Wunden des Krieges / Marks of War

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Germany

Publishing organisation: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-04-22

Language: German

Authors: Karoline Meta Beisel, Nicolas Freund, Markus Hametner, Wolfgang Jaschensky, Jonas Jetzig, Johannes Korsche, Sarah Unterhitzenberger


Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Data Team is a standalone unit of the newsroom established in 2018, with a focus on data-driven reporting across all topics. The team works closely with specialist editors, graphic designers, and developers to achieve the bestresult for readers. The team’s goal is to tell stories, explain complex issues, and expose injustice and corruption. They are committed to constantly learning, experimenting with new tools, sources, and storytelling formats. They strive to be transparent with their methodology, source code and raw data. In this story, they collaborated with the politics, infographics and visual desks.

Project description:

This story shows how widespread besieged Mariupol in Ukraine was destroyed in Russia’s offensive, especially focusing on civilian areas. It uses both photographs and Masae Analytics’ satellite data analysis to convey the extent of the damage in the following chapters: Mir Street (Peace Boulevard), a shopping centre, the factory and a residential area. It also shows the city before the war and the reality and aftermath of military battles in cities. Experts’ voices on the trials of the civilian population and the strategy of combat in cities help readers gain insights on the “why” of the destruction.

Impact reached:

The project was one of the most-read stories in its publication week by multiple metrics and gained favorable feedback from readers. It also led to positive internal feedback and to conversations on how to best use satellite data in the future.

Techniques/technologies used:

Aside from trying to analyze satellite pictures on our own but falling back on Masae’s high-quality data when it became available, we used Qgis to process destruction data to combined it with OpenStreetMap data to ensure damage data was only displayed within the boundaries of buildings. We used recent Planet Labs satellite data to show detailed areal views of the damage and combined all assets in Süddeutsche Zeitung’s internal Storytelling system, which enables the kind of visual storytelling we felt the piece needed.

Context about the project:

Mariupol had been in the news regularly since soon after Russia’s attack in late February, the fight for the city lasted until more than three weeks after the publication of the piece.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

This project serves as an example for a fruitful collaboration of journalists from very different teams reaching better results than each team alone could achieve on their own.

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