Risky christmas 2021

Country/area: Germany

Organisation: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 17/12/2021

Credit: Christina Berndt, Julia Kraus, Sören Müller-Hansen and Benedict Witzenberger, also involved were Hanno Charisius, Christian Helten and Dominik Wierl


Süddeutsche Zeitung’s award-winning Data Team was established in 2018 to focus on data-driven reporting across all topics, with close links to the Investigations team (known for the Panama Papers, among other stories). Although it is a standalone unit of the newsroom, the team always works very closely with specialist editors from the other departments, graphic designers and developers, combining their expertise and skills with their own to achieve the best result for readers. As the team sees it, data journalism is first and foremost journalism – its goal is to tell stories, explain complex issues, expose injustice and corruption. The team is committed to constantly learning, experimenting with new tools, sources and storytelling formats, and providing the best possible experience for Süddeutsche Zeitung readers – online and in print. Exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge and learning from each other are important pillars of the philosophy. Towards their readers, they try to be as transparent as possible – publishing detailed descriptions of their methodology, source code and raw data wherever possible.

Project description:

At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, many people get together with their loved ones despite high infection rates. How great is the risk that the virus will also join in the celebrations? The Data Team of the Süddeutsche Zeitung calculated the probabilities on the basis of current case numbers and vaccination rates using graphically presented examples and provided suggestions on how to make one’ s own festivities as safe as possible.

Impact reached:

The project was released just before Christmas, when a new lockdown was looming and everyone was wondering how many people they could or should celebrate the holidays with. It was very well received by readers.

Techniques/technologies used:

For the graphics, SZ used the Datawrapper tool and custom-built infographics blended with its in-house Storytelling CMS. The data cleansing and calculations were done by the Data Team in R.

What was the hardest part of this project?

This project picks people up in their everyday lives and shows them in simple graphics how risky their own holiday plans are and what they can do to reduce the risk of infection.

What can others learn from this project?

The project is a wonderful example of the graphical presentation of probability calculations as a service piece.

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