South-east Asia’s meth menace – one man’s struggle

Category: Best visualization (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Singapore Press Holdings – The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 12 Jan 2019

Credit: Alyssa Mungcal, Bessa Nicoletta, Muhammad Azim Azman, Rodolfo Pazos, Tampus Charles Singson, Tan Tam Mei, Trinity Tan and Zaihan Mohamed Yusof.

Project description:

The drugs feature, which zooms in on the meth problem plaguing the region and Asia’s cannabis conundrum, is a good example of solid investigative reporting made even more compelling with strong visuals, videos and interactive elements.

There are two parts to it: The first part zooms in on meth, which has trumped heroin as the drug of concern in Singapore since 2015. The second part examines Asia’s cannabis conundrum over legalising medical cannabis. The second part is behind paywall. We can provide a login for viewing and will email it too. 

Impact reached:

It immediately was one of our most viewed pages for the year. It presents a different side of Singapore’s fight against drugs by telling the story of Tim, who has been through a prison rehabilitation centre twice. He was able to share his story of recovery and how truly difficult it is for someone who is an addict which helped provide a realness to the piece as opposed to just showing how meth was becoming a problem based on numbers alone.

Techniques/technologies used:

For data analysis, using R and Google sheets. For the final project, we use our usual combination of Javascript frameworks like D3.js and Vue.js to construct the page. Adobe Illustrator for the images and illustrations.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Interviewing Tim. He was unsure about how his story would be used and through a careful relationship built with the main reporter, Zaihan, and planning for the interview (we needed different shots & styling for the video and for the interactive), we had to shoot this in one go and quickly so as not to spook him.

What can others learn from this project?

A data-story should first be a human story. Whenever you have huge numbers that are talking about people, our goal for 2020 is to continue to search for the humanity, the emotions, in order to build a real connection with our audience.

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