New Translation of the Data Journalism Handbook to Support Journalists in Georgia


The Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), together with the European Journalism Centre (EJC), released today the first two chapters of the Georgian translation of the Data Journalism Handbook (the remaining chapters will be serialised over the coming months). This is the fourth published translation of the Handbook to date and several more are coming soon. 


Data Journalism Handbook cover in Georgian

The event prompted us to take a closer look at the data journalism scene in Georgia, and how the translation of the handbook came to be. To find out more about these, we talked to Josh LaPorte, EJC Country Manager for Georgia, and Tina Tsomaia, Assistant Professor at the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management at GIPA. The EJC has had a long-standing partnership with GIPA going back many years, in the form of journalism education and curriculum development initiatives, among others.

What is the state of data journalism in Georgia?

TinaTsomaia_pic.jpgTina Tsomaia: The state of data journalism in the country is poor. Only one non-profit organization is regularly engaged in it and it does so through donor funding (JumpStart. More on that later.) Some stories using data are popular among interested readers and spread quickly through social media like Facebook, so there is some demand. But in general media outlets find data journalism time-intensive and expensive to do, and journalists are generally not trained in this field. They don’t know how to do this kind of work or how to regularly produce stories out of data. But there is also no real pressure for additional data journalism stories coming from media outlets or from the market, since much of Georgian journalism is focused on daily political news and sensationalist stories.

What drove GIPA to focus on data journalism?

Josh LaPorte: GIPA is tapped into global media trends and works with some of the biggest global players in media education, such as IREX, Columbia University, EJC, or Thomson Reuters. It became quite apparent that data journalism capacity building was just not happening in Georgia. GIPA sensed this represented a gap in the media education market and realised it was an opportunity to expand its curriculum, for the sake of its students, and to promote the topic, on a wider scale, for the Georgian media community in general.   


How accessible is data in Georgia?

LaPorte: The government has recently put huge amounts of data online and this has created some very positive dynamics, which is why our initiative has good timing in terms of local data resources and databases. So access is very high. But this data is not effectively being delivered to the public in any kind of regular reader/viewer-friendly way. For example, Transparency International Georgia is very good in collecting and collating this data. But it is not in the business of telling stories with data. Rather, it focuses on how to use and source data.
There are of course a few journalists who are using the data - and using it correctly in some investigations - but not on a regular basis.

Who are the main actors in the field of data journalism in the country?

LaPorte: As mentioned above, GIPA is the main actor. No media outlet would really fit into this category. Only the non-profit organisation JumpStart has a dedicated programme. Its project, Visualizing the News in Georgia, funds the organisation Feradi which produces data-driven stories.

Can you tell us about the most impressive Georgian data journalism project you’ve encountered so far?

Tsomaia: JumpStart has stories on their website but they are only distributed online so they have limited impact. In fact only two stories were picked by mainstream media: one was about the environment and the other was about crime.

How did you decide to translate the handbook into Georgian?

LaPorte: We jointly decided to do an official translation of the Handbook as a regular resource for GIPA students and Georgian journalists. The real impetus came from a pilot data journalism workshop we implemented last summer together with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, called New World of Journalism in the Digital Age. Enthusiasm and participation were extremely high among the local media and we realised, moving forward, that resources like the Handbook would be an important component in teaching data journalism courses and in introducing global best practice examples.

Tsomaia: When you see a truly good resource, you think it was created especially for you! In a sense, this is how we feel about the Data Journalism Handbook. We will use the Handbook as a guide while developing the Media Engineering Master, the first of its kind in the region, bringing together students of journalism and students of computer science. It will also serve us to train journalists and students in data journalism and data visualisation.  

Were there any local chapters added to the book?

LaPorte: Not yet, but we would like to do that at some point in 2014, adding step-by-step description of some local cases that had impact.


Image 2: Tina Tsomaia, Assistant Professor at the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management at GIPA                                                                                                                     Image 3: Josh LaPorte, EJC Country Manager for Georgia

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