The Cancer Town

Category: Best visualization (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: Apple Daily Taiwan branch

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 7 May 2019

Credit: Po Chun Ho, Wei Chou Chen, Liang Ju Hou, Yi Jing Wu, Ting Jen Chen, Huan Cheng Lin, Charles Wang, King Hsueh, Tiffany Keng, Wei Neng Yu

Project description:

Apple Daily journalist spent one and a half year investigating the serious pollution and health issue in Shulin New Village, a small town near Guanyin Industrial Zone in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. We found that in the last eight years, as much as 17 people have died of cancer, and nine of them were younger than 55 years old. Due to the air and water pollution, cancer has become the most common death reason, with a high percentage of 77%, so even the local people call the village “Cancer Town.”

Impact reached:

The investigative journalists visited the village multiple times to talk with the local residents and the relatives of the people who died of cancer. Many have lost their dear husbands or wives, while an old man has lost his young son, who died of kidney cancer at the age of only 52. Each story is heartbroken.

Since the feature story was published in July 2019, it has raised the public’s awareness about the environment and health issue in Taiwan. It also forced Taoyuan City government to promise to improve the air and water pollution of that area, and to start planning relocation solution for the local suffering residents.

Techniques/technologies used:

The main tools our engineer used in this feature story are Animation, 3D modelling, Three.js, Canvas, JQuery, and Json.

In order to present our investigative results and the local environment, Apple Daily journalist cooperated closely with the visual designers and the software engineers to make an interactive news site. On the site, the most important innovation is the “virtual village” we created by using the 3D modeling technique.

At the beginning, we took the photos of the local environment by flying a drone. Then our 3D image modeler started to “built up” seven residential houses, a temple, a school and a small restaurant. He carefully depicted the details of those buildings and finally recreated the village on the 3D map. After that, another software engineer designed the interactive website for us.

Thus, the village is totally replicated and visualized on the 3D modelling map. The readers can “rotate” or “zoom in” on the map to look at the village closely by using the mouse.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of this project is the performance optimization. It’s a 3D modelling map and there are several clips, so the engineer had to try her best to do the performance optimization, in order to make it run smoothly when the readers are surfing on the page.  

What can others learn from this project?

When surfing the news site, readers can see the surroundings of the whole village, and where the seven residents are living. They can also see the details of the temple and the school. If readers click the 10 icons on the map, they can read the articles and watch the videos about the residents and the places, including their life stories and longtime suffering.

Besides, when surfing the 3D map, readers can see how close between the village and the industrial zone. Readers can also see the violation and punishment records of the nearby factories. The data shows that at least 180 factories have been fined because of violating the environmental protection regulations.

Project links: