Project description

We believe the Trinity Mirror Data Unit is a team that represents data journalism at its best: using new techniques to find and tell stories, while still believing in the key journalistic principles of great, agenda-setting public-interest exclusives.In this past year, we have broken shocking stories through major data investigations, turned big data dumps into usable stories that engage readers, helped our audience connect with their community, and revitalised data visualisation in print using automation.For our investigation into gender equality, we brought together dozens of local and national datasets as well as personal interviews in an interactive storytelling format to show the stark differences in outcomes for men and women across the country. A hard-hitting investigation, based on hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, broke the story that the cost of housing homeless families in temporary accommodation across the country had topped £1bn and highlighted the scale of the ongoing housing crisis in Britain. We revealed the shocking numbers of children at risk from abuse, with an interactive the allowed readers to get to grips with the scale of the issue in their area, while an investigation using data on prisons shone light on the horrific levels of violence, self-harm and drug-taking plaguing the prison system. We also revealed the education gap the persists at university level based on the month in which you were born.We were also the first organisation to exploit a Land Registry data dump of millions of rows of information about corporate and foreign property ownership in England and Wales, harnessing data journalism skills and digital tools to produce dozens of local exclusive on the scale of foreign ownership, as well as the million-pound property deals involving companies registered in so-called tax havens. Our hospital performance interactive brought together a hundreds of individual monthly spreadsheets on hospital performance to highlight the ways in which services have deteriorated in recent years, bringing local insight and clarity to a national story about the the NHS at “breaking point”.Our interactives made it easier for readers to find the information that matters to them. For the June general election, we produced a fully automated results interactive, that allowed readers to keep track of the election outcome as it happened, and which was viewed more than 1m times. We also celebrated Non-League Day by using data to create a gadget that helped connect football fans with the smaller teams in their area.

What makes this project innovative?

The Data Unit is continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible in data storytelling, and as such is one of the most innovative data journalism teams in the world.We are constantly demonstrating how we can use data to tell stories in new ways that engage readers. In our gender inequality investigation we used Shorthand to bring together statistics and personal interviews in an immersive and interactive storytelling experience, while we have used impactful videos throughout our work to highlight the key findings in investigations.In continuing to create a wide range of interactives to support our data storytelling, ones which beautiful design and easy to use interactive features to allow readers to access information that matters most to them, we have brought innovative new features to our data news apps such as automatically generated text based on the data and interactive graphs that can be zoomed in on for a more in-depth view.We have also further developed our interactives that run on data feeds, with an automated general election results app that saved hours of previously manual work by reporters, while our Non-League interactive was developed in partnership with Groundhopper to use their API to allow readers to interact with the data.As well as digital projects, we have also bought this innovative spirit to often-overlooked medium of print to bring data visualisation to a new audience through daily graphic-led news pages and weekly automated data graphics. Our daily pages set the agenda through a mix of exclusive analysis, exclusive data, and finding compelling ways into important issues, while our weekly half-pages look at fine-grained local data on issues that matters most to local readers, such as crime rates, house prices, hospital performance, are generated automatically by connecting spreadsheets to “intelligent” graphical templates that create bespoke pages for individual papers at the touch of a button.

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

The thousands of stories written by the Data Unit and the dozens of interactives we have produced in the past year have been read millions of times both in print and online. Our investigations have broken hard-hitting exclusives and our data analysis skills and experience have helped make hundreds of millions of points of data useful, interesting and relevant to our readers throughout the UK. Our team makes a huge impact with the brilliant resources it has available in the people that work for it.The innovative, original and vital journalistic work detailed in this entry is just a tiny part of what the Data Unit does every day. There is also the day to day data bulletins we produce – which included a total of 16,000 stories in the period covered by this year’s awards - providing exclusive data-based news for regional and national titles across the country leading to multiple public-interest front-page exclusives and stories that top the most read lists every week, as well as annual set-piece interactives that continue to prove hugely popular, such as the Real Schools Guide and the GP Survey widget.Through our digital and print work, our team of 12 people have combined journalistic flair with groundbreaking technical innovation to produce a wealth of content that is genuinely relevant, genuinely important and genuinely agenda-setting.

Source and methodology

Data is gathered from a variety of sources, including statistical releases published by the Government, Freedom of Information requests or scraped from websites and APIs before it is analysed, combined or re-used

Technologies Used

The data is analysed in Open Office. It was then sent out using the Data Unit's bulletin system. The bulletin system is based on stories written in Google Docs, which are then sent out via Gmail using a script that collects the data from the Google Doc and creates emails that are sent out based on a spreadsheet of contact details. The interactive is built using HTML, CSS, Javascript, ajax, jQuery, Google maps, with data retrieved with queries to a Google fusion tables.

Project members

David Ottewell, Rob Grant, Annie Gouk, Deb Aru, David Dubas Fisher, Carlos Novoa, Ashley Brown, Kelly Leung, Marianna Longo, Alice Cachia, Mark Magill, Adam Walker

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