universities where data journalism is available as an independent course: at Budapest Metropolitan University and at Eötvös Loránd University, and the same data journalist teaches students in both institutions. Some elements of this field are also taught in the other programmes, integrated into other courses, like ‘Presentation technologies’ (University of Debrecen).  At Pázmány Péter Catholic University, students have the possibility to learn about infographics.  At the University of Szeged, there is a demand for teaching data journalism, but the suitable personnel are not available.

In Portugal, data journalism as a specific course is only offered in the postgraduate programme at ISCTE-IUL. The course aims to provide basic knowledge ranging from choosing the right sources, treating and analysing data to visualising data, and storytelling with them.  Other universities have some courses on visualisation, e.g. the University Autónoma of Lisbon, but they have a broader focus, including print infographics. In some universities there are workshops or journalistic projects connected to this area (like the University of Minho).

Data journalism should be a priority

As the country reports show, data journalism is a very promising field, but the necessary frameworks to do and teach this specialized type of journalism properly are unfortunately not available everywhere. The biggest problems are the lack of time and money, because data journalism is a very time- and cost-consuming field in digital journalism. Huge international projects and journalistic networks can serve as good examples. Creating the conditions for data journalism however should be a priority at all levels of national institutions. 

You can find the full sample of the universities in our research report (page 40-43). If you would like to read more about the role of data journalism in the partner countries, check our report as well.