Meet the People Behind BIRN: Svetoslav Todorov

Svetoslav Todorov has been Balkan Insight’s correspondent from Bulgaria since 2020.

The increase of disinformation in Bulgaria amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine and recurring ideological clashes in parliament are integral topics to Svetoslav Todorov’s work.

Svetoslav graduated in Bulgarian Philology and Visual Culture from Sofia University’s Faculty of Slavic Studies. He has experience as an art curator and speaker at events organised by the Sofia International Literature Festival, the Rhodope Documentary Film Festival and Romania’s Alternativa Sociale. Let’s find out more about his professional situation.

  1. Your original background is in arts and culture writing, and you have also covered topics related to history, education, and human rights. So, how did you become a Bulgaria correspondent for Balkan Insight?

I know some of the previous journalists who have contributed to BIRN from Sofia so I was encouraged to apply for the position. Air pollution, water shortages, gender-based violence and gambling scandals were among the first topics I worked on, right before the pandemic hit.

Being part of BIRN has been a big learning experience about the region, and although all countries have influenced each other culturally in countless ways, there’s always a new layer to explore (I’m yet to fully grasp how elections in Bosnia actually work). It’s a cliche but it’s indeed true how close these countries are geographically, yet how little we know about each other.

As I’m still writing regularly about society, arts and culture for local outlets, I’m essentially leading a double life between my work in Bulgarian and my work in English. Not sure which one is Dr Jekyll and which one is Mr Hyde.

  1. You have been working for Balkan Insight since 2020, right before the onset of the pandemic and the beginning of the anti-government protest wave in Bulgaria. Since then, there has been significant turmoil on a global level. How have these events affected the topics you cover?

It was like being thrown in cold water but finding yourself swimming. Bulgaria has been in a non-stopping rollercoaster of turmoil in the last few years, whether that’s a healthcare crisis, a breach of someone’s rights, yet another election, or a short-lived coalition. There’s a general feeling that, as a society, we’re sleepwalking into vague but scary territory and there’s little international attention given to the destructive processes here.

Following these events and finding the right words and context to explain them has brought about a different layer of understanding; you see how certain issues are even more deep-rooted than expected. But the Balkans are a fertile ground for drama, aren’t they?

  1. What was the most challenging part of your journalistic career so far?

Through my whole professional path that would be my indecipherable handwriting. During my experience as part of BIRN, translating any quote from a leading local politician automatically makes them sound more intelligent than in the original. It’s a challenge to translate the erosion of public speaking.

  1. What Balkan Insight stories did you work on that made you most proud, and why?

The Bulgarian context is hard to explain to foreign readers as, after 2021, when the election spiral here started, there’s been many new figures on the political scene and bubbling movements that come and go, or stay and transform into something bigger. Yesterday’s friends become foes and vice versa in the space of months. The far-right resurgence – with pro-Russia party Revival as a major vehicle for this – has been a particular interest of mine and a curious case for anyone who deals with how disinformation is spread around here.

Also, explaining to an English-language audience how the main Socialist party remains conservative to its core will never stop being entertaining!

Last year, I was traveling by bus to the other end of the town for a club gig and suddenly the bus was stopped at a crossroad because of a protest by locals against the erasure of green spaces by an ambitious developer. I had the eureka feeling that I’d literally stumbled upon a story. This eventually turned into a feature about that neighbourhood’s spirit and endurance. Actually, it was a success story as well, as the protest scared the developer away.

  1. Knowing what you know after years of working in journalism, what would you change regarding your journalistic beginnings?

I would be less anxious about reaching out and pitching to international outlets, collaborating with editors and writers from abroad and working on cross-border stories. Amassing experience is, surprisingly, not a linear thing, especially in the current media landscape, where we constantly have to adapt to new ways of storytelling (or resist them, in some cases). If you think about it, you should do it.

  1. What one message would you like to send to young journalists?

I recently saw a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by a young troupe of local actors and there was a particular line that stayed with me: “there’s daggers in men’s smiles”.

I think one of the challenges of the profession, and one which I might not have been that aware of early on, is that readers and subjects often might express support because a certain article or an opinion fits their narrative, and they might turn against you when you no longer serve this purpose. One must fight very hard for integrity in a climate that is increasingly user-orientated, algorithmic and fragmented. The bigger picture has turned into a mosaic and young journalists must also protect their vision and their sanity (usually after a decade in, quite literally) so they can pick and arrange the pieces.

So my advice would be: be aware of the daggers.

Media Innovation Europe Renewed: Eight Grant Schemes Over the Next Two Years

IPI-led initiative to support innovation and experimentation in journalism will continue to develop projects that help European organizations achieve sustainability.

The programme will:

  • Include 8-month accelerator and incubator programmes
  • Introduce opportunity to media that need to pilot and validate their business ideas
  • Provide intensive cohort and one-on-one immersive training, mentoring and hackathons
  • Include grants of up to €20,000 to news organizations

Media Innovation Europe (MIE), a multidisciplinary, multi-project programme that has funded over 50 news organizations in the past two years, is kicking off its second edition.

The programme provides business needs assessments and personalized advisory, grants, training, hackathons and mentorship to media managers journalists working in and building newsrooms that are moving ahead towards a full digital transition. The goal is to empower media outlets to navigate a changing media industry, providing tools and guidance to align their journalistic products, business structures, and means of discovery and distribution in an audience-focused and sustainable way.

MIE will continue its immersive training approach, focusing on networking-building and providing consultancies and guidance to participating newsrooms.

The first edition was launched in June 2022 to energize the European ecosystem for independent and local journalism, stimulating innovation, sustainable business models, and collaboration among media outlets.

Who is behind the programme

Led by the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), the consortium brings together the Thomson Media (TM),  The Fix Foundation (TFF) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

The programme will continue to be co-funded by the European Union.

The programme

The MIE programme includes several projects that will leverage the strengths of its partners to mobilize networks, manage granting and mentoring programs, and support media innovation. MIE is a response to the challenging environment media operate in, including growing hostility to media freedom, lack of trust in journalism as well as the disruption of media by the digital transformation and economic threats. Each partner brings a deep understanding of the needs and challenges facing European media today, alongside proven strategies to respond and invest in developing successful independent news products. .

Participants of all the programmes will be selected by independent juries.

Here is a list of the projects MIE will continue:

Project Description Run by
Transition Accelerator * 18 established news organizations

* 8-month innovation accelerator with training, advisory, coaching and solutions development

* grants of up to €20,000 each

IPI
New Media Incubator * 15 early-stage independent news organizations

* 8-month innovation incubator with training, coaching and solutions development

* grants of up to €15,000 each

IPI
Early Stage Digital Validation * 15 media companies will be selected

* Up to €5,000 grants each

* Review, design and validate digital media business plans

Thomson Media
Advanced Business Consultancies * 6 independent media organizations

* grants of up to €30,000 each

* implementing new digital products

Thomson Media
Audience Engaged Journalism Grants * 15 media outlets (two cross-border and 11 country-based)

* Promotes the development of 13 investigative stories

* Up to €5k grant per story.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network
Journalism Innovation and Ideation Hackathons * Two, three-day focused creative media events aimed at establishing cross-border and cross-company ties in the media sector.

* Minimum of 10 projects per hackathon

The Fix Foundation
Peer-to-peer journalism mentoring * A project that will match journalists and newsrooms with mentors that will help with ideation and feedback around news products, technologies and business models IPI

Press contacts

IPI: Ryan Powell, [email protected]

Thomson Media: Davor Marko, [email protected]

The Fix Foundation: Daryna Shevchenko, [email protected]

BIRN Network: Gentiana Murati, [email protected]

Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Commision. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

BIRN Albania Presents Survey on Journalists’ Safety and Media Freedom

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, the Science and Development network SCiDEV and Faktoje on Thursday in Tirana presented the preliminary findings of a survey on journalists’ safety and media freedom.

The findings were presented at a roundtable with experts, stakeholders and representatives of the donor community in Albania. The roundtable aimed to enhance collaboration between local media, CSOs, academia, and journalists to promote media freedom.

The survey, which included 133 reporters and editors, revealed a number of worrying trends. Nearly 50 per cent of surveyed journalists said they face pressures, intimidation and threats.

Journalists are most vulnerable when reporting on corruption, organized crime, or corporate issues and the main sources of threats are named as public officials, media owners, crime groups, and political parties.

The survey data are part of an upcoming in-depth study, which aims to inform stakeholder on the state of media freedom in Albania as it gears to negotiate the EU accession process with Brussels.

The survey was conducted as part of a three-year project, “Strengthening Media Freedom, Professionalism, and Journalists’ Safety in Albania,” implemented by SCiDEV, BIRN Albania and Faktoje, with the support of the EU, aimed at monitoring and promoting Albania’s progress in line with EU recommendations.

Call for Applications: The 5-day Summer School on Dis/misinformation within the Justice System

The aim of the USAID Justice Activity in Kosovo (Activity) is a more responsive justice system capable of providing people access to quality services and multiple means to solve their justice needs and everyday legal problems to generate greater public trust in the justice system and the rule of law. The Activity is organized by three integrated objectives:
1) Quality and Accessibility of Justice Services Improved,
2) Citizen Understanding, Engagement, and Trust in the Justice System Improved, and
3) Effective Innovations in the Justice Sector Developed.

Intending to increase public trust in the justice system in Kosovo, the Activity initiated the Fact-Checking project. This project combats misinformation and disinformation about the justice system while educating the wider public on the impacts of false information and the importance of factual reporting.

The Activity invites all Kosovo journalists to be part of the summer school on misinformation within the justice system, which will take place on July 18-22 2024.

Through training by professionals, lectures, and public discussions with the justice system practitioners, the program envisages participants to become equipped with the knowledge and skills to report only based on facts and not fall prone to mis/disinformation.

The program will equip the participants with the necessary skills to fact-check and identify sources of financing disinformation.

The program will include various speakers and trainers who will share insights on various elements of civil legislation in Kosovo.

The program will include field visits, including visits to courts, archives, and different institutions of the justice system.

The program will be hosted by professional fact-checking editors of BIRN Kosovo.

Organizational details: The costs of accommodation and transport shall be covered for all participants.

Who can apply:

Journalists, digital media reporters, media professionals, fact-checkers, and media lawyers who are citizens of Kosovo.

How to apply?

Documents required for the application:

  • CV
  • Expression of interest of up to 300 words

Applicants should submit their applications with the subject “Application for Summer School on Dis/misinformation within the Justice System” at [email protected]. The deadline for submission is on July 8, 2024.

Date of the Summer School: Based on a training curriculum, the program will be held for five working days from July 18 to July 22, 2024.

Location: The main activities of the program will be carried out in Pristina, however study visits in other municipalities will also be part of the agenda.

All participants will be provided with certificates of participation after attending the whole program for five days.

 

Applications Open for BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting in Croatia

The BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting returns this August to the Croatian coastal village of Mlini, with a number of award-winning journalists and editors as trainers.

The 14th edition of the Summer School is taking place from August 19 to August 24 in Mlini, close to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Thirty selected journalists from Southeast, Eastern and Central Europe will take part in a week-long intensive training aimed at mastering their investigative skills.

Participants in BIRN’s flagship capacity building programme will learn from experienced and award-winning journalists and editors and other media professionals led by Blake Morrison, investigative projects editor at Reuters in New York.

Journalists will be introduced to the fundamentals of investigative reporting, including work on complex cross-border stories, data journalism and visual storytelling, as well as on how to preserve their own digital security while reporting.

Jonathan Soma, a programmer and educator specializing in making complex data accessible, who has worked with ProPublica and The New York Times, among others, will provide guidance on navigating the challenges posed by AI.

Elena Kostychenko, an independent Russian journalist and civil rights activist, winner of the European Press Prize, will share many of her experiences with School participants, including those on reporting in and on Russia.

She was a special correspondent of Novaya Gazeta for more than 15 years until the newspaper was shut down at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. She covers the war in Ukraine and collaborates with Russian media in exile. In 2023, Elena published a book, I love Russia: Reporting from a lost country.

Investigative journalist Maria Georgieva and her colleague Ali Fegan from the Swedish public broadcaster will be showcasing a large cross-border collaboration by a team of award-winning journalists and editors from four public television and radio broadcasters in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland about “Putin’s shadow war” in the Nordic area.

The Summer School is also hosting sessions focused on visual storytelling, sustainable media industry and business models with Jakub Górnicki, reporter and co-founder of Outriders, a media publication combining art, journalism and technology.

BIRN will also showcase some of its own work at the cross-section of investigative and engagement journalism and digital rights violations monitoring. It will share its experience in covering transitional justice issues and documenting war crimes, relevant in view of reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Continued collaboration with The Self-Investigation foundation will provide important discussions on mental health and well-being in the newsrooms. The setting in Mlini is familiar – it will be the third Summer School in this beautiful village on the Croatian coast – and will help us to combine hard work with time for self-care. BIRN will also provide space for networking and future collaborations beyond the Summer School.

As every year, BIRN is providing 30 full scholarships for selected participants. Journalists from the following countries are eligible to apply: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This will cover a full stipend for participation in the programme, accommodation, meals, as well as transportation expenses of up to €200.

The focus remains on journalists from the Balkans, while the list of eligible countries has expanded over the years following BIRN’s increased coverage of the wider region of Southeast and Central Europe, and also to enable further exchange of knowledge and incentivise cross-border collaboration. This year we would like to particularly encourage journalists from Ukraine to apply for the School, as we believe it is crucial to provide capacity building support to those pursuing investigative stories in the times of war.

In addition to training, editorial support and mentorship, through our Investigative Initiative Story Fund, BIRN will provide selected participants with funds to support story development and production.

Participants are requested to prepare a proposal for an investigative story and present it during the week in Croatia, to be worked on in the months following the School, either alone or in a cross-border team. On the last day of the School, a jury composed of BIRN editors and trainers will award the best pitches with editorial, financial and publication support.

Limited spots are also available for international participants who want to take part in the training and cover their own costs. They need to cover an all-inclusive fee of €1,500, covering full board at the hotel Astarea in Mlini, where the Summer School is taking place. No extra charges are requested for tuition.

Applications close on July 7, 2024.

Click here to apply!

Internet Freedom Meet in North Macedonia: Solving Challenges Requires Society’s Involvement

Educating citizens about the sharing of data on the Internet, where gender-based violence, disinformation and other harmful narratives abound, is a necessity, BIRN’s Internet Freedom Meet conference in Skopje heard.

The Internet Freedom Meet (IFM), organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) with the support of the European Union, brought together experts from different spheres of society this year to discuss ongoing and new challenges in the online sphere.

David Geer, Head of the Delegation of the European Union in North Macedonia, said solving Internet challenges requires the involvement of the whole of society. “They are not just challenges for governments to tackle but for all of us and all relevant addresses of Internet governance, from the private sector, government, academia, technology companies, to civil society and the media,” Geer said.

Speaking about foundations, consequences and solutions for the misuse of data on the Internet, Kosovo’s Commissioner for Information and Privacy, Krenare Dermak, said the first step is to teach citizens the basics of Internet searches. He suggests we should never agree to give access to all cookies, because that means giving access to all of our information, while at the same time, the user usually does not know where that data goes and to whom.

Journalists at the Internet Freedom Meet drew attention to gender-based violence, which is common online and mostly aimed at the sexual freedom of women. They stated that thousands of men are sharing intimate content on girls and women without their permission. The victims are often minors, which is an additional motive for the involvement of prosecutors. Recently, several leaders of Telegram groups were arrested in one action.

Telegram, it was noted, is an attractive app for those who intend to break the law, participate in creating or joining extremist groups, or are part of huge disinformation networks. Anonymity, protection of exchanged messages, and the lack of cooperation from Telegram owners with local prosecutors, all contribute to the popularity of the application.

While it can be used benignly and positively, it has also caused significant damage to individuals and society as a whole, experts concluded at the conference. Strict regulation of the use of artificial intelligence (AI), expert Arvin Kamberi mentioned, may not be the best solution. However, in the long run, AI’s monopoly on knowledge could become problematic.

Participants in Skopje also discussed the need for and reasons behind the use of public surveillance cameras, which must be strictly regulated, as well as the way in which camera data is used.

Finally, panelists touched on the problem of elections and pre-election campaigns, which are increasingly challenged by misinformation and the use of artificial intelligence, AI, to undermine the integrity of institutions or political opponents.

The IFM concluded with the presentation of BIRN’s project “Reporting Digital Rights and Freedoms”, emphasizing how cooperation with independent experts and institutions can be achieved.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Anti-Terrorism Training for Municipal Assembly and Staff in Fushë Kosova

On June 19, BIRN Kosovo held a one-day training to present the strategic vision of the National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Terrorism, P/VE, Rehabilitation and Reintegration, R&R, and forms of extremism with an emphasis on the role of municipal assemblies and staff in countering violent extremism and terrorism, for the Municipality of Fushë Kosova.

Fifteen participants, eight of them women, participated in the training which started with an introduction to terrorism and different forms of violent extremism and continued with the strategic objectives of the Strategy, presented by Labinot Leposhtica, Legal Office and Monitoring Coordinator at BIRN Kosovo and Member of the Working Group for National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Terrorism.

The training included a discussion with participants who delved into the role of the local officials in addressing terrorism and forms of violent extremism and their concerns as well as those of officials and citizens of this municipality.

Also present was Milot Sfishta, from the Department for Public Safety in the Ministry of Interior, who emphasized the crucial role of local authorities in meeting the objectives of the Strategy.

He presented the current situation with the Strategy, the work that has been done since 2019 with the establishment of this Department, and the work done especially with the community and the education system, which includes teachers and school psychologists.

During the training, the participants were active in discussions, sharing their perspectives and experiences. The presentation and subsequent discussions enhanced their knowledge and awareness of this topic, resulting in a more informed group of individuals by the end of the session.

This training was held as part of the Resilient Community Programme, which is funded by GCERF.

BIRN Contributes to First Global Index on Responsible AI

The first edition of the Global Index on Responsible AI 2024 was launched on June 13 at the closing keynote panel of the USAID Global Digital Development Forum. The forum included various hybrid events worldwide.

The Global Index on Responsible AI, GIRAI, is the first tool to set globally relevant benchmarks for responsible AI and assess them in countries around the world.

This study constitutes the largest global data collection on responsible AI to date. In its first edition, the Index represents primary data collected by researchers from 138 countries, including 41 countries from Africa, between November 1, 2021 and November 1, 2023.

During the panel, the 1st edition report and an interactive portal providing open access to all the data gathered as part of the project were made available online at global-index.ai.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN HUB, contributed to the Index, leading the research for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

“Working on the first edition of GIRAI was both a privilege and a challenge. As we delved into the data and sought relevant evidence, we observed a significant discrepancy between countries. While some nations lead in AI use and initiatives, much remains to be done regarding ethical AI development,” said Ivana Jeremic, BIRN’s Digital Rights Programme Content Lead and GIRAI Southeast Europe Research Team Leader.

“The index will become a valuable tool for tracking progress and an excellent resource for journalists and researchers. This process has been a learning experience, and I believe the next round will be even better, hopefully including more countries, given the importance of this topic,” she added.

The GIRAI is a flagship project by the Global Center on AI Governance that tracks and measures countries’ commitments and progress towards responsible AI. The tool is comprehensive and multidimensional, involving data collection and analysis from 138 countries to provide a comprehensive understanding of how nations are addressing the ethical, social, and regulatory challenges posed by AI technologies.

The Index highlights global trends and gaps in responsible AI, serving as a critical tool for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to understand the current landscape and drive improvements. It promotes international cooperation, encourages the adoption of human-centric AI frameworks, and fosters a sustainable and ethical future for AI.

BIRN Kosovo Launches Exhibition on Media’s Coverage of War

New exhibition in Pristina demonstrates the central role played by the media in the Kosovo conflict alongside subsequent artistic interpretations.

On June 10, BIRN Kosovo, KALLXO.com, Prishtina Biennale and Paper Gallery launched the “Reporting House” exhibition in Pristina, marking 25 years since the end of the Kosovo war. It showcases journalism, photography and media artifacts of the time, positioned alongside contemporary artwork exploring and reflecting on the impact of the war in the decades since.

The exhibition enables visitors to navigate a conflict that simmered through the 1990s, gave birth to the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, boiled over into war in 1998-1999 and culminated in 11 weeks of NATO airstrikes leading to the liberation of Kosovo and, in 2008, its independence.

The exhibition displays the first draft of this history, written by journalists, and demonstrates the central role played by the media alongside subsequent artistic interpretations of that history. The public is invited to further its understanding of Kosovo’s extraordinary story, while the exhibition is open to collaboration for its further development.

Open until mid-September, the exhibition presents works by artists of diverse backgrounds and regions, from established names such as Anri Sala (Albania), Adrian Paci (Albania), Goncalo Mabunda (Mosambique), Lala Meredith Vula (UK-Kosovo), Zhana Kadyrova (Ukraine), Lana Cmaijcanin (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Olafur Eliasson (Iceland-Denmark), Laura Imami (UK) and Besa Llugiqi (Kosovo) to emerging artists like Vullnet Jakupi and Vita Kasapolli from Kosovo.

Most of the television archive material and artifacts have been provided by Vaughan Smith of Frontline News Television. The exhibition features 150 television stories from Kosovo between 1992 and 1999 by the BBC, Das Erste (German Public TV), NHK (Japanese public TV), RTE (Irish public TV), EO 2 Vandaag (Dutch public TV), Tele 5 (Spanish TV), Nippon TV, RTK and Frontline Television News, promoting the work of the journalists, photographers, camera operators and local fixers who made them.

Contributors include Jeremy Bowen, Ben Brown, Ilaz Bylykbashi, Thomas Dworzak, Alan Chin, Donika Shahini, Paul Lowe, Max Stahl, Ridvan Slivova, David Loyn, Jehona Lushaku, Besnik Mehmeti, Nik Millard, Andrew Testa, Pal S. Refsdal, Flaka Surroi, Hazir Reka, Marija Ristić, Fred Scott, Eliza Hoxha, Vaughan Smith, Nora Weller, Sean Whelan, Goran Tomasević, Sami Mustafa, Alban Bujari, Linda Gusia, Eki Rrahmani, Gazmend Avdiu, Detektor.ba, Srebrenica Memorial Center, Anibar, Koha Ditore, RTK, Production 21, and Oral History Kosovo.

At the opening night, the exhibition welcomed over 300 guests, including Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu – President of the Republic of Kosovo, Edi Rama – Prime Minister of Albania, Perparim Rama – Mayor of Prishtina, Carin Lobbezoo – Dutch Ambassador to Kosovo, Jonathan Hargreaves – British Ambassador to Kosovo, Danijela Barišić – Croatian Ambassador to Kosovo, Tomáš Szunyog – Head of the EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative, Massimo D’Alema – Former Prime Minister of Italy from 1998 to 2000, Nancy E. Soderberg – NDI Kosovo Resident Senior Director, ministers and other representatives of the government of Kosovo, representatives from civil society and distinguished individuals and activists from local and international cultural institutions.

Taking place in three venues – Gërmia Department Store being the main venue, the Great Hammam and Paper Gallery – Reporting House creates a space for contemplation, dialogue, and catharsis, honoring the memory of those affected by the war in Kosovo while advocating for “war-less” ways forward.

The exhibition is produced by Jeta Xharra and curated by Gazmend Ejupi.

Training Enhances Balkan Journalists’ Skills in Data Analysis and Visualization

Journalists from six Western Balkan countries participated in a specialized training session on Data Analysis and Visualization led by regional and international professionals.

On June 10 and 11, 23 journalists attended an online training on Data Analysis and Visualization, part of the Western Balkans Media for Change project’s learning circle.

Representing media outlets from six countries – Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo – the journalists acquired skills essential for contemporary newsrooms.

Data analysis is a cornerstone of investigative journalism, enabling journalists to uncover hidden stories. In today’s media landscape, data visualization is equally critical.

The online training was led by Jonathan Stoneman, a journalist and trainer with extensive experience at the BBC, where he served as a researcher, producer and director for the Macedonian and Croatian language services. Following his tenure with the BBC World Service in Zagreb, Stoneman dedicated his expertise to training journalists, with a focus on data analysis.

“Think about your data like interviewing a person,” Stoneman advised the trainees. “If you think of data as a source, you ask it questions.”

The first day concentrated on data analysis techniques, including filtering, sorting, summarizing, and refining data, using accessible tools like OpenRefine. The second day shifted focus to data visualization and producing stories from data using different angles and types of information display. Participants were introduced to various user-friendly tools suitable for any newsroom.

In addition to the primary trainer, investigative journalists from BIRN Serbia and BIRN Macedonia presented case studies. Goce Trpkovski and Miodrag Marković showcased how utilizing tools can facilitate in-depth exploration and presentation of investigative topics in the region. Complementing the training, Fokus from Sarajevo demonstrated their own example of effective data visualization.

The training underscored the importance of incorporating diverse communities and gender-sensitive data into analyses. This learning circle is part of a broader editorial and mentoring support initiative for journalists and media outlets. The project also provides financial assistance to enhance operational capacity, business sustainability, and innovation potential. Its goal is to equip media professionals with the skills needed to produce high-quality, diverse, fact-checked, and gender-sensitive content that engages wider audiences.

The Western Balkans Media for Change project is funded by the UK government and implemented by the British Council in partnership with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Thomson Foundation and The International NGO Training and Research Centre, INTRAC.

It supports the work of media outlets and individual journalists from the Western Balkan countries.