Data Journalism

for the Philippines

Interview with Alumnus Le Dinh Tuyen, Vietnam

Q: How did you get interested in data journalism?

I think narrative journalism has its own strengths, but it seems to be getting old. Currently, to have a good article, it is not enough to find good stories and typical characters. Stories discovered in data engage and convince readers much more than mere verbal narratives. The appeal of data journalism is that it is not readily available. The writer has to find and discover it. I really enjoyed doing it; it helped me feel more excited about writing my story.

Q: Is data journalism popular in Vietnam? Which are some newsrooms that publish data journalism articles?

Currently, in Vietnam, there are also some newspapers that have developed data journalism, but not many. Featured data articles are not yet available. Most are just economic articles that show numbers graphically.

Q: When you were learning data journalism skills, which parts were the most difficult for you? Which parts were the most interesting for you?

The hardest part for me was scraping the data and cleaning the data. The most interesting part for me was simplifying the data and creating structure for the story because now I can already visualize what my story will look like.

Q: Your article about sand mining was very successful. Congratulations for that! Were you surprised by how impactful it was?

When I wrote my story, I found it fascinating. Especially with a new way of expressing data journalism combined with storytelling, it will attract readers' attention.

I was surprised and happy when my story was recognized by the Deputy Prime Minister. After that, the Government issued a document to direct provinces and ministries to strengthen solutions for sand mining management.

Read more about the story’s impact here.

Q: What were the main data sources that you used for the article on sand mining? Was this data easy to access?

I use five main data sources including:

  1. Data on sand mines is collected from the Departments of Natural Resources and Environment. The data was available on the official website..
  2. Data on erosion of riverbanks and coasts was collected from the agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  3. Data on house damage, number of households needing to be relocated due to landslides were collected directly from the  irrigation sub-department offices in Mekong Delta provinces.
  4. For Vietnam sand export figures, I use the UN Comtrade and Trade Map website. Getting data from here is pretty easy.
  5. Data on illegal sand mining was collected through interviews and police contacts.

In general, the data I collected for the article is not too difficult to access, but it was challenging to standardize and had to be collected quite manually. Each province has a different reporting format so the process of processing and cleaning data was very difficult.

Q: What is your advice for journalists who want to learn data journalism?

The first is to be really passionate and devote enough time to your data journalism topic.

I learned a lot from the data journalism course as it helped me to work more scientifically. From choosing a topic to posing questions, finding answers, writing story structures, interviewing to presenting data... all are meticulous and scientific.

That's why I feel that if you want to be a data journalist, you must have enough passion and interest in your topics.

When you do a successful data article you will be a trendsetter.

Q: How do you see data journalism in Vietnam changing in the next three  to five years?

I'm not sure but I think it will be the trend of the press in general. At my newspaper, I am expected to continue to develop the skills I have learned. To be honest, re-learning the lessons will still be difficult for me, but I won't stop. I look forward to relearning data journalism when the opportunity arises. Currently I have also prepared a few topics that I can pursue with data journalism.