From pitch to conference session

Would you like to pitch a session at the Dataharvest conference – but hesitate, because you don’t really know what happens to it? Here is what constitutes a good pitch, and how we decide what to put on the program.

First of all, Dataharvest is all about sharing – of experiences, methods, successes and failures. Do you know software, that others can benefit from? Have you used innovative methods in your investigations? Did you make a mistake that others could avoid? Tell us about it!

Other keywords for a good pitch are: European – crossborder – collaboration – data – digital. Think about the format – is your idea fit for a presentation, a workshop, a panel debate or maybe a networking session?

You send your pitch by using this form. Keep it short – but do remember to include enough background for outsiders to understand your idea. Deadline for pitches is February 1!

So what happens next?

We are already far into planning the program, but have a constant eye on new ideas coming in. We will be in touch with you as soon as we can – maybe to say ‘yes and thank you’ to your idea as it is, maybe to discuss how to combine it with a similar idea from another country. And of course there are ideas we must decline – maybe because they are not within the conference scope, maybe because there simply is a limit to the number of sessions at the conference.

We plan the conference program track by track. For each we collect all the ideas that we have gathered and received. That may be a list of 30 ideas, but we may only have 12 time slots for the track. Then the discussion begins on how to balance sessions on concrete stories with session on collaboration methods, experiences from East and West, big projects with smaller etcetera. We also have an eye on speakers to make sure that a multitude of countries are represented, that we have a reasonable gender balance etc.

Who makes the selection? Many good people help us, so do the investigative networks in Europe. Data journalism trainers from many different countries have planned 3 full tracks of data skills. But the final responsibility is on the shoulders of Brigitte Alfter and Trine Smistrup – complaints should go to us!

Do I get invited if my pitch is accepted? Dataharvest is a low-budget conference, so we will ask if your newsroom will pay for your travel and hotel. We can waive the conference fee, and we do have a small travel budget for speakers that need it. But register, if you want to be sure to participate – there are only 500 conference tickets!



The Arena Housing List shows its potential

Since we launched it on 4 September, the Arena Housing List has kept growing and now has 130+ members. Most of them are journalists but there are also academic researchers, advocates and other practitioners and activists. Almost everyone is based in Europe while a few others based in North America.

During these weeks, list members have sent over 40 emails in which they have shared media stories, academic reports and data sources. They have also told the list about their ongoing projects, made professional connections and even written stories based on or inspired by information received by the list.

This enthusiasm has kept the momentum going and given us a first view of what we are able to achieve if we work together. And we at Arena are working already on the next steps to continue developing the Arena Housing Project as an open collaborative network.

Like other European cross-border collaborative projects, the idea for the Arena Housing Project was born at Dataharvest, the European Investigative Journalism Conference.

During the conference last May, which was focused on local reporting and on housing, more than two dozen journalists and other professionals came together to brainstorm ways to collaborate across borders so that our work gets more visible and impactful.

Do you want to subscribe to the Housing List? Send an email with the word “subscribe” without quoting marks in the subject or body to, or go and subscribe on the list page.


Toepfer Stiftung and Arena team up for new cross-border initiative

20 journalists from all over Europe will get a chance to build cross-border networks in the new “European Collaborative Journalism programme” offered by German Toepfer Stiftung.

The program is aimed at journalists from local and regional media and will consist of two steps: First a 3-day seminar to network and develop ideas, then participation in the 2020 Dataharvest – The European Investigative Journalism Conference, arranged by Arena for Journalism in Europe.

Toepfer Stiftung initiates this program to support quality journalism and to connect journalists from all over Europe. Journalism and media freedom are under pressure, and financial constraint affect the possibilities for investigative researches and the work of local and regional journalists. At the same time, the number cross-border topics is constantly increasing, as in the fields of environment, traffic, migration or organised crime. Cross-border collaboration of journalists enable to continue investigative journalism and to hold power structures accountable despite declining resources.

The program will build up a network of the 20 participants from all over Europe, and they will be able to develop ideas for collaborations. The two meetings will be respectively Feb 27 – March 1 in Germany and May 14-17 at Dataharvest in Mechelen, Belgium.


We listen to your feedback

Don’t think that your work filling in the feedback form is wasted. We read every answer carefully and consider criticism and advice.

Let’s admit it, we frolic in comments such as “Good organisation, good topics, great networking and story ideas” or “great atmosphere, great input, impressive cooperativeness”. We love reading “No bullshit – everyone’s there because they actually do or want to do data/investigative journalism” or “It is a great gathering of genuinely interesting colleagues from all over. Inspiring!”.

But we also go through the critical points one by one and consider how things can be changed. The layout of the conference rooms? – well, there is a limit to what we can do, but it can maybe be improved somewhat. The technical set-ups, so sessions are not delayed because of trouble with PCs and projectors – yes, we should be able to solve that. Better representation from Eastern Europe – we are fundraising specifically for that, so please cross your fingers!

A number of you pointed to the fact that we are journalists and editors – not speakers! So for next year we plan a full day pre-conference workshop for speakers who want to improve their presentation skills – plus a set of online guidelines on how to make good and concise presentations.

And then the food! We are wringing our brains to find ways to vary and improve lunch, but there are also limits on both economy and practicalities: How can we serve 500 people lunch in one hour? We have been working on making lunch greener, and feedback shows that it worked some days, but not all. (It did feel a bit unfair, though, when someone complained about sandwiches 4 days in a row, when the conference only has 3 lunches!). But there is always room for improvement, and we work on it again 2020.

Did you forget to send your comments after the conference? You can still access the feedback form if you have comments that are not pitches for the 2020 program.



Arena and the EJC partners for the #EIJC19

PRESS RELEASE – We are delighted to announce a partnership between Arena for Journalism in Europe and the European Journalism Centre (EJC), for the European Investigative Journalism Conference & Dataharvest 2019 (EIJC19), taking place in Mechelen from 17-19 May 2019.

Earlier this year, the EJC launched, a new space for journalists to learn and improve their data skills. Its team will co-organise two panels, one on local data journalism and one on the path for learning data journalism. EJC team members will also speak at further relevant panels.

Furthermore, the EJC provides four full scholarships for data journalists and journalism students from peripheral European countries and/or small newsrooms to attend the conference.

Brigitte Alfter, director of Arena for Journalism in Europe, says: “We are happy to continue the cooperation between the European Journalism Centre and the European Investigative Journalism Conference & Dataharvest. This cooperation started in 2018 and continues now that the conference is organised by the Arena for Journalism in Europe. We think this partnership brings excellent synergies and hope to develop it further in the years to come.”

Adam Thomas, director of the European Journalism Centre, says: “We think data journalism skills are a cornerstone of resilient newsrooms that are able to find and tell stories in new ways. offers free resources and courses for data journalists. With this partnership we hope to bring together the communities of Dataharvest and to support data journalists at all levels.”

Arena for Journalism in Europe is a foundation established in the Netherlands. Its purpose is to stimulate and support cross-border collaborative and investigative journalism in Europe, including collaboration with other professions, proceeding from the belief that such journalism contributes to information exchange, critical thought, mutual understanding and democracy in Europe. provides data journalists with free resources, materials, online video courses and community forums. Once you sign in, you can enroll for free into one of the premium online courses or join the 9k members and discuss with other like-minded data journalism enthusiasts in our forums. is an initiative of the European Journalism Centre, sponsored by the Google News Initiative.

For further information please contact

Brigitte Alfter, director, Arena for Journalism in Europe,

Adam Thomas, director, European Journalism Centre,


Come prepared to the conference

Two weeks to the EIJC & Dataharvest 2019 opening! We are sooo ready to welcome you! This is what YOU can do to get the most value out of the conference:

  • Join the Facebook event and follow the news!
  • Follow @EIJConference on Twitter and see what people are saying before and during the conference!
  • Join the discussion at the EIJC Arena and start the networking about themes, tools and new investigations now!
  • Download the Sched app to your phone, so you get updated on the latest changes to the program!
  • And make or update your profile on Sched, so others can see who you are! Maybe you are just the person they need for their next investigation! On Sched you can also organize your program for the conference days and reserve a seat on the sessions with a limited number of seats.

Be prepared! – that way you will bring home the best output from Mechelen!

News, Speakers

Decades’ work for cross-border collaboration rewarded

Brigitte Alfter received the Carsten Nielsen Prize from the chairman of the Danish Union of Journalists, Lars Werge. The prize consists of a small statue and an sum of money. Photo: Jonas Ahlstrøm

Sunday April 28 was our director Brigitte Alfter’s birthday. But that was not the only reason for her being happy. She had been told to go in secret to the congress of the Danish Union of Journalists to receive the prestigious Carsten Nielsen prize.

After the congress dinner, the union chairman, Lars Werge, went on stage to announce the surprise to the 400 delegates to the assembly. They welcomed Brigitte onto the stage with the birthday song.

Here is Lars Werge’s speech to Brigitte Alfter:

Dear Brigitte,
Congratulations on the award. And thank you for your contribution to the professional strengthening of Danish journalism and for your consistent work to promote journalistic cooperation.

You were nominated to receive the prize by a group of colleagues who among other things write:

“Brigitte Alfter is a freelancer, she is an award-winning cross-border and data journalist, and she is the epitome of collaboration and journalistic community.

She works in the area of European politics, which others may be reluctant to enter because it is such a complicated issue.

Brigitte has been central to many European journalists working together across borders today. For example, she has been:

  • Committed to SCOOP since 2005 – SCOOP supports, through the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (FUJ), investigative journalists in Eastern Europe
  • co-founder of the annual European Conference on Data and Investigative Journalists – EIJC & Dataharvest. Brigitte developed it, and in eight years it has grown from 30 to 500 participants from about 50 countries
  • co-founder of, which provides funding for research for groups of investigative crossborder journalists. For this, in 2013 she got the Leipzig Prize for the Freedom and the Future of the Media
  • co-founder of Wobbing Europe, a network of journalists working for public access to EU and national administrations

This year’s Cavling prize (the annual Danish Press Prize) went to the money laundering case in Danske Bank – a work that would not be possible without collaborating across borders, the kind of collaboration that Brigitte is helping to develop.

That’s why we recommend that this year’s Carsten Nielsen scholarship goes to Brigitte Alfter.”

The award is named after Carsten Nielsen, who was the first chairman of the Danish Union of Journalists.


Christo Hird will be keynote speaker

Christo Hird is a giant in rethinking journalism in society, and he is our keynote speaker for Saturday May 18th!

An investigative hack and filmmaker himself, he is deeply involved and was for a while the editor in chief of the London Bureau for Investigative Journalism.

Like so many other journalists, he wants to make the world a better place. Once upon a time, as a younger journalists, he believed that ”knowledge is power” and that the mere publication would indeed change things for the better. The world is different now. Networked societies, decline of sound models to pay for public interest journalism and other challenges loom.

But rather than mourn lost days, Hird uses his life time insights and experiences in journalism and filmmaking to ponder possible ways into a future, where journalism takes it place in today’s societies – in the public interest!


Going local: Local journalists – unite for impact!

We focus on the journalism close to the audience’s concerns and how we can cooperate across borders to make an impact on national and European level.

By Jose Miguel Calatayud 

Political and economic crises are often accompanied by a crisis of trust in mainstream journalism. In the last couple of years vested political interests have systematically cast doubt on established media, which many disaffected citizens perceive as being out of touch with their day-to-day reality.

Have the media and we journalists contributed to this creditability crisis ourselves? Have the news media failed to see beyond those leaders shouting the loudest and focused on sensationalist stories that bring in more clicks. How can then journalism regain its audience’s trust?

In a way, the answer is quite simple. Journalists should aim to responsibly fulfil their most fundamental roles: engaging with citizens to hear about what affects them most in their everyday life, bringing the public interest into the political agenda, and facilitating public debate to hold those in power to account.

The journalists reporting on local issues are particularly well suited to carry out such tasks, as they are themselves part of the communities they are reporting about. They can engage with and listen to the people in their communities and then report on what’s affecting people’s lives.

However, what local journalism often lack is the capacity and critical mass to take those issues into the political agenda to reach those in the centres of power.

That is why this year’s EIJC & Dataharvest is having a Local track: to discuss how journalists covering local issues all over Europe can come together for their reporting to have greater visibility and impact – also at the EU level.

The Local track will also explore other questions regarding local journalism. What are the business models of new local media? How do their newsrooms function and how do they engage with their local communities? How are local journalists carrying out investigations? Is it possible to establish country-wide networks of many local investigative journalists? What tools and platforms are available for small newsrooms to crowdsource local data?

On top of that, the Local track will focus on the coverage of housing, a topic that has become highly relevant across different countries, cities and towns all over Europe.

In particular, and even though there are localised contextual differences, access to affordable and decent housing is becoming increasingly difficult for more and more people. The young can’t afford leaving their parents’ home, migrants are discriminated against in the housing markets, the number of homeless people is increasing, and many from the middle class can barely afford decent housing.

The Local track will showcase excellent local, data and investigative reporting about housing being done around Europe, and it will bring together editors, journalists, academic researchers and other experts to discuss how their work on housing may end up having a greater impact on the public debate.

Would you like to discuss this further or network with other reporters about local collaboration and housing? Join the discussion at (conference participants only) – people are discussing there already!