Carmen Aguilar García

Curious about how one can investigate big polluters in Europe? Save the date May 21, 4:00 pm CET and join us at the Dataharvest conference for a session on how to track industrial emissions.

Register for the conference here

The UK has pledged that by 2050, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by all the cars, homes and industry in the country will be net-zero. Manufacturing and industry – that are the drivers of the country’s economy and important job providers – often escape public scrutiny. A data-led investigation found out that 15 firms are responsible for around a sixth of all the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The investigation was a cross-border collaboration between Sky News (UK), El Pais (Spain), Le Figaro (France), Le Soir (Belgium) and Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland).

“We used publicly available data from the European Trade System (ETS) to find the installations that produced more CO2 emissions in 2019, and we dug into companies’ public statements, news media articles, and companies’ account reports to track the parent companies responsible for each installation and therefore the emissions allocated in the ETS,” explains data journalist Carmen Aguilar García. They also considered the UK carbon budget, “in order to put the ETS figure into context in the wider picture of the CO2 emissions produced in the UK,” she explains.

The story made it to the top 10 Sky News story of the day.  In this session, Carmen Aguilar Garcia will take us through her investigation process, and share with us tips on how to deal with the ETS data, and replicate the methodology in other EU countries.

Read the investigation here

 

 

All women’s shelters full in this area. Nationwide research in Germany showed the surge in domestic violence during the pandemic and the lack of resources to deal sith the consequences.

In the midst of a national lockdown, already overcrowded womens’ shelters throughout Germany found themselves turning away dozens – sometimes even hundreds – of women in order to meet COVID-19 restrictions. While each federal state maintains its own system for funding shelters, there was an obvious national trend: Not enough space.

Join this session to hear how, during the lockdown, German investigative center CORRECTIV researched the surge in domestic violence together with 31 local media houses across Germany. They collected data, shared their research and began publishing nationwide from February 10.

From scraping to crowdsourcing, the session delves into Correctiv.Lokal’s data-driven approach to researching how womens’ shelters through Germany struggle to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence. We’ll also talk about how we worked with local newsrooms throughout the country to bring our research to a wider audience.

The session takes place May 26 at 17:00 CET. See the full conference program and register

Arena/Dataharvest collaborates with the European Journalism Training Association on teachers’ conference on data journalism training .

2015 discussion on how to teach data journalism – by the table from left Delphine Reuter (Belgium), unknown, Peter Jonriksson (Sweden), Trine Smistrup (Denmark), (unknown), Stefan Candea (Romania).

Exactly six years ago today, Dataharvest opened a pre-conference meeting of a large group of data trainers from across Europe – pioneers, who had the skills and the overview to not just do data journalism but also teach it to others.

Nice to be reminded as we are just putting the finishing touches to what will be the one of largest gatherings about data journalism training in Europe so far: The annual teachers’ conference in the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA), this year on data journalism, planned and organized in collaboration between EJTA and Arena/Dataharvest.

It is futile to try to put a starting date to data journalism or data journalism training. The Dataharvest conference grew out of a group of journalists, collecting data on EU farm subsidies since 2009. Across the world, journalists to a larger degree began to find, download, and analyse data around 15 years ago, and “Computer-Assisted Reporting” developed into data journalism. It was a new skill, and no-one knew how it should be taught.

“We initiated a survey in early 2015 to gather knowledge and experience on how data journalism was taught and trained,” remembers Arena’s director Brigitte Alfter. “Then we invited a group of around 20 data trainers and teachers for a one-day seminar before the 2015 Dataharvest conference, so they could get to know each other and share their experiences and training material.”

There were participants from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and a trainers’ meeting was part of Dataharvest over the following years.

Today data journalism is journalism, not a separate nerdy department hidden in a corner of the newsroom. Knowledge on how to gather, clean and analyse data is a skill that most journalists need, and data journalism is on its way into the curriculum in most European journalism schools.

EJTA president, Eric Nahon from Institut Pratique du Journalisme Dauphine in Paris, says:

Data journalism and data literacy are becoming necessary to understand the world and the society we live in. Most journalists are kind of reluctant to use figures, numbers, or playing with statistic Then come the “nerdy ones”, using Excel, playing with R, talking about “scraping” etc. – but bringing very good stories and visualizations. This new field is something we had to look deeper into. And now is time to share and learn what we found.”

What are journalism schools struggling with in this connection?

“EJTA is about helping its members. So, when data journalism came up as a topic on informal discussions, it was clear that we had some teachers very good with data and some who were interested but did not know where to begin. So having practical sessions to focus on “how to teach/what to teach” is a good starting point for many EJTA members. And the more “advanced” colleague can pick some clever ideas to go forward on their own courses.

But I think the most difficult part of teaching data driven stories in journalism schools is… our students. Most of them are into words and not into figures and numbers. That needs to change, and that’s why we are talking about data literacy for journalists and about data driven stories. We need to find the stories behind the numbers.“

Why did you choose to collaborate with Arena/Dataharvest?

“That was a natural choice. Dataharvest is a famous and fine gathering of data journalist. It reflects the evolution of this peculiar field of journalism. Many of our teachers (professional journalists) are attending Arena/Dataharvest every year. It was obvious that a Mechelen-based organization would find a Mechelen-based “festival of journalism”.

The EJTA teachers’ conference is taking place online on May 20-21.

Looking to hone your data journalism skills? This years data sessions at Dataharvest again offer something for everybody. Our trainers will help you get into the right data state of mind. Not sure where to look for the right numbers? We have got you covered too. Data you need does not exist? No problem! Just create your own datasets.

Scraping the web for information is a recurring feature of our conference, this year coming back as two beginners sessions: scraping from scratch and scraping without programming.

During the data journalism week we’ll host extra special sessions on data-collaborations and automated sharing with other newsrooms.

Looking for getting hands on and nerdy? Joining tables in the powerful SQL will make you a data combination wizard. Or consider taking a basic Javascript class for visual storytelling? Data cleaning on steroids – that is regex.

And put a finishing touch on everything: learn about the many ways you can tell your data story.

Register here!

Websites may look like they’re designed to make information available to the public and to retain it for future verification and checkups. However, that’s often not really the case.

To start with, there’s a trove of very relevant information that’s normally hiding behind what you see when you open a website on your browser. Who registered and owns the website’s name? Is it an individual or a company? When was it registered?

Then, deleting, editing and modifying information on a website is really easy and it can be done without leaving any apparent trace. In effect, the people behind a website can try to quite literally rewrite their and the website’s history and remove content that’s relevant to the public interest. How can we check whether that has been the case? And is it possible to retrieve content that has been deleted or modified?

Join us in this session with Laura Ranca, who leads Tactical Tech‘s ‘Exposing the Invisible‘ project, to learn about the main methods, tips and tools to look for what’s behind a website – it’s Thursday May 20 at 10 am!

See the full program and register for the Dataharvest conference!

Looking for inspiring investigations related to climate? Maybe you have heard that wood pellets are an environment-friendly and CO2-neutral source of clean or green energy? Ah, well. Join us at Dataharvest 2021 for Fridays for Climate program to hear about Money to Burn, a cross-border investigation into biomass from journalists Hazel Sheffield, Piret Reiljan and Ties Gijzel who will present their investigation and findings.

Ties Gijzel

Register for the conference here

Save the date: May 21, 10:00 am CET

In 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive came into force across the EU, mandating that member states must start to transition their energy supply to renewable sources. Ever since, biomass, specifically wood pellets, has become the main source of renewable energy in the EU. The industry developed around the biomass often receive subsidies from the member states, while they operate without scrutiny or transparency.

Piret Reiljan

For three months, a cross-border team led by Argos, the award-winning investigative journalism platform of Dutch public broadcasters VPRO and Human, tracked the path of pellets from forest to furnace.

“We have combined many different methodologies in our work, at different stages of the investigation. We used open source geospatial tools through which we obtained valuable

Hazel Sheffield

data, but we also collaborated with scientists, university researchers, that helped us analyse and interpret the open source data that ended up being more complicated than estimated,” explains Ties Gijzel.

Join us to learn how the team combined an array of different methods to track deforestation, the extent of clear cutting and biodiversity loss!

Check out the “Money to Burn” investigation here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screendump from project video, made by Alexia Barakou and produced by Reporters United.

Are rents constantly rising in your city? Has it been increasingly difficult to find adequate and affordable place? Has home ownership become only wishful thinking?

High demand for flats across European cities has made housing a very attractive investment. While many people can’t find an affordable flat to live in, reports of a huge increase in investment flows into housing across Europe go hand in hand with stories of abusive practices by ‘corporate landlords’, companies that buy and rent out housing for profit.

Where is all that money coming from? Who are the companies and investors buying so much housing across Europe? How does this phenomenon affect people’s lives and homes in European cities?

During a period of more than seven months, a team of over 25 investigative and data journalists and visualisations experts from 16 European countries, have been working on the cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe. The project was coordinated by the Arena for Journalism in Europe.

Join us for a pop-up session  with Adriana Homolova, Hendrik Lehmann and Jose Miguel Calatayud on May 5 (10:00 AM CET).

Register here

In 2013, Madrid authorities sold more than 4,800 homes, originally intended as affordable housing, to companies controlled by American investment funds. One of the new landlords, American giant Blackstone, soon increased the rents – in some cases by doubling them over a period of three years. Many tenants ended up being evicted. 

In Lisbon, in 2017, two companies bought a building for 2.7 million euros and shortly after put it up for sale for 7 million as an “unoccupied” building, when in reality there were 12 families living there.

In ParisLondonCopenhagen and Berlin, tenants in homes owned by Swedish company Akelius have been complaining for years of abusive practices by their ‘corporate landlord’. In 2020, even the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing said that Akelius was abusing its tenants’ human rights.

Similar stories tend to repeat across Europe. Total investment into residential real estate in Europe has increased more than 700% between 2009 and 2020, from 7.9 to 66.9 billion euros, according to data by Real Capital Analytics. Corporate landlords’ are increasing their presence in different European cities, while the authorities rarely know how many homes those kinds of companies have acquired. (continued under the video)

Cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe is envisaged as the first step towards more cross-border collaborative research into the crisis of housing affordability and how it affects people’s lives. Join us to learn how the journalists involved went ahead and started building the databases of the corporate landlords in different European countries; who these big players are, and how they’re impacting our lives.

Read the stories

The investigation received support through IJ4EU fund for cross-border investigative journalism

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

We are adding a new element to Dataharvest! We are happy to announce that this year we will be featuring lots of sessions with great investigations on climate, hands-on climate-data and OSINT training. The sessions will take place on Fridays during the main three-week program of Dataharvest, May 18-June 4.

Climate change is the story of our time, and also a cross-border story par excellence: emissions don’t stop at borders, energy companies operate across the globe, and  the main climate regulations and policies are discussed at the international level.

During out first climate Friday, on May 21, we will focus on the methodology of some of the great investigations looking into specific aspects of climate change, energy efficiency or environmental wrongdoing. Friday of May 28 will be reserved or the data stories and OSINT methods and training. You will also be able to get the guidance and mentoring support from data and OSINT mentors in the two-week period after the session during so-called “office hours” sessions. The closing day, June 4, will be dedicated to European stories. We will get a better understanding of how one can efficiently investigate climate and energy stories of European relevance, and where and how to find our next big research topics.

Last year, the focus of Dataharvest Digital was climate and energy. In 19 sessions (featuring 30 different speakers), spread over two “climate weeks” in September and November 2020, we zoomed into fossil fuel subsidies, discussed how big businesses sometimes benefit from green energy boost, learnt from experts who investigate shipping and aviation industry, looked into lobbying mechanisms and their impact on the European and the UK climate policies, tracked climate deniers across European borders and much more (you can check out last year’s climate program HERE).

We will be publishing more information on specific sessions in the next days – stay tuned! Climate sessions are supported by the European Climate Foundation.

Have you worked on an important investigation related to climate/energy sector that you’d like to present at Dataharvest 2021 Fridays for Climate? Let us know! You can get in touch with the Arena Climate Network project coordinator at jelena@journalismarena.eu

Are you interested in exploring ‘investigative journalism 2.0’? 

Join us for a Dataharvest session with investigative journalist Ben Heubl on May 19 (11-12:30 CET) to learn about basic and advanced techniques and tools for gathering and analysing open sources intelligence.

Register for the conference

Register for the session: Open source intelligence skills for investigative reporters

During the session we will discuss how these new approaches fit into the toolbox of modern European journalists and explore several subjects specific to Europe. Ben Heubl will give you some basic OSINT tools and tips that you can use in your everyday work – such as how to geolocate a video or a photo,. 

We will also learn how to examine right-wing groups on the continent, and explore some social-media themes unique to Europe. “We will learn how reght-wing groups use Telegram channels and how one can do search across Telegram channels; how to find these people’s profiles and link their user names to their real identities across social-media platforms,” says Heubl.

Ben will also demonstrate specific examples of how OSINT can assist your reporting such as vessel tracking. “We have a thriving maritime sector, in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic, and one can do many stories – for example look into overfishing – if they know how to track ships,” explains Heubl.

Read Ben Heubl’s investigation: How Europe’s dark fishing fleets threaten West Africa

If you want to learn more about satellite imagery, refer to pieces: How new satellite data sources enhance investigative journalism and How to investigate Europe’s biomass industry with open-source data

Are you interested using OSINT while doing fast-pace news journalism work? Check out Ben Heubl’s tips on How to tell open-source intelligence tales for the news

The EU border agency Frontex has the largest budget of any EU agency. “We don’t meet with lobbyists,” they claim – an investigative team proved them wrong. Hear how to find your own story in their data.

If a public institution is reluctant to share information with the public, how can we use our right to file freedom of information (FOI) requests to obtain documents from them – and push them towards more transparency? Luisa Izuzquiza, researcher and campaigner with FragDenStaat, and Vera Deleja-Hotko, investigative journalist, will share with us how they used FOIs to build the first lobbying transparency register of Frontex.

This happens on the very first day of Dataharvest 2021, Tuesday, May 18, at 11am.

See the full Dataharvest program and buy your ticket

“Frontex is the golden standard of opacity,” says Luisa Izuzquiza.

Among journalists and researchers, Frontex has the reputation of being a secretive institution, from which it is difficult to get information and documents.

“EU institutions are not FOI user friendly, but Frontex is the golden standard of opacity. It is remarkable how difficult they make it to request information,” explains Luisa Izuzquiza.

For instance, the agency will usually ask repeatedly for a request to be narrowed down, will then ask you to pay for the documents, might require multiple clarifications while using “scary bureaucratic language,” and will, basically, stall you for as long as they can.

In June 2020, Izuzquiza, Deleja-Hotko and a couple of their colleagues decided to start researching Frontex.

“When we published, we got 1,8 million hits in the first 5 minutes, and our website crashed,” says Vera Deleja-Hotko.

“We thought it was weird that the EU border was being surveilled with military technology. But we weren’t searching to get the answer we eventually got. We initially didn’t know what we were expecting to find. Everything happened organically,” explains Deleja-Hotko.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, does not meet with lobbyists from the weapons and surveillance industry. Or that is what they repeatedly claimed. On its website, Frontex includes only partial information about invitations to their meetings and does not reveal who was invited or what was presented. The team has revealed that Frontex holds special events for security industry lobbyists who seek to promote “solutions based on techno-fixes, from biometric surveillance to firepower.” The same lobbyists seek to shape Frontex’s approach to border control and benefit from the contracts.

In 2020 Frontex was granted a €5.6 billion budget, the largest of any EU agency. They have an army of 10,000 border guards; they got an extension of its powers and mandate, and the ability to acquire and lease its own equipment (vessels, vehicles, airplanes, drones, radars etc.).

The research team, of which Izuzquiza was part, requested the documents and analysed them; the journalistic team, of which Deleja-Hotko was part, analysed the documents and looked for the story in them.

“We used small bits of information to make people interested. And people were interested! When we published the story, we got 1,8 million hits in the first 5 minutes, and our website crashed…,” Deleja-Hotko says.

Izuzquiza and Deleja-Hotko’s team published the original documents in their entirety. They say that there are more stories to discover and delve into in the data they made available. Join the presentation – and maybe find your next big story!

See Corporate Europe Observatory Lobbying Fortress Europe report

See Frontex Files (ZDF)