Diana De Lourdes Baptista Rojo, M.S. Data Journalism ’19, saved to attend Columbia Journalism School for six years, but scholarship support ultimately made it possible. As a member of the first class of the school’s competitive data journalism program, she shares how scholarship aid is empowering journalists across borders by giving them access to the latest tools and techniques in computation and analysis.
Q: Why did you pursue Columbia’s new degree in data journalism?
A: The degree is one of a kind. Even though data journalism is growing exponentially around the world, I could not find a degree for it anywhere else. In my country, Mexico, data journalism has been especially important in investigating corruption. With it, we can make better use of vast public resources and records. Without the tools I needed, I felt like I was being left behind.
Q: What challenges do you face as a journalist?
A: The appeal of human stories and the ability to help drive social change are what first inspired me to become a journalist. In six years of journalism, I experienced many challenges. Back in Mexico, there is violence. As a journalist, you know there are possible repercussions for reporting on certain subjects that are uncomfortable for particular groups. That is part of the risk of going into this career and pushing forward change.
Q: What have you found to be the most exciting part of your program?
A: I'm doing something I have never done before, which is coding. I’m learning this whole new language with new associations, design and programming. It’s completely different from what I’m used to, and very rewarding. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet classmates from many different backgrounds. They are from China, Spain, Finland and the U.S. Some have backgrounds in law, health, technology, finance and data, and all are eager to share with their fellow classmates. I’ve learned so much from them, it’s very enriching.
Q: What do you plan to do after graduation?
A: It is my hope to return to Mexico and bring back what I've learned to my country and my colleagues. Journalists in Mexico make very low wages, have limited economic opportunities, and narrow educational options. In sharing new tools and techniques in data journalism, we will be able to make better use of the vast resources of public data available in Mexico, where we have revolutionary transparency laws, and thus very open public records. However, without the right tools, the sheer amount of data is an obstruction. With my degree, there is the possibility to do good at home and empower others to do the same.