Success stories: Telling the tales behind the data
In 2014 World Resources Institute (WRI) launched Global Forest Watch, a platform for monitoring and understanding the world’s forests using a variety of “big data”, ranging from satellite imagery to biodiversity databases to government concession listings. With its wealth of data, including near-real time forest loss alerts that can potentially enable authorities to take action against deforestation as it happens, Global Forest Watch has the potential to democratize and revolutionize forest monitoring.
As a heavy user of forest data for reporting on environmental issues, Mongabay saw Global Forest Watch as a tool for enabling data-driven journalism which could help ground-truth what’s actually happening on the ground. Because while Global Forest Watch can show us that a protected area in West Kalimantan lost half its forest cover in a decade, it doesn’t tell us why that happened, who was responsible, and how the remaining trees can be saved.
Accordingly, in June 2014 Mongabay launched the Global Forest Reporting Network (GFRN) in partnership with WRI. Modeled after the network approach used by Mongabay-Indonesia, GFRN recruited dozens of journalists from around the world to serve as correspondents to investigate and report on data surfaced via Global Forest Watch.
In the first nine months of the initiative, GFRN produced over 180 stories, covering issues ranging from reforestation to illegal logging. After the pilot, GFRN became the basis of the broader Mongabay Reporting Network, which is using the same approach — and many of the same journalists — to report on other topics.