OpenNews

Sign up to review your data project with a peer coach. (photo/Alyson McClaran for Colorado Media Project)

Peer data review: Get feedback about your data stories

Our data-review program connects people in local newsrooms with fellow journalists who can help them think through a data story. Tell us about your data and what you hope to do with it, and we'll do our best to pair you up with a peer coach who's worked on similar projects. Your request and story idea will stay private, and we have an awesome group of volunteers ready to help out.

Why this program

Learning data journalism is a continual process, and as a community, we invest so much time and energy into sharing what we know through trainings, workshops, and writeups.

Lately we’ve heard that many of you could use more support in implementing what you’ve learned. Sometimes it’s hard to be sure the data really says what you think, or you may feel anxious about making a math mistake. Walking through your process with someone else can help, but reporters on smaller teams don’t always have experienced colleagues to compare notes with. That’s a gap the news-nerd community can help fill.

How the data-review program works

First, your data-journalism project should meet a couple criteria—you already have data and an idea, but still have questions about your process. Then, we’ll work to connect you with a peer coach.

Peer coaches will be experienced data journalists who can look over data with you, confirm your hunches, and identify things you might have overlooked—at least in part because they recognize mistakes they’ve already made themselves. And they’re volunteers who will receive a thank-you stipend from OpenNews, so you don’t need to feel awkward about taking a bit of someone’s time.

Coaches will exchange emails and set up times to meet on a voice or video call to work through your questions with you.

How to get started

From now through Oct. 16:

  1. Use this form to tell us about your project.
  2. OpenNews will review requests and reach out to coaches to see who can help. We can’t promise that someone will be available to work with you, but we’ll let you know either way.
  3. If there’s a coach who’s a good fit for your project, they’ll reach out with some followup questions. You’ll probably trade a few emails back and forth.
  4. Coaches will set aside time for a call so you can dig into the data together and talk through any questions. These calls shouldn’t last more than an hour. (If emails answer all the questions you have, that’s great too!)
  5. We’ll follow up to ask how things went.

Participation is free and for data journalists on small teams, from local or regional newsrooms, and from underrepresented backgrounds in journalism. These conversations will be one-on-one and private, so you don’t need to worry about giving up a scoop or feeling awkward about any questions you have.

This program is an experiment, and we think it could tell us a lot about building a sustainable framework for peer support in the journalism-tech community. (And if you’re interested in helping out as a coach, please reach out!)

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is this for?

This is for journalists who:

  • are part of a local or regional newsroom,
  • come from an underrepresented background in data journalism,
  • or otherwise don’t have many colleagues who do data journalism

And it’s for projects where you:

  • already have data but aren’t sure what to do next,
  • or already have data and think you’ve got the story too, but would really like to verify that your analysis is correct

When can I apply?

If you have a project that you think would be a good candidate for peer review, tell us about it now! Applications will be open through Oct. 16.

Does this cost anything?

No, it’s free for you and your newsroom. OpenNews will pay a small thank-you stipend to your coach.

Who are the coaches?

Our volunteer coaches come from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, and sizes of organization. They’re all experts in data journalism; are familiar with analysis, reporting, and visualization; and are comfortable in spreadsheets as well as with languages like Python, R, and JavaScript.

Will I get scooped?

No, we have a privacy agreement in place, and all sessions are one-on-one.

How much time will this take?

We anticipate an hour or two, spread across emails and/or calls based on what works best for your project and the questions you have.

What can’t this program help me with?

This program is not:

  • A place to ask “where can I find data for a story I want to do?”
  • A place to find a reporter/developer/editor to share a project with.

These are fantastic goals, and the communities in the News Nerdery, Journalists of Color, and Lonely Coders Slacks are great places to find help with both! We’re also excited to help you find collaborators at OpenNews events, or by connecting you with additional resources and organizations here to support your work.

This program is here to help people think through data they already have and their approach to analyzing it. If you have other kinds of questions, please reach out to us separately.

Program participant agreement

This program will connect journalists to talk about work that’s still in progress, so we want to be extra transparent about how conversations will work.

By submitting a request for help or taking part in this program as a coach, you’re agreeing to participate according to these guidelines:

  • Confidentiality. No one will publicly discuss participants' or coaches' names, organizations, or work unless both parties give permission. We are 100% in favor of giving credit and celebrating people’s work, but there are many reasons why someone might want to keep their participation private. Be sure to check in with everyone involved before sharing.
  • Credit. There is no requirement to credit coaches or this program in any published stories. If participants want to, that’s awesome. Just make sure it’s OK with anyone who’d be named!
  • Conflicts of interest. If a match between participant and coach raises any conflicts of interest, these should be raised with OpenNews so we can figure out a more appropriate fit.
  • Conduct. Coaches will create a positive, welcoming, and inclusive experience for participants. Everyone should feel able to ask questions without worrying about criticism or judgment.
  • Responsibility. Coaches are rooting for participants and their organizations to tell important stories with data, and they’ll provide the best advice they can. It’s important to note that ultimately, though, coaches aren’t responsible for what participants publish.
  • Time. Check-ins will work best if everyone has the same expectations around time commitment. Emails, chats, video calls—each project should count on an hour or two of overall coaching time.

These may feel a little bit formal for a program that’s very explicitly an experiment, but we want to make sure people feel comfortable participating and confident that we’ll protect their privacy.

Contact us

If you’re curious whether your project would be a good fit, if you’d like to volunteer as a coach, or if you have any other questions at all about this data-review program, please reach out! We can’t wait to see what kinds of projects people want to work on.