The BBC News Visual and Data Journalism Team is made up of data journalists, visual journalists, data scientists, as well as developers and designers. The team produces data-led journalism and visual storytelling for the BBC News website. The data team also supplies expertise and resources to journalists and producers across BBC News – online, radio and TV.
The data team has also pioneered the use of R to create data visualisations at the BBC. It is now used on a daily basis to create content broadcast on TV and published on the website.
Over the course of this project many people on the team have played a key role in the Covid content highlighted here, and the only way it has been possible is down to continual collaboration, support of and oversight of each other’s work.
Because of the pandemic, our team has adapted to delivering our content remotely. It has been a major adjustment, but the service has not been disrupted purely as a result of home working.
Description of portfolio:
Since January when Covid-19 first emerged, people have looked for reliable and trustworthy information about what the virus means for them.
To fulfil this public service we have put together a comprehensive package of online information.
It focuses on:
1. Tracking the severity of the virus across the UK
2. Lockdown restrictions in the UK’s four nations
3. The picture around the world
All three pages have been continuously updated since publication. With more than 330 million views, the UK tracker is the most viewed webpage BBC News has produced.
Making sense of the data
The UK tracker was launched on 6 March, and has been updated ever since.
To get details of cases and deaths in an area, you enter your postcode or a council name. Our page has grown and improved, adding more local detail as time has gone on.
The page was ahead of central government, in publishing a similar postcode search.
On 3 October we launched our UK lockdown rules search tool.
It was aimed at dispelling public confusion about which rules applied where, as differing restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland affected what people could do. It is updated whenever new rules are announced.
Our world tracker, was launched on 24 January, initially with maps of China and the surrounding countries.
It has evolved into a comprehensive picture of the virus around the world with an interactive table and map of cases and deaths.
A huge impact
Our pages have attracted hundreds of millions of page views.
The world tracker is published in more than 40 languages through the BBC World Service. The English version has had more than 83m page views.
Our UK lockdown rules tool was recommended by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. It has had more than 55 million page views.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter from The Winton Centre for the Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University described the tracker pages as “great resources” not just providing data clearly, but offering interpretation as well.
How we did it
The three pages bring together many data sources to provide a rounded picture of the pandemic.
The world tracker uses six different data sources, with tens of thousands of data points.
The UK tracker page currently draws on eight different sources of data with about half a million data points, each processed every week day.
The information for the lockdown rules search tool draws on announcements by the UK government, and information from the relevant government websites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We write code using the programming language R to download, clean and compile the data. This data is then checked before it is published.
It is uploaded to the sites using a newly-devised publishing tool which pushes the data to the postcode searches, interactive tables and maps.
The data is then used to create static charts used across BBC News Online and TV news.
Every element of each page can be updated in around an hour by two people each day.