4 free digital tools for newsrooms

By: Maria Mora

Pushing for more innovative storytelling can be challenging for newsrooms, especially when there isn’t enough time or resources. However, there are plenty of free digital tools that can help journalists introduce data visualizations and other, more creative ways of telling stories.

ICFJ Google Fellow Irshad Daftari and IndiaSpend Edit Assistant and Data Visualizer Farah Thakur conducted a step-by-step training on how to use some of these tools during a recent webinar. These particular tools are easy to implement because you don’t need to know how to code to use them, Daftari explained. This training is part of a webinar series supported by the Dow Jones Foundation. Some of the tools highlighted during the webinar included:



DotMat is a free-to-use, mobile responsive data visualization tool that is useful for communicating part-of-the-whole relationships. It can illustrate how one individual item, such as one person or one company, fits into larger trends. The tool allows journalists to add a narrative alongside their embeddable visualization to add context. (See it in action in this elections story by IndiaSpend). Daftari and Indian data visualization team Pykih developed the tool.


Fusion Tables

This visualization tool allows journalists to build tables and easily visualize their data on a map or a chart. It also makes it possible to store and filter data online. Google offers step-by-step online tutorialsfor getting started with Fusion Tables.


Google My Maps

Fusion Tables can be slightly complex, so this is an easier solution for map-building. Journalists can customize maps with with this easy, free and interactive tool that allows for the addition of images, video and slideshows into geographic markers. According to Daftari, after IndiaSpend started using more Google Maps with their stories, they found that readers significantly increased the number of times they interacted with the article, with each reader clicking on the embedded map an average of four times.



A tool for building longform stories online, journalists can use Atavist to select a specific page design that incorporates text, images and video. It also allows for the integration of SoundCloud clips, maps, other visualizations and a custom URL. Building out an Atavist page is simple as “drag and drop,” Daftari said, describing the tool as ideal for creating “more interactive and compelling stories where people can swipe left and right, discover new things, and not only scroll up and down.”

Watch the full webinar below: 

Learn more about ICFJ’s Dow Jones webinar series here.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Tim Franklin Photography. 

Irshad Daftari, an experienced media strategist, specializes in digital journalism, audience engagement and news product development. He has a strong background training local journalists on the latest online journalism tools, including Google Fusion Tables, Dataminr, Newswhip, Facebook Live, interactive timelines and a variety of analytics platforms. Learn more about his work as an ICFJ Google Fellow here.

Source: ijnet.org