2022 Shortlist

Digital Story Innovations team, ABC News

Country/area: Australia

Organisation: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

The ABC’s Digital Story Innovations team is a collection of journalists, developers, a designer and social media and video specialists. The team is focussed on data-driven, visual storytelling for Australian audiences.

Since its inception in 2017, we’ve used data to investigate and visualise stories on a broad range of issues from political donations to illegal logging, to tracking Australia’s vaccine rollout and telling the story of how Australia’s battle with the disease unfolded in its first year.

The DSI team’s 2021 portfolio showcases how data-driven techniques can be used across the full spectrum of story creation — from discovery to research, analysis and presentation — to either break new terrain or deepen public understanding of familiar topics.

The portfolio demonstrates how innovative storytelling techniques – such as data-driven investigation, graphics and interactive design – can be seamlessly blended with traditional person-centred storytelling to powerful effect.

It includes ground-breaking investigations based on public data (vaccine tracker), exclusive access to tightly-held datasets (political donations), in-depth analyses of spatial datasets (Lawless loggers) as well as innovative use of publicly available datasets (coronavirus and vaccine stories).

Each project demonstrates a commitment to rigorous, meaningful and transparent use of data while being unique in concept and execution.

Description of portfolio:

Our series “Hitting the Jackpot” is the most comprehensive and detailed examination to date of the money flowing from Australia’s gambling industry into the political system.
Our project adopted a new approach to this problem, expanding on previous analyses to trace political payments from more than 370 gambling-related businesses and individuals over 22 years.

As part of our story about logging, we obtained high-resolution LiDAR digital elevation data which allowed us to investigate claims the state-run timber company VicForests was conducting widespread and systemic illegal logging in vital water catchments. Using the data, the team was able to show large areas of forest had been logged in breach of the law.

“Anatomy of our battle against COVID-19” was published on the anniversary of Australia’s first documented cases of COVID-19, uses the ABC’s national dataset of every confirmed coronavirus case to tell the story of how Australia’s battle with the disease unfolded in its first year.

“Untangling Australia’s vaccine rollout targets” traced every twist and turn in the short, confusing history of the rollout program’s first three months. To compile the timeline of targets, we combed through government media releases, press conferences videos, news stories and broadcast interviews, transcripts of questions and statements to parliament and rollout planning documents.

We paired this with data on actual vaccinations (collated by our team from multiple sources as national data was not available until five months into the rollout) to show how far the government had fallen short of its (many) promises.

“Tracking Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout” is a real-time database that visualises the state of play in Australia’s much-criticised vaccine rollout which began in early 2021. It has been expanded and updated as new data has come to hand.

“How quickly is COVID spreading in your neighbourhood?” used an automatic data feed to provide a hyperlocal perspective of the the rapid spread of Delta infections. At the time, the state government was scrambling to contain the outbreak by using tough lockdowns. These were imposed neighbourhood by neighbourhood, based on how quickly infections were spreading.

This story allowed residents to access and understand the data that was driving the government’s daily decisions and public health directives. The story text was updated every few days to highlight the latest trends in the numbers.

The article “Tracing the path of destruction in India’s Himalayas” used open-source investigative techniques to piece together what had happened in the aftermath of the landslide. We geolocated videos from social media and matched that up with the damage that could be seen from satellite data we had sourced from the commercial satellite operator Planet Labs.

In our story about the Chinese plan to dam a Himalayan river, we used Webgl technology to create a 3D model of the terrain to convey just how treacherous and complex construction of this dam would be.

Other projects in the portfolio that are similar in style include mapping New Zealand’s Alpine Fault line and customising a 3D sequence of earthquake modelling scenarios.

Project links: