The political climate

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

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: Tortoise

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 27/11/2019

Credit: Giles Whittell, Chris Newell

Project description:

How have the UK political parties responded to the increasing urgency of the climate crisis in their manifestos? This was the question that Giles Whittell sought to answer in ‘The political climate’, written for Tortoise during the UK election in 2019. Together with designer, Chris Newell, he showed exactly how often environmental issues were mentioned in each of the main parties’ manifestos, from where it got first mentioned to where (and if) it got a full treatment. The article also compared parties on their climate commitments, from spending to power storage and the number of trees they would plant.

Impact reached:

The piece – and screenshots of the graphics – were widely shared on Twitter and featured in the J++ Stockholm newsletter. 

Techniques/technologies used:

Google spreadsheets for research and analysis. JavaScript, D3 and Flourish for data visualization.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Finding ways to compare like with like on subjects where each party cherry-picks from the data to seem more concerned than they really are. For example money earmarked for climate mitigation could be specifically for carbon reductions or part of a massive reorganisation of the economy. 

What can others learn from this project?

Sometimes the best data-driven reporting is the simplest and even better if it can take readers straight to the original source. This piece – among others – inspired us at Tortoise to start a new series called ‘Primary sources’, where we take a systematic look at a primary source that’s making the news. Since looking at party manifestos in ‘The political climate’, we have covered the collected work of Dominic Cummings (https://members.tortoisemedia.com/2020/01/24/200124-primary-sources-dominic-cummings/content.html) and the meaning of ‘Sussexit’ (https://members.tortoisemedia.com/2020/01/10/harry-and-meghan-annotated/content.html).

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