Why crowdfunding a data journalism lab in El Paso is so important


Since 2008, Borderzine.com has told the stories of the people and culture of the Borderlands reported by multimedia student journalists at UT El Paso. In 2012, Borderzine was honored by the Online News Association for Mexodus, an unprecedented bilingual special project that documented the flight of people and businesses from Mexico during the peak of drug cartel violence.

Now, Borderzine is partnering with professional newsrooms in El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez to develop a Border Data Journalism Lab to be based at UT El Paso to build local expertise in using digital tools to examine the systems and policies affecting our region

International bridgeAs more and bigger data are being collected by governments and organizations it is increasingly important for journalists to be able to obtain, clean, analyze and present information in this digital world. And, in our location on the U.S.-Mexico border, data journalism can be a powerful tool in telling the stories of the border and a changing America. For example, data journalists could examine issues in health care access and the impact of chronic illnesses on the border to better identify challenges and potential solutions in health disparities between Latinos and other populations. Or, an in-depth project could measure the impact children of migrants are having as they move into business and community leadership roles in the Borderland.

But learning and sustaining data journalism can be expensive, which is why newsrooms on their own have difficulty developing data projects. We need help bringing journalists in our region the tools and training needed to tell the stories hidden in a massive amount of documents and records and to keep watch over how our government and other systems are working.

That is why Borderzine is seeking to raise $50,000 to fund the Border Data Journalism Lab. Journalism crowdfunding site Beacon has pledged to match donations up to $25,000 for the project. The campaign was launched on Wednesday, Jan. 13, and needs to meet its goal by Feb. 11 or the project won’t receive any of the donations. So far, the campaign has raised almost $10,000 and has just 5 days left to raise the last $15,000 from public donations (which will be matched dollar for dollar by Beacon).

Funding raised for the Border Data Journalism Lab will go towards:

  • Specialized training for students and local professional journalists by the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting and Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.
  • Analysis software and equipment
  • Computer programming to extract and validate complex datasets
  • Web development to give our audiences ways to access, examine and understand the data themselves
  • Expenses for obtaining records
  • Underwriting student internships to assist with data projects in local newsrooms

Borderzine_DataStudentx400Many newsrooms in the Borderland, faced with budget challenges and frequent staff changes, don’t have the resources to invest in sending reporters for this level of data journalism training or hire technical staff. The Border Data Journalism Lab aims to close that gap to improve coverage of public interest issues and give our audiences ways to examine and understand the data themselves.

This program breaks through old patterns of training to accelerate skills by teaming up students, professionals, technologists and academics across disciplines, across platforms and across borders. The datasets, data visualizations and Borderzine.com content produced by the Border Data Journalism Lab will be released in open format, making them available for all regional media to republish or use in their own reporting.

Please visit our crowdfunding page on Beacon to make your contribution to build a culture of in-depth, data-informed news reporting for El Paso and its surrounding communities.

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