A new data journalism mailing list for Spanish speakers has been launched by The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and its parent organisation, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), reports Barbara Maseda.
NICAR-ESP-L, as it is called, seeks to be the Spanish version of NICAR-L, a mailing list in English that has been active for over 20 years.
According to the press release announcing the launch, NICAR-L connects more than 2,300 members and has accumulated more than 78,000 messages since its foundation in 1994.
Like the English list – the release points out – the Spanish version will be open to everybody, regardless of whether they are members of IRE or not.
Although the registration process does not require subscribers to state their country of origin or residence, self-introduction messages sent to the list show that the new virtual community already includes representatives from the 3 main areas where Spanish is most widely spoken: Latin America, Spain and the United States.
Over 100 people subscribed in the 48 hours following the launch on October 8th, a significant figure when compared to the membership of similar and longer established lists:
- Specialist Journalism, founded in 2001: 596 members;
- Caribbean Journalists, founded in 2009: 240 members;
- The Latin American Network of Journalists, founded in 2006: 49 members…
…just to name a few.
IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit told OJB in an interview:
“These lists take a long time to build up. The Spanish list will have to find its own audience, and its own rhythm – and that may take some time.”
“It was an exciting idea”
In August 2015, IRE was approached about the possibility of starting a version of NICAR-L in Spanish.
The organisation contacted a number of Spanish-speaking members to find out if they would be interested in taking part in such an initiative – and if they thought that this could be of interest to other people.
The reactions, according to Horvit, were very positive:
“Everybody we contacted got back to us saying that it was an exciting idea. They also told us that, while there were other lists [in Spanish] that dealt with specific issues, there was nothing that was precisely like the NICAR-L list.
“So based on that feedback and the requests, we decided that we would launch the list and see if it served a useful service.”
“There are problems that journalists face in Latin America that are different”
The obvious motivation to create the list was to give people who only speak Spanish the opportunity to take part in a list like NICAR-L in their own language – or to facilitate things for those who speak English as a second language. Horvit says:
“When you are talking about technical issues involving things like data, being able to speak in your native language is going to make things easier.”
But within IRE they also understand the many other factors that come into play in a community of professionals who share more than simply a common mother tongue, as explained by the executive:
“There are problems that journalists face in Latin America that are different from those we find here in the United States.
“Having more people from similar parts of the world means that they will be able to get better feedback when dealing with issues such as access to information, which is not equal in different parts of the world.
“So we felt that the list would do a good job serving the Spanish speaking community: both because it’s in their native language, and because newsrooms in their countries might be faced with similar challenges.”
From ProPublica to postgraduates
At the time of writing, the list has been joined by 146 people.
The emerging community includes data journalists from ProPublica, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Houston Chronicle, La Nacion (Costa Rica), La Nacion (Argentina), Peru21, and Clases de Periodismo, university professors and postgraduate students.
Some have sent messages to the list voicing their appreciation and expectations.
Juan Carlos Marcos Recio, School of Information Sciences of Universidad Complutense de Madrid:
“Thanks to the University of Missouri and the people maintaining this list. One of my challenges as a professor is to make students understand the value of sources, professional associations, and colleagues’ support. I hope this list remains active, and that we can use it to showcase the advances in journalism.”
Emilia Díaz-Struck, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:
“It’s great to see this list in Spanish. I’m glad to see so many familiar names of friends and colleagues, as well as new ones.”
Ricardo Brom, @rgbrom, La Nacion, Argentina:
“I’m very impressed with the potential I see in this group, judging for what people have written in their self-introductions. This will certainly be a relevant space for data journalism.”
Horvit said that they have asked bilingual members of the NICAR-L list to take part in both the English and the Spanish lists, instead of simply switching, as this may be a way to help the Spanish list to expand.
“We’ve reached out to some of our members, and asked if they could unofficially serve as moderators, and let us know if questions arise that need our involvement.”
This is not the first time IRE has provided services and information for Spanish speaking journalists.
The old website of the organisation used to include tip sheets and other resources in Spanish for IRE members, in a separate page for Spanish content.
“When we created the new website, we did not replicate that because a lot of it was old, and we haven’t gotten around to redoing it. We are working on that now, and we hope to relaunch the Spanish landing page with some more up-to-date resources.”