Tom Wills is a freelance data journalist based in Berlin, Germany.
His speciality is doing investigative journalism using computers – a kind of data journalism.
Before going freelance, he worked for national newspapers and magazines in the UK for five years. Here are some of the data-driven stories Tom and his colleagues worked on at The Times of London.
Tom Wills wrote his first computer program in QBasic in 1999 and recently Tom has been using languages and tools like Python, PostgreSQL, PostGIS, bash and Git.
He uses these tools to find or create data, analyse it, and turn the results into news stories. Some people call this approach ‘computer-assisted reporting’ or ‘data journalism’.
The process, goals and end results aren’t so very different from old-fashioned investigative journalism techniques, but using computers means it’s possible to do some things that would not otherwise be possible.
Computers can also help investigative journalists protect anonymous sources (such as whistleblowers) and handle confidential information.
It’s not straightforward to use computers securely, but cryptographic systems like PGP, Tor and Tails can be very powerful when applied correctly. Tom uses these security tools as much as possible in his everyday work. It’s a point of principle journalists should be free to work without goverment surveillance and means he is familiar with the technology for the occasions when it’s really needed.
Tom Wills is trained in news production for print, broadcast and online, as well as advanced investigative research techniques.
He graduated from City University, London with a master’s degree in Investigative Journalism in 2012.