National Post (Latest Edition)

Postmedia honoured for data journalism

Internatio­nal award for political donations project

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A first-of-its-kind project by Postmedia was honoured by the Data Journalism Awards, which recognizes the best work from more than 58 countries, at a ceremony in Lisbon on Thursday.

Follow the Money, a database of more than five million political donations at both the federal and provincial level, was conceived by reporter Zane Schwartz as part of the yearlong Michelle Lang Postmedia fellowship.

The internatio­nal Data Journalism Awards — supported by the Google News Initiative, the Knight Foundation, Microsoft and Chartbeat — received 630 entries in 2018.

Follow the Money won in the Open Data category, which recognizes projects that make “crucial datasets” open and accessible and available to the public.

Records of political donations in Canada are on the public record. But they’re hardly transparen­t or accessible.

To find out how much one donor has given to a candidate over a number of years, for instance, or how much one company has contribute­d to a party, requires intensive research beyond the scope of most profession­al watchdogs and academics, let alone voters.

Schwartz worked with a team of journalist­s at Postmedia and developers at Qlik to create an accessible search tool for contributi­ons at both the federal level and in every province and territory.

“Getting a clear sense of who gives money to political activity in Canada is vital,” says Zane Schwartz. "We have to hold politician­s to account for the gifts they accept — and data projects like this make that transparen­t to everyone.”

Anne Marie Owens, Editor-in-Chief of the National Post, says this prize also reinforces how technology and traditiona­l reporting can work together to serve the public.

“Follow the Money could be described as a paper chase, since it’s evolved from a deep dive into publicly available documents. But digital technology has made the results of that chase relevant in a new way, and to a much wider audience.”

Schwartz’s fellowship honours award-winning Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang, who was killed in 2009 while reporting from Afghanista­n.

The Michelle Lang fellow spends six months in each of the National Post and Calgary Herald newsrooms, and works on a special project on a topic of social significan­ce.

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