2021 Shortlist

Tom Calver

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: The Times and The Sunday Times

Organisation size: Big

To whom it may concern

I’d like to submit the attached data journalism portfolio for your consideration. I am proud to have worked on dozens of agenda-setting exclusives in 2020.

I am the Senior Data journalist at The Times and The Sunday Times which I joined in January 2019, having arrived via BBC News and Which?. My job involves everything from building charts and interactives to working on front-page investigations.

My toolkit for the past year has included:

  • The R programming language and its amazing online community;
  • A passion for explaining challenging concepts and bringing them to life;
  • My eye for a story that will get people talking;
  • Extremely talented colleagues with whom I can bounce ideas off.

Thank you for considering my application,


Description of portfolio:

I hope my portfolio shows my full range of data journalism skills with a wide variety of different pieces. I’ve included some explainers, like my piece on why measuring the Covid death toll was so hard. At the time, in early April amid the novelty and confusion of the lockdown, many of the concepts that are now sadly part of the national vocabulary like excess deaths, were not widely understood. My challenge was to explain these ideas to readers in a visual way, and to show why data cannot often be taken at face value. The piece had the highest engagement of any published that week, suggesting I was successful. I’ve also included an interactive tool which I led on, came up with the idea, sourced most of the data and oversaw its production. Our “when will you get the Covid vaccine?” was one of our most-searched interactives ever, and told our readers when they might expect to get the vaccine based on their age, location, and any underlying health conditions they had. However, the part of my job that gives me the most satisfaction is being able to invoke real change through agenda-setting investigations. I worked on dozens of Covid stories, scrutinising NHS Test and Trace, exposing a tech flaw in the “world beating” app that meant it was set at the wrong sensitivity for a whole month, and producing a calculator telling readers where they are in the vaccine queue. I also produced a piece of analysis in June that sh However, I’m particularly proud of my front-page investigation into the national lottery. I revealed how children as young as 16 were able to gamble up to £350 a week on online “instant-win” games. With titles like “Treasure Temple” and “Fruity £500s”, they appeared geared towards teenagers. Although 16 year-olds have been allowed to buy lottery tickets since its inception in 1994, the lottery has changed beyond recognition. Through analysing company accounts, I showed how lottery operator Camelot’s profit grew drastically from soaring sales of scratchcards and instant-win games. These are more profitable to the operator, and also give less money to charity. I am delighted that since the story was published, the government has confirmed that it will raise the minimum playing age from 16 to 18 as part of its review of the Gambling Act. In another story I’m particularly proud of, I reported how developers were exploiting planning laws to convert empty banks, takeaways and barbers into tiny flats, prompting fears that high streets would turn into “slum housing”. Permitted development rights, which had until recently been associated with converting offices into flats, had extended to shops and takeaways. New planning reforms would have made this process even easier. Analysing energy performance certificate data which lists the floor size of every new-build home, I noticed that some of the smallest were registered on high streets. One of the tiniest, converted from an electrical store in Southampton, was barely bigger than a jail cell but had more expensive rent per square foot than an average Islington house. Its inhabitant said it felt like she was living in a “pod”. Using data from planning portals, I found dozens of approved applications to convert shops into flats, many since Britain went into lockdown. Experts suggested Covid had accelerated the residential takeover of the high street. Using floor plans, with the help of the graphics department, I brought the story to life visually One month later, the housing secretary conceded that all permitted development homes must meet the national minimum space standard of 37㎡. Thank you for considering my

Project links: