Project description

I am a 24 years old Brazilian data journalist. In 2018, I started working at the digital infographics team of O Estado de S. Paulo, a major newspaper in the country. I was the first journalist hired to work in the arts desk of the organization, in an effort to make the team play a more active role within the newsroom.

Before that, most stories the desk worked on were pitched by ‘traditional’ journalists from others sections of the newspaper, such as the politics and economics desks. Since I arrived here, we started producing our own stories from start to finish – pitching, reporting, coding, designing and writing everything from inception to publication.

This is possible because we are a very transdisciplinary group. Apart from our brilliant intern, who’s a journalism student, I am the only one with a journalism school and reporting background. Every day, I work alongside designers, visual artists and developers. The possibility to learn from them is one of the most rewarding aspect of this job. Since I arrived here, my data visualization and coding skills only got better, for instance.

What I like the most about our products is that we never settle for the easy way out of a theme. We are always trying to find the best way to tell a story, struggling to be as engaging and impactful as possible. This brainstorming process is the most thrilling part of all the work we do.

I am very proud of all the stories I’ve submitted, since each one of them saw a lot of effort and dedication by every member of the team. In those selected works, the original pitch idea was usually mine. In all of them, I was responsible for the data wrangling, cleaning and analysis, as well as for the words. I also developed the basic drafts for most charts, which were polished and transformed into beautiful data visualizations by my teammates.

Aside from my newsroom work, I’ve recently started teaching a data journalism class in a post-grad program. Somewhat surprisingly, I discovered that helping other journalists learn how to do this kind of work is one of the things I enjoy the most in my professional life.

What makes this project innovative?

I believe the most innovative part of my work is how I was able to make the arts desk into a more active player in the newsroom. We no longer work mostly in stories reported and written by others desks: the major part of our production is original, developed by our team from pitch to delivery. When looking at our projects, I believe what me and my team do best is going for an user-centric approach. We never settle for a beaten formula or for a routine format. Since we mostly work in long-term projects, we are able to think of the most effective way to tell each story. We also like building our own databases, not relying only in what third parties produce. The main link in this submission is probably my biggest story: we’ve built the most detailed Brazilian elections results map ever, showing the tally in a neighborhood-to-neighborhood level. This may seem trivial if you are from a country where election data is better, but in Brazil most of the polling stations are not geocoded. To overcome this, we had to geocode thousand of places and estimate boundaries using a geometry algorithm. I’ve also published stories that use facial expression detection, quantitative text analysis and other unusual things. I encourage you to read more about them in their individual entries:

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Impact varies from story to story. However, one thing is constant and makes me really happy: since I started publishing the source code of all my stories on the newspaper’s GitHub page, researchers and others journalists often contact me to tell that they are using our data and scripts for their own work. This kind of impact is very significant for me because I am an enthusiast of open data and open knowledge principles.

Source and methodology

Again, every story has its own source and methodology. Since january of 2018, the source code of all my material is published on GitHub and all stories feature a methodological breakdown section at the bottom.

Technologies Used

In 99% of the time, I am coding in Python, mostly using the data science package Pandas. To build charts, final versions and sketches alike, I use D3. For simpler tasks, I use no-coding-required software such as Google Sheets, Open Refine, QGIS and Adobe Illustrator.

Project members

Rodrigo Menegat


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