Economy do (not) move without people – Economia (não) mexe com ruas vazias

Country/area: Portugal

Organisation: ComUM

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 19 Jun 2020

Credit: Cátia Barros

Project description:

The report “Economia (não) mexe de ruas vazias” was made by three students in their final months of the degree during the lockdown. The project wanted to explore the impact of Covid-19 on the Portuguese economy. In the report, we interviewed small business owners and tried to see how the restrictions imposed by the government affected them. We also analyzed the public data and data provided by organizations and compared it to other years (after Covid-19) and produced a mini newsapp to estimate how much income a restaurant would not cash in during Portuguse’s quarantine. 

Impact reached:

Portugal was one of the countries that were getting out of the last economic recession. The job market started to open and young people were excited, but then a pandemic started. Our country had several restrictions in the first lockdown so we tried to explain how much impact everything would have on the Portuguese economy.

The report tells the story of six small business in different areas: catering, local tourism, advertising, door seller, hairdresser and beautician.  All of them had to change their lives during the pandemic. During the project, we see the positive and the negative impact on their business. People who read it could see how much a restaurant was suffering and how a door seller made of the pandemic their best friend through social media.The report was made for everyone – even though there were specialist terms, we clarified what they meant and mainly used simple language

This report was all made from home (because of the pandemic), so it also proved to the world of journalism (and students) how we can innovate by using inphografics, charts and interactive apps in media. The work was one of the finalists in the Portuguese’s Awards of Cyber journalism in the student category. 

Techniques/technologies used:

The project was designed by me, a journalism student, using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  I used the bootstrap library. The videos were edited in Adobe Premiere, excluding the video “diferentes tipos de empresas” that was made through Aftereffects. Our static inphogafries were made in Illustrator. 

Our charts were all interactive, so people could adapt what they see. For the charts I used chart.js. People could choose the data and download the one that we used. We also had an interactive chronology using Timeline JS.

The mini news app was the most challenging part of our work. The base code was part of a maths problem about cookies and how many calories one person had eaten. With that code, I added more variables and customized the function to suit our work and theme. This part was essential in the project  – first of all, it helped illustrate the story of a family who had a restaurant and, with the lockdown, was having trouble paying bills. Second of all, any reader could estimate how much a restaurant had lost during this pandemic.

What was the hardest part of this project?

This was an academic project, developed during the last semester it started in January and it was supposed to end in May, but in March our country had a very strict lockdown-students couldn’t leave their home so we had to change our topic. It was challenging to adapt to the circumstances and remake our previous work.

We didn’t have any course unit that taught us how to code or how to analyze data, everything was developed without additional support from professors and colleagues  During the process, the website that was used in the previous years shut down, so we didn’t have any customized website that was suitable, therefore I started developing everything that you can see on our page. 

The most challenging difficulty was using Javascript because it was very difficult no learn in such a short time. In the end, by using open code, everything was made on time. 

As we were in lockdown, I tried to replace the photojournalism part of the project with the charts and the news app – this kept readers captivated and interested, as they could personalize the data,  in reading such a long project.

What can others learn from this project?

Lockdown was a very strange time for journalists, especially regarding big projects. In this report, you can see how you can add more details to your story by using an interactive news app. It is a project made without any money and any experienced coder. It shows how interactive journalism has many paths to investigate, even for journalism students. 

The main lesson people can take from this project is that With code that already existed, a lot of things can be done, I hope this project made my teachers reflect on how much anyone who worked with online journalism could take advantage of knowing the basics of coding. Perhaps this will help change how journalism is taught in Portugal, so the newsrooms can change with a new generation.

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