15 Filipino journalists receive grants for data journalism projects

Paul Nicholas Soriano

Fellows are set to publish data-driven stories on pressing environmental issues in the Philippines by March 2024.

Fifteen journalists from the Philippines have received grants worth US$2,000 each for their first data story projects on critical environmental issues in the country.

Thibi, in partnership with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), successfully conducted its five-day workshop in Manila on September 11-15 2023, marking the start of the Mentored Story Grants phase of the Environmental Data Journalism Academy for the Philippines.

The fellows receiving funding for their stories are the following:

  • Cristina Baclig,
  • Chantal Eco, Altermidya
  • Genevieve Feliciano, Altermidya
  • Jelo Mantaring
  • Samuel Yap,
  • Keith Fabro
  • Lorenz Pasion, Rappler
  • Lucelle Bonzo, Davao Today
  • Vianca Anglo
  • Gigie Cruz Sy, ABS-CBN News
  • Mavic Conde
  • Morexette Erram, Cebu Daily News
  • Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News
  • Rommel Lopez, PressOne.PH
  • Rowena Caronan, ABS-CBN News

During the story grants phase, the fellows have started receiving mentorship as they cleaned, analyzed, and visualized the data needed for their stories. The data mentors include members of Thibi, including Thet Win Htut, Lu Min Lwin, Thet Paing Myo, and founder Yan Naung Oak.

Award-winning data journalist and Internews data journalism advisor Eva Constantaras, veteran investigative journalist Karol Ilagan, multimedia journalist Camille Elemia, data journalism trainer Aika Rey, and environmental journalist Imelda Abano will be providing story mentorship to the fellows.

By March 2024, fellows are set to start publishing eye-opening data-driven stories on the worsening impacts of disasters and extreme weather conditions, water quality and pollution, reclamation projects, deforestation, threatened wildlife species, and disaster management and response, among others.

Fruits of labor 

At the workshop, the fellows learned advanced skills in scraping, data cleaning, and data analysis, and participated in in-depth sessions on storytelling and storyboarding 

Gigie Cruz Sy, photo editor at ABS-CBN News, said her and her colleagues’ participation in the Academy sparked interest in possibly reviving a data team within their newsroom. 

“The Environmental Data Journalism course helped us learn how to present relevant data, not readily available to the public, in a more engaging manner. The course underscores the potential of creating more data-driven environmental narratives through collaboration among us ABS-CBN scholars within our newsroom,” she said.

Fellows Chantal Eco, news producer at Altermidya, and Lucelle Bonzo, the executive director of Davao Today, also expressed key takeaways from the workshop. 

“Building a simple list is actually not simple if you want to make a story that has value and will make an impact [to the community] and will expose [the wrongdoings of] corporations. I hope that after this, we can also be advocates of open data. I’m looking forward to our further sessions,” Eco said. 

“Data journalism is a new horizon for me because I only learned basic spreadsheets in college. Now, I learned to appreciate data more. As journalists, we know that we need to get data, but now, we appreciate data on a much higher level,” said Bonzo, as she expressed gratitude to Thibi and EJN.

Meanwhile, Rommel Lopez, an educator and associate editor of online news outlet PressOne.PH, said his motivation to finish the Academy is to pay it forward.

“I thought to myself, that whatever I learn here I will be able to pass on to my students because we need more storytellers. And what I learned here is not just telling a good compelling story but basing it on facts and the truth,” said Lopez. 

Ways forward

Thibi founder Yan Naung Oak said the Manila workshop marked the end of the beginning, and from there, “the fun part begins.”

Addressing the fellows during the closing program of the workshop, Yan said the Academy has already accomplished all the parts in helping them learn the necessary skills in data analysis. 

Yan further emphasized the importance of working on data for stories. He said the fun in being in such a fellowship also comes with challenges and difficulties, especially in raising societies’ awareness on environmental issues—and investigating them.

“You cannot be an effective investigative journalist in today’s world if you’re not also a data journalist,” said Yan.

The Environment Data Journalism Academy for the Philippines started in May. The 15 fellows have completed over 70 hours of virtual data journalism training during the Fundamentals and Intermediate courses of the Academy.