Venetia Menzies, The Times & Sunday Times

Entry type: Portfolio

Country/area: United Kingdom

Publishing organisation: The Times & Sunday Times

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

As an economist by training, I always keep in mind the micro and macro perspective. Upon graduation, I wanted to investigate and report on socioeconomic issues, not just from behind a desk looking at the data, but on the ground, fielding human stories and capturing images that would transport the audience and platform the voices of those impacted. This led me to pursue photojournalism, and I worked freelance as a photographer and journalist before securing a job at The Times and Sunday Times. Data journalism and visual storytelling has allowed me to marry both the micro and macro perspectives. Deep dives into the data can examine the scale of an issue, and the voices of case studies, photographs, infographics and video can engage a reader and bring to life the individuals involved. This is the motivation behind my work, and after over a year on the data and digital storytelling team, I hope that the projects submitted herein show variety and a desire to bring both the big and small picture to the reader in an engaging manner.

Description of portfolio:

1 – This piece, produced solely by myself, explored the global state of gay rights. I was motivated to provide a global context on the issue following coverage pinned to the World Cup in Qatar. News organisations are inherently bad at reporting on long-term issues such as gay rights which ‘lack novelty’ and do not ‘have a news line’. I was keen to seize the opportunity provided by the World Cup to explore the issue in depth and delve into the data, platforming those who are domestic activists fighting for change abroad.
2 – In a year of political turmoil, it wasn’t often that I was able to do a deep dive into the data on a light topic. In this article which I also produced independently, I examined the impact of cultural influences on what parents choose to name their children. Famous characters such as Frozen’s Elsa provided inspiration, whereas others are shirking names such as Alexa.
3 – Combining data, photography and writing is what I am most proud of within this article, which was produced with my colleague Ali Mitib and reviewed by social affairs editor James Beal. The disparity in life expectancy between neighbouring areas is most acute in Glasgow, where in some areas men are expected to live to only 68. With exclusive access to data, the piece marries in depth interviews with photography to highlight a longstanding inequity that is worsening.
4 – Following the Queen’s death, there was a considerable number of stories that examined the Queen’s life. But what about our lives and that of our society? How were they transformed under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Working with my colleague on the data team Anna Lombardi, we reviewed the key ways in which our country changed during her reign.
5 to 8 – In the months where our country saw two monarchs and three prime ministers, the news agenda was all consuming. These pieces, which I led with the support of my colleagues, aimed to explain to the audience the process of electing a new leader, the policies they were pledging, and how they differed to one another. The quiz, which started with all of the candidates and was whittled down to the remaining two, was the most engaged and viewed project that I completed last year and allowed readers to put aside their presumptions and find out which candidate aligned with their views.
9 – I led the geolocation and visual storytelling aspects of this project. Eminent journalist Anthony Loyd was investigating what happened to John Cantlie, a British journalist who was kidnapped by IS and used for propaganda videos. Loyd wanted to return to his last known locations in Iraq, and so I geolocated over twenty sites that he was seen at within propaganda films so that Loyd could return on the ground and investigate. This culminated in a podcast series and documentary of the investigation, and for the digital piece I worked with our developer to make a scrolly map that walked you through Cantlie’s last known movements.
10 -We aimed to walk the reader through what happened during the siege of Mariupol, placing them at the location and recreating the destruction of the theatre by bringing together satellite maps, photography from the ground, drone video footage and case studies from those in the city. To identify the exact locations of key areas, photographs and bomb drops, we used general OSINT techniques to match the exact coordinates. I was in charge of the storyboarding of the scrolly, geolocation, sourcing of video and imagery, and research and case study sourcing for the story itself.

Project links: