Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive has often been criticised as being out of touch with ordinary Hongkongers, even before taking office. Many in the community rebuked her for a lack of empathy during the anti-government protests and the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Some commentators suggested there was more to read into her sartorial choices than her briefings. We used data to trace her public appearances and speeches and checked photographic evidence to explore whether there was any truth to these allegations.
Lam’s apparent reluctance to appear in public during the social unrest led many in the community to question her ability to handle the protests and outbreak of the coronavirus. By showing how often Lam actually met with the public we were able to offer insights and clues about how she was handling the mass demonstrations and looming pandemic. The story aroused heated discussion and proved to be an evergreen sensation with readers commenting on and sharing it online, as well as messaging the graphics team directly on Facebook, Twitter and email.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest and most time-consuming part of this project was collecting and processing the data. Initially we hoped to scrape Lam’s press conferences and speeches using Python but the government system is not uniformly formatted so we could not extract consistent information. Instead, we manually searched official government announcements and briefings using keywords. We then plotted the connections and timelines using google sheets.
What can others learn from this project?
We believe this project showcases how visual journalists can compile their own data from trusted sources and use interactive graphics to make numbers warmer and less abstract. This is not only a visually compelling way to present data but is also a way to offer insights and explore connections between events. In this case we used an innovative combination of illustration, graphs, charts and video to tell a data-rich story.