The project “Correio nas Escolas” map and tell stories of all the 234 high schools in Brazil’s Federal District. The project brings together an interactive map with information on the schools; crowd-sourced accounts, photos, audios and videos of readers; timeline with reports from Correio Braziliense newspaper about education since 1960; in addition to 20 reports. I envisioned the site by participating in News Corp Media Fellowship for Global Journalists administered by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with The Wall Street Journal, which is why I won a News Innovation Grant of US$ 1.000.
The project “Correio na Escolas” has had impacts on the newspaper where I work, the education of the Federal District and the readers. This was the first time the Correio Braziliense newspaper has produced a major data journalism project and the first time it has used various data visualization tools, including Google Maps. After I produced the project, other teams in the newspaper where I work dedicated themselves to data-driven work and used some of the same tools I used.
There is a lot of official data on schools (from Brazil’s Ministry of Education and from DF’s Secretary of Education), but without an organized platform, this information is inaccessible and remote from most of the population. On these interactive site, stakeholders can identify and search by region, neighborhood, school, performance, and more. Thanks to the project map, parents were able to assess more carefully the schools where their children will study. It is interesting to highlight that the community was able to get to know high schools better through both official data and readers input: students, alumni, parents and teachers provided input and feedback on the schools.
This project turned out to be relevant for a number of reasons: Firstly, it is a great source of advice for families who need to choose where to put their child to study. The site also helped the community get to know schools better. Thus, make more appropriate choices for their children. Second, the “Correio nas Escolas” project generated greater community engagement with each school (which translates into the amount of reader input received). This is very important for the community itself to asks for improvements and quality in school management and also for the community itself to help to improve the schools (for example, by doing volunteer work, donating, or otherwise contributing).
The project consists of 20 stories (16 reports on prominent public schools, using scrollytelling feature in the desktop version; eight of which were made by me, and the other eight edited by me; and 4 stories about high school challenges); an interactive map in which all 234 high schools in the Federal District were mapped and arranged with information about them (data include number of students and teachers, student income, scores on educational indicators, whether or not schools have sports fields and laboratories, among other information; the data was collected by me and the freelance journalist I hired, but the map was all generated by me); a second map highlighting the 16 schools we visited and about which we produced stories about; contributions of 58 readers in texts, photos, audios and videos (https://correionasescolas.correiobraziliense.com.br/relatos-dos-leitores); a timeline, gathering 85 stories from the Correio Braziliense newspaper from 1960 to the present day: (https://correionasescolas.correiobraziliense.com.br/linha-do-tempo).
The US$ 1.000 grant I received was used to hire a freelance journalist and a web developer to help me with the project. However, resources were limited. So I looked for free tools that could be used. Google Maps was used to display the result of the Excel tables that I spent two months producing, concentrating data on each of DF’s 234 high schools. The Northwestern University Knight Lab’s StoryMapJS highlighted the 16 schools visited by the reporting team, portrayed through text, photos and videos. Finally, Timeline JS, also from The Northwestern University Knight Lab, was used to display 85 educational reports published by Correio Braziliense. The site was developed on the WordPress platform. Reports on the 16 public schools considered good examples were displayed using the scrollytelling feature.
What was the hardest part of this project?
I faced many challenges to put the project into practice. Education data for each school was not concentrated in one place. We had to analyze a lot of worksheets from the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education and even collect some data school by school. The 16 best public high schools were discovered thanks to the analysis of the data collected to rank schools and thus show the public what works well in the public school system. We were showing good examples, yet there was resistance from schools to receive reporting staff and resistance from other schools to provide us with data. Another challenge is that I didn’t have much experience with large databases, but that was good because I could learn a lot during the process. The reporting part also required a lot of effort.
The lack of manpower is one of the biggest challenges in the newspaper Correio Braziliense and in many others. People are missing, so it is difficult to the newspaper to produce cool and relevant projects. For the website’s web design, I ended up relying solely on a freelance professional hired under the funds of the News Innovation Grant, since the newspaper’s developer team said it was too busy and couldn’t help me. So the site was made by the web designer I recruited thanks to the grant, with my help. This project was only possible because all the time I used for his production was my free time. For eight weeks, I was doing my normal work (at least 7 hours a day and at most 9), during which I dedicated myself to the obligations I already have in the newspaper. So, out of office hours, I spent six to seven hours a day more so I could dedicate myself to the project.
What can others learn from this project?
The eight weeks I used to produce the project were very intense and seeing the project ready is rewarding. I learned a lot about data collection and organization. In addition, I discovered several open tools that allow journalists to produce interesting and interactive material for internet. Most of all, I learned that data journalism and a great journalism project are possible, even in a newsroom and a team with few resources, when you commit and do your best to make it happen.