Updated August 1, 2013.
Thanks to innovations in data visualization, journalists who want to create visual representations of a state budget, the costs of a building project or a region's unemployment rate have multiple tools at their disposal. But many existing visualization tools require more coding ability than many journalists possess.
The tool Datawrapper is changing that, by helping journalists tell data-driven stories using simple, fast and accurate charts.
“The original idea behind Datawrapper was to cut down the time needed to create a meaningful chart from hours to minutes,” says Mirko Lorenz, the Germany-based data journalism trainer who created the tool.
More than a thousand media organizations from around the world already use it, including the Guardian Data Blog, Le Monde and The Washington Post. In June, Datawrapper won "best start-up for news" at the Global Editors Network News Summit in Paris.
Now Datawrapper is reaching out to African newsrooms to help kick-start data-driven reporting in the region. The project was a winner of the 2012 African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC), designed to encourage experimentation in digital technologies and support the best innovations with the potential to strengthen African news organizations. The contest, modeled on the Knight News Challenge, was launched by the African Media Initiative under the leadership of ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein. Datawrapper will work with between four and six newsrooms, whose names will be announced soon.
Datawrapper's outreach will include strategy development for the media business, training of journalists and installing, customizing and maintaining professional versions of Datawrapper for selected newsrooms. Its creators will connect with African developers and coders who can do business customizing Datawrapper for newsrooms.
Datawrapper works within a quick four-step process: Upload; Check & Describe; Publish & Embed. Because it is open source, any media organization can download, install and use the tool. All the data used for charting is always available to the newsroom and not stored on an external platform. A news site can adapt Datawrapper's charts so that they fit in with the site's design.
The Datawrapper concept was created in 2011 through funding from German training institution ABZV. Later, Lorenz teamed up with Nicolas Kayser-Bril, a data journalist from France. The beta version was a quick success, since journalists around the world started using it to get out data-driven visualizations, even on deadline. Then, Gregor Aisch worked on version 1.0 for launch in November 2012.
Since then usage has grown substantially. As of June 2013 visits to charts created with Datawrapper have passed 10 million.
"My goal for 2013 is to help develop 'data desks,' " Lorenz says, "where trained journalists use a variation of tools to dig into data."
The next release of Datawrapper, expected in August, will introduce Datawrapper Pro, a version of the tool that comes customized to the needs of a particular news outlet -- whether newspaper, online, radio or TV.
Learn more about Datawrapper.
Jessica Weiss is a Buenos Aires-based freelance writer.
Image: Datawrapper visualization. Courtesy of Datawrapper.