The year of the virus

Country/area: Finland

Organisation: Helsingin Sanomat

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 06/03/2021

Credit: Anni Pasanen, Rio Gandara, Antti Hämäläinen, Konstantin Neugodov, Lauri Malkavaara, Juho Salminen


Anni Pasanen, text

Rio Gandara, pictures

Antti Hämäläinen, graphics

Konstantin Neugodov, layout

Lauri Malkavaara, text editing

Juho Salminen, production

Project description:

A story about the first year with corona virus. The story has two levels. It tells the story of Hanna Nohynek who is a leading vaccination official in Finland. What was her year like? The story also uses different visuals to illustrate new covid cases in Finland during the year.

Impact reached:

This is story that combines long form feature journalism and data visualization. The story was published one year after covid shut down most of the world. It offers a well narrated look back to what happened during this exceptional year.

Text does this by telling how a major Finnish vaccination expert herself got sick and what she learned about the virus during the year.

The graphics show how the pandemic has gone on and off like a wave during the year. In the graphs there are small news events to show what has caused the cases to increase and what has happened because of that.

Techniques/technologies used:

The main graph shows daily infection data from each healthcare district in Finland. Making of the graph started as a desperate attempt to show familiar data in a new way. Inspiration was drawn from a bee swarm chart in order to not focus on the actual number of infection cases, but to visually represent the “epidemic bursts” in different areas at different times in a more qualitative way.

The graph was done with NodeJS-script using a D3.js force-simulation in order to show each infection case as a separate circle and at the same time trying to position the circle on the appropriate day in the timeline. The result was automatically exported as a static svg and, once happy with the simulation parameters and output, edited by hand in Illustrator and split to parts for the web (in print version the graph is several pages long). All the other graphs were also done with D3.js.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Once the idea for the story was clear for the team the hardest part was to find a way to visualize the data in a way that both suites the long form text, has a fresh feel and works technically.

What can others learn from this project?

Combining data journalism and feature journalism about the experiences of one person can create something different.

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