When it comes to data journalism in the Middle East, one name stands out. Amr Eleraqi is the data journalist spreading data journalism to the Middle East. In 2012, he launched infotimes.org, the first Arabic website specializing in data journalism in the region. Since then, Eleraqi and his organization have both been nominated for GEN Data Journalism Awards — once in 2015 as an individual, and the second in 2016 for the best data visualization website of the year.
His goal: to introduce Arab journalists to the concept of data visualization as a new tool for storytelling. It worked. As the site grew so did the interest of Arab journalists in the field of data journalism. So he and a team of nine recently launched the first Arab Data Journalists’ Network. Advocacy Assembly spoke with Eleraqi to learn more about the network and how it’s changing the scene for Arab journalists.
1. Where did the idea of launching the Arab Data Journalists’ Network come from?
Interest in data journalism has increased worldwide over the past five years. However, in the Arab world it is only in the past two years that journalists have begun to show interest in the field.
The idea of creating the network came up during a conference that was held last year in Cairo. The conference brought together more than 350 Arab journalists interested in data. We discussed the data journalism opportunities and challenges in the Arab world, as well as the need to have a hub where we could share our expertise with one another. And the idea of the ADJN was born.
2. Tell us more about the network and the services it will be offering.
We launched our website two months ago in three languages (English, French and Arabic). Our goal is to support data journalism in the Arab region and to help Arab journalists enhance their abilities and learn new tools that could be used in telling data-driven stories in a professional way. In addition to the networking opportunities, the site provides Arab journalists with local and international data-related news, training opportunities, job vacancies and specialized articles by Arab and international experts.
3. Why the focus on creating Arabic content in this field? Why not rely on existing English content?
The lack of educational content in Arabic that focuses on data journalism is the main reason we wanted to create our own content instead of relying exclusively on translated material. There is a need to have a combination of both types of content, that’s for sure. However, journalism schools in the Arab world are starting to realize the importance of teaching data journalism in their classes.
For instance, two of my Arabic-language books for covering human rights issues, Data Journalism Fundamentals and Data Journalism Handbook, have been used by Arab universities as part of their curriculum.
4. Is the network exclusive for data journalists? How can journalists contribute to the network?
Network membership is open and free for all Arab journalists and press organizations interested in, and working in, data journalism. Members can participate in data journalism training, conferences and seminars inside and outside the Arab region. Journalists can also contribute any data journalism-related articles, stories or videos.
5. How has the response been so far?
Today, the network includes five media, research and consulting Arab institutions specialized in data journalism, along with 30 journalists from several Arab countries. We receive 1000 visits per day to the website. We have also successfully collaborated with AIN Infographic Magazine, a Syrian magazine specialized in data journalism, and Data 22, an Arabic news site which specializes in infographics, studies, statistics and data journalism.
6. What are the future plans of the network?
We are currently planning for a data journalism conference in November. We also hope to collaborate with as many organizations, journalists and media outlets as possible in order to keep up with data journalism training and content creation in other parts of the world.
Interested in learning more about data visualization? Check out Amr’s Infotimes course “Visualise your data with the best charts and graphs.”