The Financial Times Visual and Data team: Ukraine war reporting
Entry type: Portfolio
Country/area: United Kingdom
Publishing organisation: The Financial Times
Organisation size: Big
The defining story of 2022, the war in Ukraine and the ripple effects of the conflict have completely upended life in Ukraine and shifted the geopolitical landscape in ways few could have imagined.
Newsrooms have adjusted accordingly, and the Financial Times Visual and Data journalism team is immensely proud of the reporting it has produced in response to Putin’s invasion.
An interdisciplinary group of journalists combining data, design, coding and reporting skills, the team has used visual and data journalism to explain the biggest storylines of the war.
Though our projects have covered a range of topics, they are united by their use of data and visuals, which play an essential role in simplifying and communicating complex issues for readers. This relentless focus on producing clear and digestible graphics and visual stories combined with rigorous data reporting and handling is one of the reasons we believe our work stands out.
First published just days after Putin’s invasion, our daily guide to the war in maps epitomises this drive to help readers’ understand the conflict. The page has evolved with the war, but it has been built on clear maps showing territorial control, troop movements and liberated territory — supplemented by analysis from our reporters on the ground.
Another standout feature is the breadth of our coverage. As the war unfolded, the second order effects of the conflict began to come to the fore. From the implications for gas and oil prices to global food security, explaining how the war is changing the world both physically and geopolitically has become a cornerstone of our coverage.
Over the past 12 months, we feel our Ukraine reporting has shown why the combination of data-driven analysis, front line reporting and visual storytelling is such a powerful blend, and the very cutting edge of quality journalism in the digital age. It has enabled us to take our work to new heights — and to delight and inform readers in the process.
The following is a selection of the projects we are most proud of from a breathless year.
Description of portfolio:
**Ukraine war in maps and charts**
A key consideration for this page was democratising production so the map could be updated without specialist knowledge. To accomplish this, components such as the underlying raster, markers and inset map were made configurable in a Google sheet, rather than code.
This meant that when Ukraine began reclaiming territory, or the focus shifted to the east, the codebase didn’t change, only the data configuration, allowing us to be nimble and responsive — and the map to be updated every day. The map was built using D3 and Flourish with daily data from the ISW.
The page was made free to read to keep everyone informed and with 4mn page views became one of our most read stories of 2022.
**Russia’s mistakes and Ukrainian resistance**
To tell the story of how Russia’s mistakes and Ukrainian resistance altered the course of Putin’s war we combined open source intelligence with mapping and analysis.
We showed where Ukraine’s forces had gained the upper hand, used video to show how, and spoke to military experts to explain why. This included geolocating the 64km Russian convoy that snaked its way to Kyiv and visualising the ranges of key weapons.
Published less than a month after the invasion had begun, we told the story atop a map of Ukraine to both situate readers and take them into the heart of the conflict. The piece was shared thousands of times on social media, and became one of our best read pieces on the war.
**How the war upended the breadbasket of Europe**
Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s agricultural industry was strategic: bombs disrupted farming; the occupation of the southern ports all but stopped distribution.
Working with John Reed, on the ground in Kyiv, we combined maps showing the damage done to Ukraine’s infrastructure and importance to global food markets with interviews with farmers whose lives had been upended. The piece “resonated in UN circles”, while readers praised the depth of visual storytelling and reporting.
**Race to replace Russian gas**
Wars have a way of revealing the interconnectedness of the world, and the EU’s reliance on Russian gas while imposing sanctions on Putin was a painful way for the bloc’s dependence on Russia to be exposed. But wars also drive change, and the EU’s plan to reduce its consumption of Russian gas by two thirds was a huge moment.
We visualised the proportion of Russian supply before analysing every step of the EU proposal. Readers were full of praise and the piece resonated beyond the FT — the director of the OECD describing the findings as a “reality check”.
**Rebuilding one street in Ukraine**
Can you fly a drone in a war zone? You can with careful planning and for the right story. With Max Seddon on the ground in Irpin, we used data, photography and videos to reveal just how scarring Russia’s invasion has been — and the enormous task reconstruction will involve.
**The 90km journey that changed the war**
Working with diplomatic correspondent Henry Foy, this was the story of Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the north-east: how they did it, why it worked, and what it means for Russia’s faltering invasion.
The orchestrated assault relied on Ukrainian guile, cunning and bravery, plus western rockets and pinpoint intelligence that weakened and outsmarted the Russian rear, and saw Kyiv capture as much territory in a week as Moscow had in months.
Maps allowed readers to follow one brigade as it sliced through Russia’s defences, capturing towns, railroads and highway junctions morning, noon and night — and turning the war in the east on its head in just four days.