Organisation size: Big
This is the portfolio of a data team forged by a pandemic. RTVE is the Spanish public broadcaster, a big company that includes tv channels, radio stations and, lastly, a news website. As a public media, public service is truly in the core of RTVE. You can see it in its journalists, in its vision and you in many special contents that are broadcasted only here.
But as legacy media, digital transformation and changing general dynamics in RTVE isn’t always easy. What if something inevitable, unexpected happened?
At the beginning of March 2020, the situation started to get loose and a new, strong demand for information appeared. Inside RTVE.es, the online news platform, there has been the intention to promote data journalism inside the company. There had been collaborations with other profesionales, inside and outside, to develop data journalism projects; but in order to establish a permanente data unit, a booster seemed necessary. In the chaos of the pandemic and it’s ever-growing databases, the first data journalism team at RTVE took shape.
Pandemic year number 1 was difficult for that incipient data team, whose members -all of them, already journalists at RTVE- didn’t have much prior experience in data journalism. But they managed to provide the public service that was expected from them. They followed Spanish and international sources, checked regional and local data and kept track of all major indicator, becoming a usual source for the most noble parts of the company: daily TV news bulletins.
By the end of the year, the head of the news website used that momentum to consolidate the team and strengthen it by signing an outsider data journalist. In January 2020, I arrived to what would become DatosRTVE with a purpose: to continue the venture that had started a few months earlier and to take the team to the next level.
Since then, DatosRTVE has continued serving the public with the latest information on COVID -we are even referenced as a source for Our World in Data’s covid data-, but also expanding its work to many other topics, from the climate crisis to cinema prizes, along with access to university or international commerce.
We are still lack some profiles that can help as gro as a team -designers, developers-, but we’ve learnt and keep learning new skills that have allowed us to go further and tell better stories. We’ve also found the ways to collaborate with different departments of RTVE, making ourselves a key part in different RTVE projects. And we are ready for pandemic year number 3.
Description of portfolio:
COVID has been a challenge for every media. We’ve faced challenges that in a great part had to do with covid. For instance, automating covid updates was before a challenge and is now a no-issue. That’s why I have included almost none of our varied covid trackers -Spain, world, national and international vaccine campaigns…-, but there are of course other covid articles in the portfolio.
The first example is a risk evaluation of covid celebrations. It’s is a good example of how we have been trying to answer society’s concerns regarding covid, paying attention to the current circumstances -how are vaccines changing that risk?-, using different sources -in this case, a MIT study- and with the added-value (and challenge) of working with other departments of RTVE, like the Design team, to make the story appealing.
As a public media, public service is our motto. That’s why we’ve kept doing some not-so-grateful work like keeping track of covid restrictions, region by region. After the first three months of pandemic, the joint efforts faded and each Spanish region went its own way, leaving citizens disoriented. Checking each official bulletin every day takes a lot of time from our team, but we take it as a duty and our second project link, the restrictions guide, has been one of the site’s most read pieces each day of covid waves.
In that sense, keeping track of the deaths in elder residences has been a trademark of the data unit at RTVE long before it even had a name. There was a huge crisis in Spanish residences, with politics passing the ball and no official national records. So the journalists made it their task to get that best data possible, going to each region to find the information. They did it so well that official organizations like ECDC and CSIC used it as a source. Our third project link is a tracker of the covid situation there.
The forth project in an example of how we’ve tried to shed some light to an issue in debate. Should children be vaccinated? We used data from a recent study, talked to the author and built a specific narrative.
The other five links are projects beyond covid. Some were specially challenging, like the supply chain explainer: the main idea of the headline -why aren’t there video games in the supermarket?- was only the catch for a wide story with a lot of data, expert voices and visualizations to try and simplify what is actually an extremely complex issue. Or the tracker of active fires, for which we used data from NASA to build a real-time map and data from EU’s satellite Copernicus for extra context.
We’ve continuously asked ourselves questions -we even have a series called ‘Questions for a decade’;- and we’ve analyzed many different datasets, like the regional elections that took place in May in Madrid (and the first time we used scrollytelling, a tool that we promoted inside the company) or the explosions of La Palma’s volcano. We’ve even built a tool to help future students know if they can access university studies. And we’ve experimented with other formats like video, as appears in the analysis of COP26.
Although RTVE.es doesn’t have a massive audience, many of these pieces where the most read on the website when they were published. And they were, almost always, above the average reading time, a metric that seems more and more important as the attention goes down and down.