Towards #DigitalFluency in the Spanish speaking newsroom (Caty&Aleszu)

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We have designed a workshop to be put on in Spanish speaking newsrooms that will bring journalists and coders together to work on a multi-faceted storytelling project where the data visualization component complements the written or podcasted work.


We want to create a meeting point for Spanish speaking journalists seeking to improve the digital presentation of their stories but don’t know how with developers who want to establish a foothold in journalism.

With this workshop, journalists and coders will become more adept at using digital storytelling tools, have a chance to build something together that they both have a stake in, and see possibilities of what can be built.

The journalist will leave understanding which tools/techniques he/she can take back to the newsroom. Coders will leave with an expanded portfolio and a lesson in journalism.

Both journalists and coders will leave the workshop with a rolodex of contacts with whom to work on future projects.

Why in Spanish?

Because we think the Spanish speaking media still lacks the creation of a meeting point for journalists and developers. We think there are a lot of improvements to be made in digital fluency in these newsrooms, for media outlet websites to include digital storytelling tools. The major Spanish speaking media outlets have an antiquated web presence (e.g. New York’s El Diario, Peru’s El Comerio or Spain’s El Mundo).

We believe that the creation of a meeting point for developers and journalists will improve excellence in storytelling, spur media innovation and improve ways to reach a younger news consumer. Young Spanish speakers have increasing access to the Internet and journalists need to explore these digital avenues to attract news consumers of the future.

But we don’t only want to improve digital fluency in traditional media but also want to help the new wave of independent new media startups. There’s a surge of quality investigative journalists anxious to find new digital directions and meet developers to deploy those.

For whom?

(Five) Journalists hungry to complement their reporting with data visualization will each bring a story and a spreadsheet of their dataset that has been screened for ease-of-use by the organizing committee.

(Five) Coders with a keen interest in becoming a newsroom developer show their portfolio, bring ideas for what visualizations news outlets are missing and explain what kinds of projects they would like to work on.

Selection Criteria

The selection process is key. We are flying out, housing and feeding 5 journalists and 5 coders that are perfectly suited for a workshop where they’ll leave more fluent in digital storytelling tools.

For journalists: Minimum three years experience in journalism, three clips of previous work, a proposal for a visualization project, an organized dataset in spreadsheet form. Journalists working for mainstream media and new startups will have preference. A letter from an editor saying the visualization project will be considered for publication is a plus.

For coders: A portfolio of visualization work. A keen interest in working alongside journalists and possibly getting a job in a newsroom.


We are going to put into action our final project at a workshop we organized with Matt Carroll this Sunday at the MIT Media Lab. Please, join!

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Spanish authorities lie about immigrant tragedy


Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, and migrants from all over Africa regularly try to reach them, mostly by climbing the border fence that separate them from Morocco.

The border fence consists of 6.8 miles of parallel 10 feet high fences with razor-wire, regular watch posts, CCTV, spotlights, noise and movement sensors, and a road running between them for police patrols. Deaths and injuries are common and have increased since razor wire was installed.

There are more migrants now who attempt to reach a seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco, as seen in this map published by El Pais:

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from

The news

On February 6 fifteen immigrants died off the coast while trying to swim around the seawall to reach the Spanish enclave. Spanish Civil Guard, who was alerted by Moroccan security forces that the migrants were approaching, didn’t admit any responsibility in the tragedy.

Migrants who survived accused the Civil Guard of firing their weapons at them while they were in the water, rubber bullets included, which caused the panic that resulted in the tragedy. Head of Civil Guard and Spanish Government denied it and lied about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Some reactions

1. NGOs released videos, pictures and interviews with surviving migrants showing that panic set in as Civil Guards began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at those attempting to swim. [Examinations by the Northern Observatory for Human Rights on some of those who died confirm that some had marks indicating they had been shot by rubber bullets. The observatory also stated that the Civil Guards did not assist the migrants or alert the rescue coastguards].

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

2. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström immediately said on twitter that European Commissions wanted an explanation about why police fired rubber bullets in warning.

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She got tons of replies, mainly from Spanish people, saying things like these:

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EU has asked Spain for an independent investigation.

3. People organized themselves online and protests took place in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the death of the migrants. Placards proclaimed, “They didn’t drown, they were murdered,” “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same”, “No one is illegal,” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?” (In reference to those who support the new restrictive Abortion Law being prepared by the Spanish government run by the Conservative Party).

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for

4. Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz was forced to appear at the Parliament. He acknowledged that Civil Guard officers fired their anti-riot weapons, contradicting an earlier version.

5. Almost 200.000 people have signed a petition demanding the minister resignation because of the tragedy and manipulation carried out by state forces to cover his speech.

DATA STORY: Climate Disasters are already happening

What did I try to do?

I chose the two news stories that I would have been covering these last two weeks if I had been in Madrid and I though of how to communicate them with data visualization. The two stories were:

– WHO’s report  about deaths atributed to air pollution.

– UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) latest report warming that climate change will be an important threat to security, food and humankind.


My first difficulty was acces to data. I got a press release and a longer written report from WHO about its latest findings about air pollution consequences for health, but I didn’t have the data and I couldn’t find it online. I asked for it and they sent me data from 2004!

I tried to find air pollution and deaths information for Europe  and for Spain, and… it was not possible to find anything suitable to put into a spreadsheet.

After having not success on the air pollution I jumped into the climate change story. On a week where there are tons of literature in western media about the natural disasters that are yet to come because of global warming, I wanted to develop a data visualization story showing that we are already suffering an increase of extreme weather events that seems to have something to do with climate change.

Again, I couldn’t find the data for Europe or Spain, though this time I was lucky with the US.

NOAA has a compilation of the largest climate disasters occurred in the US since 1980. Data was on PDF format and although I tried different programs, I couldn’t converted it into an excel spreadsheet… So, I did a spreadsheet by myself with the data from the last 3 years, which took me about 4 hours.

Next step was mapping the data. I tried ArcGIS Online, Google Fusion Tables and Tilemill and I didn’t success with any of them because after many hours I got to the conclusion that the data collected didn’t really match with the idea of visualizacion that I had. I learned that I should have collected and organized the data in a different way to get the result I wanted; and that I should have asked for help to somebody who knows how to code, but when I figured this out it was too late.

Since I wanted to show something for the class tomorrow, I decided to use some of my data with a tool I wanted to learn about: Timeline.

The result

So, here are the main climate disasters occurred in the US in 2013, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center


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Caty’s 4 hour challenge: SOS Honey bees

SOS Honey Bees

In my 4-hours challenge I wanted to tell the story of the decline of honey bees and why it is so important for nature, human health and economy. Researching and writing this story would have taken me no more than two hours, but instead of that I’ve researched and presented my story with an info graphic, the first one I’ve done in my life. So I spent around an hour doing research about this topic and around three hours working on the info graphic with Venngage. I’ve used photos that I already had, and I am not totally unsatisfied with the result taking into account that this is the first time I communicate something in this way.