The Year in Data Journalism: Q&A with Alexandre Léchenet


Continuing our series on The Year in Data Journalism, we spoke to Le Monde’s data visualisation specialist Alexandre Léchenet about developments in data journalism this year and his hopes for 2013.

What do you do at Le Monde?

I try to investigate what data driven journalism is for us, and to improve and experiment new formats on LeMonde.fr.

What was your biggest data driven achievement this year?

My biggest achievement is the collection and rendering of doctor's fees, with two other Le Monde journalists. We were able to gather some new and exclusive information by scraping France's social security website.

What was your favourite data journalism project this year and why?

Strangely, my favorite was the "Message Machine" by ProPublica. It is a great example of how the internet and computing have changed the way of reporting. Using reverse engineering on emails gathered through crowdsourcing, and being able to tell a story thanks to that is a good definition of data journalism.

More broadly - what excites you in this field at the moment? Any interesting developments that you’d like to mention?

With all the talk about "big data" in the field of marketing, what will be thrilling in the coming months would be for journalists to investigate all the data that companies keep about their customers.

What about disappointments?

Open data was a field of curiosity, but with more and more administrations opening up their data in France, it's a bit disappointing. The datasets being made open are not as interesting as we thought they'd be. And the more interesting ones are kept hidden in administration's computers.

Another disappointment is the media crisis. OWNI, a media company focused on innovative format is closing, along with many other newspapers and websites. Data driven journalism is not a solution to the  crisis, but I think people working on data journalism, as they are in an evolving field, certainly have some solutions.

Infographic: Surcharges for doctors' consultations in Paris by frequency and amount. Le Monde (2012)

Any predictions about what the future holds for data journalism in 2013?

Nope, that's what exciting!

Anything else you’d like to share with everyone?

My best wishes for 2013.