Violence Monitor: two years later

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

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: G1

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 22/09/2019

Credit: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q6xFK-8ySE_glnZhsXq8qeaEfDPh00bcUPy5F0isKdA/edit?usp=sharing

Project description:

This project is an unprecedented partnership among G1, the Center for the Study of Violence at University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Forum of Public Security. It focus on discussing violence in the country. To make it possible, G1 staff reporters all over Brazil kept track of violent deaths through the course of one week. There were 1,195 deaths in this period. All these stories have been cleared and written by more than 230 journalists spread throughout Brazil. Two years later, the same team joined to figure out how was the investigation of each crime.

The text: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1geBolBLwqd-zeTOgLzOqEUBeRgoiiKwD998N6hbZnmg/edit?usp=sharing

Impact reached:

The Violence Monitor marks the first time that a collective effort organized by a media outlet managed to record in detail and in an organized way all violent deaths occurred in a specific and substantial period of time (one week). This is especially due to the high number of cases (1.195). More than data, the project shows stories.

A task force was set up in the SP office to manage and coordinate 55 different teams in all the states of Brazil. There were more than 230 journalists involved. A database was assembled from scratch, containing information such as the victims’ name, age, race, and gender. Also, the day, time, weapon used, and the exact location of the crime, among others.

The project demanded careful work on people management and data debugging. However, more important than the computer techniques applied was the work by this team to handle and manage information. The map, unprecedented and exclusive, became a reference.

Two years later, the same team managed to show the homicides clarification rate in all states, something never done before. And the stories were all updated.

The work had repercussions in various fields. In the media it was replicated by TVs, newspapers and news websites; it reached politics, as it was mentioned in a session in the Senate and in sessions held by State Legislative Assemblies; the impact on academia came in the form of studies and papers. The project also pressured the government to act and received important national and international awards.

Techniques/technologies used:

The map is based on html, CSS and javascript. All the content was placed, during the project, on a Google spreadsheet and transferred, then, to Carto – the data was collected through an API.

What was the hardest part of this project?

During these two years, the data were collected by more than 230 reporters from Brazil, who obtained the information on the spot, through coroner’s offices, morgues, victims’ families and other sources.

To show how the investigation of each crime in 2019 was, the journalists had to find out with the police, prosecutors and justice all the details. It took months.

The information was then passed on to a team in São Paulo formed by editors from all areas (education, science, economics, data …) prepared to put them on a spreadsheet and organize them properly.

All standardization was made so that a map could be put together, with specific filters to each category. The data were then analyzed and validated by teams specialized in public security issues (formed by researchers from USP and members of the Brazilian Forum of Public Security).

After the verification, the data was used to build the map and to update all the texts.

It was a thorough work, never done before in that scale in the world.

Here is the transcription of the text: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1geBolBLwqd-zeTOgLzOqEUBeRgoiiKwD998N6hbZnmg/edit?usp=sharing

What can others learn from this project?

Violence Monitor is a living project: texts are updated as new information is discovered. And audacious: the idea is to shed light on the serious security problem and help reduce the number of violent deaths in the country.

After two years, it is already possible to see the impact that the dissemination effort had on brazilian public opinion and on the rulers. The issue of violence became the subject of a national debate.

The partnership with the academy also gave the project subsidies to make it statically verifiable and allowed analysis of the material to point out ways to combat the death epidemic.

Partnerships like this can and should be done by other media outlets. Mobilization involving a large number of journalists can also be carried out.

Violence Monitor is an example of a long-term project that does not leave stories behind, a project that pressures and forces public policies to be created.

Project links: