Electoral coverage presents the challenge of innovating on an event that takes place in the country every two years. At LA NACION we developed more than ten pieces with great visual and interactive power to provide a public service and guarantee a differential consumption experience for the newspaper’s audience.
At the same time, we guarantee the detailed analysis of the large volume of data (more than 24.4 million votes distributed in 379 departments, 135 districts and 15 municipalities) and its comparison with previous elections, whose data are stored in a large historical database.
The election coverage of LA NACION, especially its interactive maps, is one of the most viewed news stories of the whole year in the newspaper, with peaks of millions of views. The biggest challenge was to meet the goal of being the first mass media to publish election data with integrity and accuracy. After its publication, these developments were internally reused in numerous journalistic productions.
And in turn, due to their level of detail, visual excellence and user experience, they are used even by other media.
We received many congratulatory messages from readers and even colleagues from other media who highlighted the multimedia coverage of LA NACION, which always publishes solid, attractive and innovative pieces.
More than seven months in advance, the step-by-step development process was carefully planned in order to give a quick and effective response to the audience, but also to all the sections of the newspaper that consume our content for their stories on the election day. An interdisciplinary work team was organized with programmers, designers, data journalists and political journalists to take into account all aspects of the coverage.
To accomplish this purpose, a workflow was devised to connect the different parts of the team. The most suitable technologies were researched and used, and software development practices were applied to fit the needs of the project.
For the backend development and infrastructure, it was used: AWS Route53, AWS Elastic Load Balancing, AWS Backup, AWS CloudFront, AWS EC2, AWS S3, AWS Lambda, AWS Cloud Watch, AWS RDS (PostgreSQL), AWS SNS, Fastly, Akamai, Jenkins, API Integrations, Docker, Python 3x, Django, SQL.
At the same time, a contingency plan was designed for any eventuality with the use of Linux Virtual Hosts, database servers and the system installed in the offices of La Nación (on-premise).
What was the hardest part of this project?
Electoral coverage poses several challenges. One of them is technical: between elections, the government does not usually maintain the same data structure and often modifies or even deletes some key fields such as IDs. This presents a challenge when it comes to match data and put together historical comparisons between elections.
At the same time, many times the disaggregation of the information is insufficient. However, at LA NACION we always seek to go one step further. For that reason, for example, we decided to map with several programming techniques and also manually more than 16,000 voting stations across the country to know the result school by school and voting table by table. We even added the original pdf file of the vote count so that the reader may compare the “digital” and the “analog” result.
Another challenge, as regards project management, was to join planning and electoral work, which involves many areas of the newspaper ‒including programmers, designers, data journalists and journalists specialized in politics‒, 100% remote.
What can others learn from this project?
The best learning from this project is the use of technology to innovate, to stand out with respect to competition in journalistic productions and to try to improve ourselves year after year.
Also, the importance of interdisciplinary work between programmers, designers and data and political journalists to have all perspectives of the coverage and develop innovative ideas.
Furthermore, we believe that in projects of this size it is fundamental to carefully make a plan in stages, to research and use the most convenient technologies and implement software development practices that fit the project needs. At the same time, the evaluation of alternatives to possible contingencies that may arise on the same day of the election when receiving the data.
Finally, we believe that it is important to have a journalistic ambition and instinct to identify current trends that may become news articles and also not to be satisfied with the existing data and always try to find new alternatives to offer a different product to our audience.