The Dundee drug death crisis

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: The Courier

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 19/07/2019

Credit: Lesley-Anne Kelly and Paul Malik

Project description:

The Courier is a regional newspaper based in Dundee and Dundee is in the grips of a drugs death crisis – at various points in the last few years Dundee has had the highest drug death rate in Europe, and arguably the world. We created several data driven stories as a result of the yearly drug death publication from the National Records of Scotland, as well as to coincide with a Drugs Deaths Commission that was set up in Dundee to tackle the crisis. The first story provided is the article created the morning the statistics were released, which has

Impact reached:

With the first story we aimed to provide an in depth analysis of the statistics as they were released. The impact was raising the profile of the crisis and educating readers as to the magnitude of it.

With the second story – we talked about how to show people the path that many drug users in our city go down. We do so much reporting on the crisis that we wanted to do something a bit different – so we used Twine to create a “choose your own adventure” interactive story. We received lots of feedback that whilst it was grim, it had the desired effect of helping people to understand the various issues and everything that comes into play with individuals at the forefront of the crisis.

Techniques/technologies used:

For the initial report I used a mixture of Excel and R, and visualisations were down in Flourish.

For the second report we used very not technical post it notes to storyboard, and it was built in Twine. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

It’s such an emotive subject and we were very aware of the sensitivities around it. Once we had a prototype together we went through the story with an organiser of a local rehab program, to check for accuracy and tone and made tweaks from there.

The paths in the story are based on years of reporting (particularly in court and seeing the snap choices and decisions that led to the outcome) and every end point (and many in between) are backed up with local data and statistics.

What can others learn from this project?

Thinking outside the box in how we present important stories so that they dont just get lost.

Project links: