Intensive Spain: this is how the countryside has changed by force of the CAP and the market

Country/area: Spain

Organisation: DATADISTA

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 30/10/2021

Credit: Ana Tudela, Antonio Delgado

Biography: Ana Tudela is co-founder of Datadista. Investigative economic journalist specialized in new narrative with 20 years of experience. She is the author of Crisis S.A. (Akal, 2014) and co-author of Playa Burbuja (Datadista, 2018), research on the consequences of the real estate bubble on the Mediterranean peninsular coast. Lecture in different masters of investigative journalism, data and innovation.

Antonio Delgado is co-founder of Datadista. Data Journalist specialized in interactive visualization and editorial innovation. He is co-author of Playa Burbuja (Datadista, 2018). Lecture in different masters of investigative journalism, data and innovation.

Project description:

The field in Spain has changed and is calling into question the economic, social and environmental objectives of the European Common Agricultural Policy.

Spain is the first producer and exporter of olive oil in the world. We discover the damage that, after three decades since it was discovered, has already occurred in a mass of groundwater that saved one of the largest olive-growing regions.

We reveal that the large pork companies, despite billing hundreds of millions and having high returns, receving million-dollar subsidies. We visualize for the first time on maps the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of pig macro-farms.

Impact reached:

The report was published in DATADISTA and simultaneously, thanks to a broadcast agreement, in Eldiario.es. This journalistic investigation had a diffusion in single visitors of more than 200,000 visits and has been cited in different national, regional and specialized media as one of the most in-depth investigations on agriculture and intensive livestock farming in Spain.

It has also been widely disseminated on social networks (such as Twitter) where we have created different threads for dissemination with thousands of hits.

As a result of an interview in The Guardian with the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs at the beginning of 2022 where he criticized the Spanish model of macro-farms, our work has once again become viral, since different political parties and associations have spread hoaxes and disinformation about the reality of the agriculture and intensive farming in Spain.

Techniques/technologies used:

This report uses the possibilities of multimedia narration in the form of scrollytelling to weave maps, text, videos, infographics and make the story more understandable from all angles. The videos intersperse field images with powerful drone images that show the magnitude of the phenomenon of the types of intensive crops and macro farms.

We have used webscraping techniques to extract information from official pages and bulletins. We have automated information extraction processes with Python and crossed information through public databases in Spain. For ETL processes we have used Open Refine. We have created a database with all the individual aid received by Spanish individuals and companies from the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the last 5 years with almost 10 million records. We have performed complex searches using Fuzzy SQL in order to find relevant information in this data.

We have also crossed this information with the reports and annual accounts of the main companies investigated. For the video and audio recording on the ground, we have used a drone to be able to show the changes and cultivation techniques of olive groves and pigs in Spain as well as their impact on the territory. We have accessed unpublished documentation obtained in the course of the investigation and that we have verified and supported by the testimonies of the farmers and experts themselves.

We have developing our own design of the web page for the presentation of information through a responsive long-form that follows a scrollytelling-style narrative with text, images, videos, infographics, animated videos and interactive graphics and maps.

We have published 19 videos with interviews with main actors and experts with a total duration of 45 minutes as a web documentary. Each of the videos have two versions for desktop and mobile.

What was the hardest part of this project?

DATADISTA is a very small media outlet where its two founders work full time. We have dedicated 9 months of work during 2021 to carry out this journalistic investigation supported by documents, data extracted from different sources and recordings on the ground with drone images. We have conducted interviews in different regions in Spain: Seville, Granada, Jaén, Cádiz and Cuenca. We have made more than half a dozen trips and racked up thousands of miles. The complete work is carried out by the two people on the team: documentation, production, journalistic investigation, data analysis, web development, programming, video animations, audiovisual recordings, use of drones, webscraping, narrative, script, interviews, camera, sound, mounting, editing, etc.

We have been exposed to complicated situations and stress when we have recorded and investigated macro-farm installations in Spain due to the resistance of their promoters to film their installations in public places.

We consider that the main merit of the work is to have focused on a problem that does not admit further delay from an environmental, economic or sociological point of view.

What can others learn from this project?

Doing a classic journalistic investigation in 2022 is only part of the job. Such a complex subject with so many nuances and technical documentation requires time and resources to find the best way to tell the story. We have relied on all the techniques, methodologies and multimedia supports necessary to not lose the readers’ attention. We think that there are no hard journalistic stories but a lousy narrative that loses the reader. A great investigation is useless if the readers are not able to follow and understand the story you are telling. For example, we play with the wow factor by scrolling through the web page.

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