JSK and Big Local News award $191,500 worldwide to data journalism projects

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The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and Big Local News, a project of the Stanford Journalism and Democracy Initiative, awarded today $191,500 in funding to 11 projects worldwide that will report data-driven stories related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These JSK-Big Local News Data Reporting Grants are being funded with support from the Google News Initiative.

The projects will focus on a wide range of issues—from COVID-19’s impact on pre-existing health conditions to growing threats from evictions and other pandemic socioeconomic effects. Reporters will use ambulance and 911 records to trace the response during the height of the pandemic in Arizona and follow the death records trail in El Salvador. 

A group of projects will examine how various indigenous communities are affected by the novel coronavirus. In Peru, journalists will look at indigenous communities in five regions of the Peruvian Amazon, and in Brazil, reporters will examine the health effects of wildfires on the population living around the Amazon during the pandemic. In the United States, journalists will explore how state, county and tribal officials have handled the COVID-19 crisis in the Navajo Nation and what happened to Montana tribes’ share of the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund. 

The journalists will also investigate how government funding around the world has affected the COVID-19 crisis. In the U.S., reporters will analyze Paycheck Protection Program loans to identify the winners and losers from the economic stimulus package and probe for racial disparities. In Romania, journalists will investigate acquisitions of COVID tests and equipment and links to politicians and organized crime. In Nigeria, data journalists will look into food pricing during the pandemic.

“The far-reaching impact of COVID-19 is the story of our lifetimes,” said Dawn Garcia, director of the JSK Fellowships. “Journalists around the world must help communities understand its immediate and long-term effects, exposing inequity, criminality and emerging crises. The winners of the JSK-Big Local News Data Reporting Grants understand the urgency of uncovering these stories and translating them into narratives that can inspire community action.”

“These data-driven local projects have the possibility of impact in local communities around the world as well as create the possibility of replicating similar coverage in other communities,” said Cheryl Philips, director of Big Local News. “We are excited to foster this important work.”

The competition launched in September and received more than 200 applications from 59 countries, requesting $4.3 million. The 11 selected projects will receive grants ranging from $8,000 to $21,000 to cover data collection, analysis, and reporting costs. The recipients will have nine months to work on their projects. 

Big Local News will provide a platform for collecting and storing the data for each project and will provide ongoing support to recipients. Once the stories are published, the underlying data will be shared with other journalists and data scientists as an Open Project at biglocalnews.org, along with a guide, or story recipe, for how to do a similar story elsewhere. Stanford Libraries will also archive the data permanently.

The U.S. projects receiving JSK-Big Local News Data Reporting Grants are:

  • PPP Loan Distribution and the Impact on Minority-Owned Small Businesses; submitted by Kate Looby for The Center for Investigative Reporting; $20,000. The team will analyze PPP loan and census data to identify the winners and losers from the economic stimulus package and probe for potential racial disparities. The team leader, Aaron Glantz, a 2016 JSK Fellow, will be joined by Soo Oh, a 2018 JSK Fellow. 
  • A City Still in Crisis; submitted by Jiquanda Johnson for Flint Beat; $19,000. The project team will analyze COVID-19’s impact on pre-existing health conditions caused by the Flint water crisis and other health issues in underserved communities. The team leader Scott Atkinson, a managing editor, will be joined by reporters Carmen Nesbitt, Amy Diaz, Santiago Ochoa, graphic designer Kofi Myler, and videographer Jamal Bransford.
  • U.S. Officials Response to COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation; submitted by Tristan Ahtone for the Native American Journalists Association; $20,000. The project will reveal how state, county, and tribal officials have handled the COVID-19 crisis in the Navajo Nation. Ahtone will be joined by reporters Sunnie Clahchischiligi, Shondiin Silversmith, Jourdan Bennet-Begaye, and Tom Arviso, a 2001 JSK Fellow. 
  • Public Safety Data and the Pandemic in Tucson; submitted by Justin Sayers for Arizona Daily Star; $8,000. The team will use ambulance and 911 data to trace the response during the height of the pandemic in Pima County. Data reporter Alex Devoid will work with editor Jill Jorden Spitz.
  • The COVID Solution; submitted by Robert Chaney for The Missoulian; $18,000. The team will examine what happened to Montana tribes’ share of the $8 billion Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund. Chaney, the team leader and a staff writer, will be joined by editors Keila Szpaller and David McCumber.
  • Pandemic Evictions; submitted by Marcia Parker for CalMatters; $15,000. The team will use a housing database to track the growing pandemic evictions and will profile five households. Assistant Editor and team leader Richard Procter will work with reporters Dave Lesher, Matt Levin, John Osborne D’Agostino, and Erica Yee.

The international projects receiving JSK-Big Local News Data Reporting Grants are:

  • Inhaling Amazon Fire Ashes; submitted by Juliana Mori de Oliveira for InfoAmazonia; Brazil; $21,000. The project team will examine the health effects of wildfires on the Brazilian population living around Amazon during the pandemic.
  • COVID Beneficiaries Project; submitted by Ioana Moldoveanu for Rise Project Romania; $20,000. The team will investigate acquisitions of COVID tests and equipment in Romania and companies’ ties to politicians and organized crime. Moldoveanu, a reporter and team leader, will work with Daniel Bojin, editor, and Cosmin Nitu, IT specialist. 
  • The Other Peru; submitted by Fabiola Torres López for Salud Con Lupa, Peru; $19,000; The team will conduct an in-depth data analysis to show the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous communities in five regions of the Peruvian Amazon. Torres López, a team leader, will be joined by technologist Jason Martinez, journalist Renzo Gómez, and editors Stefanie Pareja and Juan Ugarte.
  • COVID-19 Deaths in 10 municipalities of El Salvador; submitted by Lilian Angélica Martínez for Altamirano Media (El Diario de Hoy and elsalvador.com), El Salvador; $16,500. The team will collect and analyze data extracted from death records in 10 municipalities with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in El Salvador. Martínez, a reporter and team leader, will be joined by data journalist Karla Patricia Arévalo.
  • Effect of Coronavirus Pandemic on Food Prices in Nigeria; submitted by Aderemi Ojekunle for Dataphyte, Nigeria; $15,000. The team will analyze the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on food prices amid decreasing purchasing power in Nigeria. Ojekunle will be joined by data and research analysts Mbah Charles, Ode Oduu and Abidemi Oludiran, as well as graphics designer Abdullah Abdulaziz and editor Victor Ndukwe.

About the John S. Knight (JSK) Journalism Fellowships

The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships supports diverse journalists from around the world who are creating solutions to journalism’s most urgent problems. JSK focuses on helping these journalism leaders succeed as effective change agents, improving the access to information people need to create and sustain democratic communities, while challenging misinformation and disinformation; holding the powerful accountable; strengthening local news; and fighting bias, intolerance and injustice. For more, visit jsk.stanford.edu. 

About Big Local News

Big Local News is a program of Stanford University’s Journalism and Democracy Initiative that collects local data to discover the regional or national patterns that will yield stories with impact. Big Local News journalists pursue data sets that are hard to obtain because they’re kept in disparate, scattered locations by multiple jurisdictions. They also work with newsrooms to process, analyze and archive the data collected.

The Big Local News platform allows journalists to share data and collaborate on projects. This work is designed to boost the ability of local newsrooms’ to produce accountability journalism. Journalists can create their own projects and access data in Open Projects available to all platform users. The Data Archive contains publicly available data that has been preserved by Stanford Libraries.