Useful tips to use when collaborating on data driven investigative stories.

By Nosipho Nyide

Collaborating on data driven stories was the topic  presented by investigative journalists Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, a professor at the Grand Valley State University, Anuska Delic, representing  Slovenia’s leading broadsheet newspaper Delo, and Nils Mulvad, editor of Kaas and Mulvad.

This was one of the many high-powered delivered sessions at the 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference at the University of Witwatersrand. Lowenstein couldn’t hide his excitement about data driven stories.  “I love working with data, I love collaborating!” Enthusiasm powered his presentation.  All three speakers offered useful tips for making collaboration with other journalists easier and where needed, safer.

Start small

Lowenstein emphasised that in the early stages of collaboration, trust needs to be built so you can get a sense of how the partners work.


Communicate as often as possible

When issues arise within collaborations, communication is important. Mulvad and Delic both gave examples of programmes they use to group-message fellow journalists.


Make use of tools

The most popular seemed to be Slack ( a group messaging programme used globally by journalists collaborating on stories. Mulvad suggested Google drive as a useful tool for giving multiple collaborators access to files to allow them to  edit in real time. Google chrome extensions like Table Capture and Gmail offline sync optimizer were also proposed as must haves.


Consult only when necessary 

However Lowenstein warned that final decisions need to be taken without having to wait for the whole team to have their say.


Be safe

Mulvad pointed out that during the process journalists turn on two-way step verification for their email accounts to protect them from hackers.   He also warned that hidden sources could be lurking in your own newsroom, so refrain from discussing projects in the office.


Failures happen, but enjoy the process

“Mistakes are inevitable,” Lowenstein said.  “But always remind yourself to have fun!”

And his final recommendation: “Celebrate successes, but keep growing and building scale”.