Entry type: Portfolio
Publishing organisation: Newtral.es
Organisation size: Small
Newtral Data is the data visualization and analysis area of Newtral.es. We are a pioneer team in Spain working with artificial intelligence, and creating algorithms where journalists and engineers work together to design tools focused on journalism. In the team, we are journalists, engineers, programmers, and graphic designers who turn data into stories through different visual narratives, supported by graphics, illustrations, infographics, and other approaches to address current affairs. To do so, we use technology to automate some scraping and data analysis processes.
As part of the editorial staff of Newtral.es, we work in three rhythms. First, we cover current affairs through simple graphics and maps. Secondly, we look for our own topics that we can approach with different approaches. Finally, we go for in-depth specials on specific topics. The goal is to be able to have a quick response to breaking events for which visualizations and other forms of storytelling are needed, while in other cases we can go beyond current news and look for our own visual approach.
We have five years of experience, two of them with a specific unit focused on data journalism. Although all our sections have a strong vocation for data. In particular, the verification area, where data is the basis of our work for fact-checking. At Newtral we verify dozens of figures given by politicians and we try to visualize them in order to highlight falsehoods or deceptions. For example, when misrepresented graphs are used or when data are selected incompletely to highlight or criticize certain issues, such as unemployment, or when comparisons are made without the proper context or without taking into account the magnitudes being compared. This helps us to debunk myths or preconceived ideas, for example about healthcare or budgets.
The other section where data takes on a special dimension is Transparentia, where we monitor public money. As part of it, we manage the first public salary search engine in Spain, which collects information on the salaries earned by thousands of public officials. We also try to translate the big figures of public budgets and items into comparable amounts. To do this, we developed a public money calculator. For example, the latest contract for catering in the Congress of Deputies for the next 34 months amounted to 3,800,000 euros. The figure alone is important, but it occupies another place in our heads if we see that it is 2,385 times the health spending per capita in 2019 or 155 times the average annual salary of a worker in Spain in 2020.
In a cross-cutting way, we try to employ technology to automate updates and handle large data sets. For example, we train a machine learning algorithm to be able to analyze the names of about 40,000 streets and check how many of them recall a woman.
Description of portfolio:
Portfolio #NewtralData 2022
You can find the full portfolio here:
The war in Ukraine
Beyond maps and evolution on the fronts, we have focused on explaining and visualizing human aspects of the war, such as how the Kyiv metro became a shelter for the population and how protests were being suppressed. Additionally, we have attempted to visualize what weapons were being used and how attacks on key infrastructure such as nuclear power plants occurred. During the war coverage we learned how to find information from various open sources, verification tools and satellite imagery.
Data to communicate climate change
Anomalous temperatures have been part of an important part of the headlines, and at the beginning of the year, we reported that 2021 was the fifth warmest year in the world since records began. ‘Tropical nights’, those in which the temperature does not fall below 20ºC, are becoming increasingly frequent. Heat waves, with maximum temperatures, then gave way to other topics, such as drought and fires. In the latter, we try to show with maps the space that corresponds to the areas of land and forest burned, as well as what means we have to fight them, such as amphibious aircraft. We also try to portray the effects to explain that the Pyrenees are melting: 60% less snow and no glaciers in 2050. We had to learn to extract, clean, and correctly analyze large volumes of data from hundreds of weather stations in Spain.
Inflation, gasoline price, and calculators to understand the world
Inflation and the increase in the price of basic products have been one of the biggest concerns this year. We have tried to show how it affects us with simple visualizations that could convey the impact they had on the population. To do this, we chose to make visualizations of typical dishes, such as Andalusian gazpacho or breakfast, to break down the variation in the price of their components.
With an interest in public service, we have developed a map that is updated automatically to show the price of gasoline at each service station. Additionally, we explain how the price of this fuel is composed and its evolution. The concern for energy and the dependence on Russian gas by Spain and all of Europe has also been the subject of several projects. Among them, we drew the insides of a natural gas power plant to explain how the combined cycle of electricity works, how ‘district heating’ works, or how people’s uncertainty about gas was revealed on the internet by the growth of the searches of “firewood” or “heat pump” in the middle of August.
The block is closed by the tools that we have developed, such as a calculator to know the quota of self-employed and another to calculate the pension. In both, the user entered the necessary data and could calculate how the announced measures would affect them.
Summarizing the current events #in1chart
Trying to summarize current events in data and at the necessary pace is not always easy, that’s why we created the #in1chart format, in which we use data and visualization to synthesize and explain a current topic that can be summarized in one chart. With this format, we have addressed, for example, the duration of mandates in the United Kingdom, following the resignation of Lizz Truss as Prime Minister, including the resignations of ministers, how many women occupy seats in the Royal Spanish Academy of Language, or the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the age at which European monarchs were crowned following the coronation of King Charles III of England.