Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Brazil holds first newspaper-backed hacker marathon

When describing the upcoming Brazilian hackathon, Daniel Bramatti, reporter for Estadão Dados and one of the persons responsible for the meeting, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in an interview: “Work would be much better if, as reporters, we wouldn’t limit ourselves to using only pencils, pads, and tape recorders.” The Brazilian newspaper Estado de S. Paulo, in partnership with the House of Digital Culture, has organized the first hacking marathon sponsored by a media organization in the country that will bring journalists, programmers, designers, illustrators, and more.  They will spend 24 hours analyzing public data, creating applications and developing best practices for working with this information.

A hackathon, or hacker marathon, can be a great way for journalists to get together with developers, designers, and other digital professionals and create innovative ways to tell their stories.  These collaborative events are a growing phenomenon around the world.  In the Data Journalism Handbook, Jerry Vermanen reflects on his personal hackathon experience – the pros and the cons – and describes one of their challenges was where to get usable data.  In the Estado hackathon, this problem will be alleviated by having available public data, and in fact, they have had previous experience with public data in Brazil:

Knight Center: Is it possible to combine the newspaper’s commercial interests with the growing open data culture?

Daniel Bramatti: Without a doubt. Our experience with Basômetro – an online tool used for measuring the government’s base in Congress – already proved this: both codes and data were made public. That initiative made an excellent impact, and we hope to see the “offspring” of the Basômetro soon.

Starting your first hackathon can seem daunting, but the global chapters of Hacks/Hackers are a great place to start.  They describe themselves as:

a rapidly expanding international grassroots journalism organization with dozens of chapters (and counting) and thousands of members across four continents (and counting). Our mission is to create a network of journalists (“hacks”) and technologists (“hackers”) who rethink the future of news and information…. Local chapter activities currently include talks, hackathons and demo days (just to get to know each other).

Although started in the West, they have several chapters in Latin America, one in Johannesburg, and a few opening in the Middle East.  If you want to start your own chapter, contact Hacks/Hackers for advice on where to start.

Article by Shubha Bala

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