We talk to Don Kevin Hapal, who is the Head of Data and innovation at Rappler, a news organization whose founder was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 2021 for independent journalism. Kevin Hapal, Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation shares how data culture was built in an editorial company.
Don works at the intersection of technology and journalism, and his job is to make sure that the newsroom is getting the best out of the available technologies out there. Don’s team supports Rappler’s team of 100 employees, as well as the 15 million users that visit the news site for content and insights every month.
Don and his team were faced with a crisis in 2018 with declining website traffic and revenue. The newsroom wanted to become data informed and understand why. It was then when the organization decided to shift its strategic focus towards making data a key component of its operations. The intention was to use data to guide every editorial and commercial decision. In order to get the Rappler team, who had journalism and not maths backgrounds, onboard, a culture of experimentation was promoted. Instead of building everything in-house, implementation-ready no-code solutions were incorporated into the existing workflow of Rappler, thus enabling non-technical staff to use data. . Don and Rappler’s data team spearhead initiatives to provide tools that improved not only the reach of its content but also the management of the entire organization:
Deliver dashboards for decision makers
Elevate presence of data in all teams
Sponsor upskilling of employees in data analytics and science
Since 2018, Rappler has grown as an organization from its local focus to being recognized on the global stage. The efforts of Don and his team to formalize a data-driven culture and elevate the data literacy across all employees is a great case study of how non-technical employees can thrive in organizations that are increasingly becoming more digital and data-driven. When asked about how his Rappler colleagues who write stories and articles feel about ChatGPT and generative AI, Don says that his teammates are “no longer intimidated by new technologies. They're very ready to adapt to whatever change is coming.”
By incorporating data literacy into their journalism practices, journalists are not only serving the public interest, but also enhancing the credibility of journalism as a whole. As journalists are becoming increasingly responsible for separating truth from fiction, especially in an age where information is easily accessible, but not always reliable. The effort of Rappler to become a data literate organization is serving not just the organization’s management but also the public’s interest in quality reporting from journalists.