2021 Shortlist

Texas Tribune Data Visuals Team Portfolio

Country/area: United States

Organisation: The Texas Tribune, ProPublica

Organisation size: Big

Data journalism is a foundational practice and value at the Texas Tribune. A decade into our existence, data reporting was more important than ever. The coronavirus pandemic made access to accurate information a matter of public safety, and the Tribune’s data visuals team was uniquely prepared to cover the pandemic’s impacts. Our team’s 2020 portfolio shows how we leveraged our expertise in data reporting, analysis, design and presentation to make crucial information clear to Texans in acts of public service and accountability journalism.   

The Tribune’s data visuals team in 2020 consisted of an editor, Darla Cameron; three developers, Chris Essig, Carla Astudillo and Mandi Cai; an investigative data reporter, Ren Larson; and fellow Anna Novak. Our work is supported by designer Emily Albracht and the Tribune’s editors, audience team and engineers. We work seamlessly together, and we strive to maintain an environment where the collaboration required to publish our most complex and demanding journalism is possible. 

The best example of this collaboration is our coronavirus case tracker, which we take turns updating every day. The tracker is an example of what we do so well — gather complex data, distill it, and present it to readers in a way that they can understand. It’s also a daily accountability story, and the Tribune’s most viewed story of 2020. As Texas rolled back its restrictions and case totals surged multiple times, the tracker was a clear and consistent place for readers to understand how state leaders’ decisions impacted their personal safety. 

Coronavirus data was just part of our work in 2020. In the spring, after years of planning and development, we reimagined a core Tribune product — our government salaries database — in a way that is both easier for readers to use and a better tool for accountability reporting. The Tribune launched a new investigative team with ProPublica, which uncovered the story of a company that was suing thousands of low-income Latino immigrants during the pandemic and stopped after we started asking questions. We investigated why Texas’ largest cities spend more on police than anything else in their budgets. The data visuals team built tools to help Texans learn how to cast their ballots safely in a state that opted not to expand voting by mail. We also published the most comprehensive election results in the state. 

Our portfolio for the year reflects our organization’s dedication to presenting a full picture for readers, giving them the tools to be more thoughtful, productive and engaged citizens. In 2020, The Tribune’s mission was truly driven by data.  

Description of portfolio:

The Texas Tribune’s data visuals team submits the following projects in its portfolio:

  1. Texas coronavirus cases: Latest updates The team’s biggest undertaking this year is our coronavirus case tracker, which we have updated every day starting in April. The Tribune’s coronavirus tracker is distinguished by its clear design and its focus on accountability. Throughout the pandemic, Texas’ state health agency repeatedly changed the way they report the data, and our team of journalists had to respond on the fly. This was the Tribune’s most-visited story of 2020, with 2.65 million page views from 834,000 users from April through December. Users spent more than more than three minutes on the page, which is more than double the average time spent on all other Tribune stories.
  2. Coronavirus in Texas cities: See how social distancing could reduce stress on hospitals Early in the pandemic, we explored what it would take for Texas to flatten the curve.
  3. Texas unemployment rate: How coronavirus is hitting the economy The Tribune’s first economic data tracker explores Texas’ financial recovery.
  4. Government Salaries Explorer We redesigned this database to be more useful for readers and reporters, with new visualizations and data over time.
  5. Texas’ largest cities spend more on police than anything else. Activists want more of those funds spent on the social safety net instead. This analysis of the budgets of Texas’ four largest cities sets the stage for potential cuts in police funding.
  6. This loan company was founded to help Latino immigrants. It has sued thousands of low-income Latinos during the pandemic. A monthslong investigation revealed that Oportun Inc. uses lawsuits to intimidate a vulnerable population into keeping up with high-interest loan payments — even amid the pandemic.
  7. Voting in Texas during the pandemic: Everything you need to know about the 2020 general election Our voter guide allowed Texans to look up their ballot and find out how to safely vote in 2020.
  8. At least 9.7 million Texans — 57% of registered voters — voted early We tracked turnout during Texas’ extended early voting period, and the data hinted at unusually high turnout in the state.
  9. Here are the Texas 2020 election results Our election results page is designed to quickly show readers the results of the races they voted in.
  10. In Texas, Biden’s urban wins couldn’t offset Trump’s millions of votes in rural, red counties We broke Texas into political regions to explore how the balance of voting power is subtly shifting in the state.

Project links: