Sveriges Radio’s data team

Entry type: Portfolio

Country/area: Sweden

Publishing organisation: Sveriges Radio

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

The data team at Sveriges Radio launched with its first member in November 2020 (better late than never!) and today we’re a small but scrappy team of three data journalists working closely together, within the group itself but also together with other news desks and reporters.

We’re proud that in our first two years we’ve both produced investigative journalism using methods entirely new for not only Sveriges Radio but also journalism as a whole, and have developed methods for sharing our data analysis with the national news desk and, more importantly, with Sveriges Radio’s 26 local stations across the country. Although we are a new team, our work has already been nominated three times for Sweden’s most prestigious journalism awards, Stora Journalistpriset and Guldspaden.

Our team’s focus is data-driven investigations. We all have several years of experience of data journalism and over the past year we’ve uncovered personal data breaches of sensitive health information, state pension funds being invested into fossil fuel companies, and Swedish prisons isolating teens for longer than is legal.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of our work. We always try to work together with reporters on other desks, to join our data skills with their subject matter expertise, and to date we’ve worked with over 150 different reporters. For instance, we teamed up with investigative and local reporters to uncover the large number of convicted criminals continuing to commit crimes while waiting to be sent to prison. We also worked together with the business desk for a project on the billions of Swedish crowns paid out to businesses in corona support, which would have been very difficult without the business reporter’s expertise.

A key focus for our team is working together with Sveriges Radio’s local newsrooms across Sweden, sharing our data with local reporters who can use it to produce locally relevant stories with voices from those most affected. Something which has been important to us from day one was to ensure our team’s work didn’t just result in dry numbers stories. Having the opportunity to combine data analysis and local journalism in this way makes our data journalism more human, tangible, and impactful.

Description of portfolio:

[Fewer qualified teachers in poorer areas]: How does the type of area a child goes to school in affect the education they receive? To answer the question, we geocoded all 4,700 Swedish schools and mapped them to their neighbourhood’s socio-economic index. Our analysis showed that not only are schools in poorer areas far less likely to have qualified teachers than in richer areas – the gap has actually grown in recent years, in direct contradiction to the government’s election promise. The Swedish minister for schools at the time had to admit that they had failed to deliver this promise when commenting on our story. (Links 1 + 2)

[Convicted criminals continue to commit crimes – while waiting to go to prison] Our investigation revealed that nearly a fifth of people sentenced to jail time in Sweden in recent years committed another crime while waiting to be sent to prison. To uncover this we scanned 4,000 pages of documents from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, and by sharing our results we were able to coordinate a unique collaboration between Sveriges Radio’s data team, investigative reporters and local reporters around Sweden, which meant not only the national story but also many local versions of this story could be told. Politicians reacted very strongly and many Swedish parties have suggested amending current laws following our investigation. (Links 3 + 4)

[Trains almost always cheaper than planes] This investigation set out to answer the question: which is cheaper, rail or air travel? We scraped over 22,000 ticket prices to get an answer and found to our surprise that domestically, travelling by train was cheaper nine times out of ten. This turned out to be a controversial result: our story was more read and received much more audience feedback – both positive and negative! – than anything else I published last year, and led to huge reactions on social media.(Links 5+6+7)

[Your health for sale] By investigating the Meta Pixel, we revealed that the largest pharmacy in Sweden, state-owned Apoteket AB for several years shared personally identifiable data and information over the counter pharmacy purchases of approximately one million online customers with Meta. We also exposed leaks by several other actors in the health sector. When we asked Meta what happened with the data, they responded, “[O]ur systems are designed to remove potentially sensitive data”. By creating our own virtual, fake online pharmacy and a robot customer, we showed that Meta in fact: 1. received personal data, and 2. stored sensitive health information. This investiga has been nominated for Stora Journalistpriset, a prestigious journalism prize in Sweden. (Links 8+9)

Project links: