23/11/12Wobbing Works. Use it! - The Data Journalism Handbook2/4datajournalismhandbook.org/1.0/en/getting_data_2.html
applies for EU funding, how much beneficiaries get, and whether they get it for farmingtheir land, developing their region or for exporting milk powder. At that time, theCommission received the figures as CSV files on a CD. A lot of data, but in principle easy to work with. If you could get it out, that is.In 2004 the Commission refused to release the data; the key argument was that the data was uploaded into a database and couldn’t be retrieved without a lot of work. An argument,that the European Ombudsmand called
. You can find all documents inthis caseon the wobbing.eu website. Back in 2004 we did not have the time to be legalfoodies. We wanted the data.So we teamed up with partners throughout Europe to get the data country by country.English, Swedish and Dutch colleagues got the data in 2005. Finland, Poland, Portugal,regions of Spain, Slovenia and other countries opened up in the too. Even in wob-difficultGermany I got a breakthrough and received some data in the province of North Rhine- Westfalia in 2007. I had to go to court to get the data
but it resulted in some nice articlesin theStern and Stern onlinenews magazine. Was it a coincidence that Denmark and the UK were the first to open up their data? Notnecessarily. Looking at the bigger political picture, the farm subsidies at the time had to beseen in the context of the WTO negotiations where subsidies were under pressure.Denmark and the UK are amongst the more liberal countries in Europe, so there may wellhave been political winds blowing into the direction of transparency in those countries.The story did not stop there, for more episodes and for the data seefarmsubsidy.org.Lesson: Go wob-shopping. We have a fabulous diversity of freedom of information laws inEurope, and different countries have different political interests at different times. This can be used to your advantage.
Case Study 2: Side Eﬀects
We are all guinea pigs when it comes to taking medicine. Drugs can have side-effects. Weall know this, we balance potential benefits with potential risks, and we make a decision.Unfortunately often this decision is not an informed decision. When teenagers take a pill against pimples they hope for smooth skin, not for a bad mood. Yet exactly this happened with one drug, where the youngsters turned depressive andeven suicidal after taking it. The danger of this particular side effect
an obvious story for journalists
was not easily available.There is data about side-effects. The producers regularly have to deliver information tothe health authorities about observed side-effects. They are held by national or Europeanauthorities once a drug is allowed on the market.