Data-driven journalism against prejudices about migration

About the training course

The week-long data journalism training is designed to provide the necessary skills and resources to conduct a cross-border data-driven investigation with a national focus freely chosen by project’s participants and media partners. EYP MOs were invited to become the project’s partners and select 5 participants to come to the training, as well as facilitate post-production of the investigation in collaboration with local media partners – leading online media.

By bringing together professional journalists, young media makers, human rights activists, and aspiring programmers the project built teams capable of independent investigations. Mentors and trainers involved provided the knowledge, skill-set and support for trainees. Project evolved in parallel with skill-building process. The balance between training sessions and hands-on work on projects ensured that the newly acquired knowledge was applied to practice that could be replicated in the future. Media partners are expected to publish the final projects that they find relevant to their audiences. Project partners were also Children and Youth Parliament Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Caritas, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Zeit Online from Berlin.



  • To build teams capable of independent data-driven investigations, by combining relevant skills of each team’s members;
  • To produce data-driven investigations about migration issues relevant to national audiences in Europe;
  • To introduce and straighten data-driven journalism in European newsrooms.


This was the call for participants, created by Nika Aleksejeva:

Here you can take a look at video created by Nika Aleksejeva summarising the training course, including impressions of participants:



The week-long training event took place in Berlin at Jugendherberge Am Wannsee from November 12 to November 20. For one day the training was hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The participants learnt from the best in the field, as the renowned data-journalists took part and provided their expertise as well as shared the knowledge in the form of presentations, Q&A sessions and hands-on workshops.

The trainers conducted interactive workshops using such methods as a tool demonstration, discussion, small practical assignments with evaluation, group discussions, group brainstorms and other non-formal and peer to peer learning methods. There were also three study visits – to the newsroom of Zeit Online newspaper and two refugee camps. This all ensured that participants learnt the topics in participatory non-formal and informal way.

The finalising of the reportages took place during one month right after the training event. It happened remotely using distance communication platforms as e-mail, web conference and other platforms suggested by the trainers. Already right after the training course the participants were able to practically use their gained skills. Project partners used also their own facilitation and communication methods to ensure a healthy progress of the finalisation stage.

The dissemination of the project’s results happened in the countries of the project partners within two weeks after the final reportage had been published online. The “How we did it” meetup was organised by partners to share experiences and feedbacks. The public communication in a form of blog posts (below on this website) and social media communication  is used to achieve broad dissemination the project’s results.


For multipliers and others who are interested in details of the training course – here you can download full final programme of the week.




Final reportages created by participants

First reportage created by #ddjcamp participants was published by mandagmorgen in Denmark. Its authors are Caroline Damsgaard Christensen, Daniela Esnerova, Liubov Petrushko, Alla Rybina and Andis Cirulis. It is available in Danish language (reference to the reportage is included in this article as well).


Reportage by Andris Kārkluvalks, Hovnan Baghdasaryan, Mariia Savrun, Dinija Jemeljanova and Suzana Vucetic was published by DELFI in Latvia. It is available in Latvian and Russian language.


Nevena Vulević and Vladimir Otašević published their reportage in the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti and at the website of the Centre of Investigative Journalism of Montenegro. It is available in Montenegrin language only.


Italian newspaper l’Espresso features the reportage created by Elisa Murgese, Yevheniia Drozdova, Gabriela Behounkova, Damiano Bacci and Daria Sukharchuk. It is available in Italian language.


Reportage created by Peter Maxwill, Luigi Albonico, Vladimir Otasevic, Charlotte Teunis und Katharina Wecker was published by German magazine SPIEGEL ONLINE. Currently it is available only in German, but English and Dutch versions will follow soon.


The latest reportage was created by Rastislav Kacmar, Sergej Paramonov, Ivan Bobosik and Christopher M. Czechowicz. It has been published by Slovakian newspaper Dennik N in Slovak language only.


Presentations by trainers and organisers

 What is DDJ by Nika

 UNHCR activities

 Media mistakes and biases

 The Migrants Files

 Organizing data

 Scraping data with

 Cleaning data with Open Refine

 Basic Statistics

 Storytelling with data



Python for Dummies


Martin Maska presented #ddjcamp at the EPP/CoR Winter University for young media makers, which took place in Brussels on 24.11.2016. Topic of the event was “Using European data for better storytelling”. You can download the presentation summarising entire project here.


Organising team

Anastasia Valeeva is a Russian freelance journalist specialized in investigative reporting and open data. Since 2012 she is based in Europe where, as a freelancer, she has been writing and producing pieces about politics and society for Esquire Russia, Open Democracy, TV Rain, Russia Beyond the Headlines, Cafebabel and other outlets. She was also a screenwriter for the documentary Russian Jews (Russia, 2016) and producer for documentaries The Platform (Russia, 2013) about the conflict between Gazprom and Greenpeace and The girls are flying (Russia, 2012) about teen suicide.

In terms of open data and data journalism, Anastasia has worked for Open Knowledge Belgium as a communications and event manager of the #Diplohack Brussels, which was a hackathon building transparency applications on top of the EU open data. She is also a community manager at Open Knowledge Russia where she contributes blog posts and interviews. Anastasia has taught television journalism at the European Youth Media Days and data journalism at the UNDP Data Journalism Bootcamp for Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union countries.

Previously, in Russia, she started her career working at the federal Russian television channel NTV. She was an international producer working on critical pieces and exclusive reports such as a documentary about transgender people in Russia and reports from North Korea.

Anastasia holds two masters degrees: one in international journalism from Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia (2009), and one in political sciences from the University of Siegen, Germany (2015).


Nika Aleksejeva is a project manager and communicator with a passion in storytelling. She is constantly working on the projects which connect and inspire great personalities with potential to change things for good.

Three years ago Nika joined, a popular data visualization service that empowers non-designers to create beautiful data visualizations in no time. In 2014, she launched the international Infogram Ambassador Network that unites ~100 data enthusiasts all over the world. Each of them brings the power of data visualisation to local communities worldwide.

Nika comes from a journalism background – her work involved writing about business topics and data-driven stories about energetics, global economic trends and education. She sees the future in digital journalism, therefore she believes in sharing the knowledge that helps to develop new communication forms.

Currently she works to empower Latvian journalists with data journalism skills by curating School of Data in Latvia.


Martin Maska graduated with master´s degree in political science and also holds diploma in journalism. Martin has been working in the fields of documentary film-making, media and public communication since 2008, and has participated in several national and international projects.

In 2014 he did an internship at the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the UN, OSCE and Other International Organizations in Vienna. Since 2014 he’s been involved in the ENGO European Youth Press as treasurer and project developer/manager. He is also responsible for communication and partnerships with European institutions.

Martin was member of core team of Cafébabel’s project “Beyond the Curtain” about 25 years anniversary of fall of the iron curtain that won German national round of le Prix Charlemagne pour la jeunesse européenne 2015, among others. He is also documentary film-maker and among his interests are diplomacy, european integration, landscape and biodiversity protection, history and French cinematography.


Blog – updates from the training week

Today, on the 12th of November, we have kicked-off our data-journalism training also known as #ddjcamp.

What is #ddjcamp?
Since we are data-journalists ourselves, we know how hard it is to start a real project since you need so many tools and knowledge at once. So we decided to bring all the knowledge together and introduce the tools step by step.

At our training, we bring together 60 young media-makers, designers, developers and experts on human rights. They came from 11 countries to Berlin and will work together covering different aspects of migration this week.

Our training will last for 9 days and will go through all steps of the data pipeline: from finding and analyzing data to storytelling with data and visualization techniques.

Mornings are packed with the input from our trainers: overviews of data portals, live demos, introduction to data tools… Afternoons are open for the input from participants: they work in teams on their own projects trying to make sense of data that is out there or to get the data that is not there at all.

We are very excited and happy that this is taking place in real life, after so many days of designing and planning it!

We will keep you updated about how the training goes.


13th November

When choosing location for #ddjcamp, we were looking for something nice and functional. Something where participants could immerse into data and tools, feel comfortable to live and not have to spend much time finding food. We were very lucky to find this picturesque youth hostel at the idyllic Wannsee lake in Berlin.

It’s here where we’ll be living, working and eating most of the time.

Our participants are really diverse: they range from 18 to 30 in the age, they come from various backgrounds, and of course, from different countries. To make them feel comfortable we though of some energizers and ice-breaking activities. One of them was a game ‘build your data team’, where participants had to rush through the crowd searching for a journalist, designer and a developer – all of them from different countries. The other was ‘hopes & fears’, where they could anonymously write about things they are afraid of and excited about and post-it on the wall. We went through all of them carefully. Most part of fears was about ‘not being able to find enough data’, which is a very realistic feeling. Well, there are few ways around it – either you adjust your story so that you can build it on existing data; or you collect the data yourself. And we were really happy to read about all those expectations about networking, having fun, and learning a lot of new things. We’ll make sure this comes true.

To put everyone on the same page about migration, we had a big plenary session ‘Data journalism as a contribution to migration debate’. Our wonderful panellist were:

  • Martin Rentsch from UN refugee agency talking about UNHCR activities and the way they collect data;
  • Ola Aljari, a refugee journalist from ECPMF talking about media biases when they narrate migration;
  • Marzia Bona from  a think-tank Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, talking about the Balkan route;
  • and pioneer of data-journalism in Europe Nicholas Kayser-Bril talking about his project ‘Migrants Files’.

Later on Martin Rentsch showed to participants how to navigate through the data portals of UNHCR, and Marzia Bona provided an overview of various supporting sources of data on migration.

It seems like now participants can start thinking about their projects and mapping out the route to the data story!

14th November

Cracking hardcore data at #ddjcamp

Knowing the data is there, is not enough. After the first day of introduction into topic of migration and understanding data journalism participants of the Data Journalism Camp dove into tools and techniques of getting and cleaning data.

During the first session run by open data researcher Anastasia Valeeva and a data journalist Gianna Grun participants learnt how to extract, access, turn data into machine-readable format and how to organise it.

Search engines on the web comes in handy when searching for data. Participants learnt how to “google” data in efficient way using advanced search techniques and setting up alerts.Multiple data extraction techniques were shared to help participants tackle cases when data is published in PDF format, as an image or a HTML table. It also included getting some insight into the coding with Python, shared by a programmer and a data journalism trainer Annabel Church.

Turning data in a useful format was addressed by sharing some basics about data cleaning with Excel. Later on participants got an insight how to work with really messy data using Open Refine. Data journalist Nicolas Kayser-Bril used an example of data behind the famous “The Migrant Files” story by Journalism++ to show how to get rid of typos, inconsistencies with country names and problem of identifying if an incident happened with one person or a group. Finally, experts shared some best practices for organizing and validating data set before analysis.


15th November

With such an intense training programme, we wanted to save at least one day for some other activities. One part of our group went to the data journalism newsroom of Zeit Online, other part went to the refugee camp.

Picture from Zeit Online:

A Berlin-based newsroom of Zeit Online will surprise you with its quiet and calm atmosphere. “All the colleagues are interacting on Slack” – explains the head of data journalism team Sascha Venohr. He shared the best practices and work routines with participants of #ddjcamp. Being inspired by the work of The New York Times, ProPublica and FiveThirtyEight, data team in Zeit Online thinks “mobile first” and customizes all the products. Speaking about the roles and fields of expertise of a data journalist, Mr. Venohr’s example shows that data journalist is first of all a project manager, distributing tasks among journalists, designers and developers and providing an editor’s overview. One of the great examples is the story called “Europe’s Deportation Machine” and you can check it here.

Peter Maxwill, journalist at Spiegel Online from Hamburg, Germany, shares his thoughts about visit in the refugee camp: “The visit at a refugee shelter in Berlins was one of the most impressive stations during our #ddjcamp in Germany’s capital. We got in touch with the staff working there, with migrants and volunteers. We also met three groups of refugees from all over the world and talked with them intensively about their situation, the asylum crisis and their hopes for a future in Europe.”

Photo from meeting with Councillor and Deputy Mayor of the Berlin’s district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Mr. Carsten Engelmann, who introduced the topic of “Migration and Local Government”:


November 16

Statistics for journalists? That sounds like a way to kill your training, right? Well, at #ddjcamp we don’t think so. We actually believe it can be fun and entertaining. And of course, statistical analysis is a solid basis of every data driven story. This is why we reached out to Open Knowledge Germany and they kindly agreed to give a session on ‘Finding trends in data and introducing basic stats’. Amazing Anna Alberts and Michael Peters have built a live bar chart of participants sorted by height, played with us in ‘Guess the correlation’ game and explained the differences between the mean and the median. They made things like ‘linear regression’ and ‘standard deviation’ sound cool. Imagine what happens when participants discover ‘whisker box’ and ‘long tail’! =)

You have the data, but what to do now? To tell your story in the right way is not an easy task. Journalists are used to write stories about people, but how to write a story about numbers? Gianna Gruen, data and science journalist, who have been helping us with scraping, came back for the session on ‘Stotytelling with data’. What comes first – data or a story? (answer: there are two philosophies, so try out what works best for you) What are most common ways to turn data into a story? (enrich a story with a protagonist; turn it into a feature; hour-glass structure; background narrative) What types of data driven interviews are there? (victim interview; expert interview; accountability interview)

We thought that the best way for participants to digest this information is to let them figure out what way would they like to choose for their own projects. They had 2 hours to prepare 1 slide about the project and 2 minutes to tell about a story they want to have. We think that putting the timer on always helps to create a nice pitching atmosphere =) So by the end of the day we had 12 teams quickly showing what they want to achieve and our crowd giving feedback to it. This is how we wrapped up day 5.


November 17

Learning best data visualization practices and filling in skill gaps

When it comes to presenting data, visualizations have the power to decrypt story hidden in data and reveal it at a glance. On the sixth day of data journalism training participants learnt the basics of a functional design that tells the story in a visual way.

Loïc Horellou, a graphic designer and a professor of art education in interactive design at the High School for the Arts Rhine, Strasbourg shared the evolution of data visualization and best design practices. Later the session was divided for two groups. One shared basic, and another one shared more advanced data visualization tools.

During the basic session, participants learnt how to use Google charts and an easy tool that creates timelines. The advanced session covered how to program an interactive map using technology provided by Leaflet code library and GeoJSON format.

The sessions run by trainers couldn’t answer all questions that arose during the previous days, so five participants had a chance to share their experience that’s valuable for others during two-hour sessions that happened simultaneously.

One of the sessions demonstrated how to analyse data with Excel Pivot Tables and visualize it with Tableau Public. Another one shared some useful Google Add-ons that help to “clean” data and prepare it for visualization. One of the project’s media partners shared how to scrape data without coding with a tool, than a data analyst threw a discussion about successful data visualization and how to avoid pitfalls in data analysis. Finally a discussion about which programming language is useful at what stage of a data-driven project was run. It helped less techy participants understand what is possible to develop and what programmer is best to approach in cases of extracting, analysing and visualizing data.


November 18 – 20

Finalisations and presentations

As our training is coming to an end, so do our sessions. The project is more and more overtaken by the participants themselves and their projects. We can feel it even on Slack, where public discussions are getting beaten by private conversations by the end of the week. For Friday 18th of November, we wanted to introduce our participants to the world of working grants – this is how quite a lot of cross-border data journalism investigations see the light of the day. Brigitte Alfter from Journalismfund has kindly agreed to join us on Skype and share the best stories produced by international teams; and also tips on how (and if) to apply for the research grant.

Then, after a coffee break, we handed over to one of our participants, Sergey Paramonov, a developer and PhD student from the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has been working hard to prepare a session on programming that every journalist could enjoy. We called it ‘Python for Dummies’ and oh boy, it was good! By the end everybody in the room got to understand the difference between a string, a number, and a variable.

Sergey generously illustrated his explanations with humorous examples, for example, this is how he explained the if-statement:

A programmer is going to the grocery store and his wife tells him: “Buy a gallon of milk, and if there are eggs, buy a dozen”. So the programmer goes, buys everything, and drives back to his house.

Upon arrival, his wife angrily asks him: “Why did you get 13 gallons of milk?” The programmer says: “There were eggs!”


November 19 was the end of the official training programme, and we’ve let participants to finalize their projects. We found them occupying the lobby like a little seal colony and working together from morning till late night to break only for a meal or cup of coffee. It was great and very rewarding to see people really involved in the process and caring about each others’ contributions and final result, presented on November 20.

We know there are points of improvement for the future trainings, and we will work hard to make the next #ddjcamp better. But for this one, thank you guys for coming and bringing your energy, knowledge and spirit. You made it happen!



European Youth Press – Network of Young Media Makers, e.V.

Financed by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, KA1 – Youth Exchanges, through its German National Agency Jugend in Aktion.


Participants of the training can receive LinkedIn certificate. If you are one of them, please write to for details that are needed to complete the certificate.

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