And the nominees are… Berliner Morgenpost

With the data-application The 149 members of the 17th Berlin Parliament the Berliner Morgenpost got itself a nomination for a Data Journalism Award. An interview with Morgenpost journalist Julius Troger: ‘The application allows to discover the data in a dynamic and playful manner.’

Since about five years I’ve been working as a full-time editor for the online departments of different German newspapers. In 2011 I published three data journalism projects. I blog about my experiences and the digital change in newsrooms on (German).

Presenting your nominated production in an elevator pitch, what would you say?
1.487.487 Berliners elected 149 members of the Berlin Parliament in September 2011. We decided to visualize the composition of the new Parliament and every elected politician based on demographic and political data in an interactive graphic. We didn’t want to visualize just the seats for each party – but the people.

With this application, Berliner Morgenpost’s users can gather information about each MP, his position and function in Berlin’s regional parliament, the relation in terms of political power between the parties and the political process.

What inspired you to make this app?
Before the interactive about the Parliament we visualized every single vote of the Berlin elections of 2011 on an interactive map – after that we wanted to show who had been elected and what these politicians were doing, beyond the figures. Therefore we wanted to create a visualization that is totally unique.

I was mainly inspired by the work of the Guardian US interactive team and the projects of the Texas Tribune.

Did you work by yourself or in a team?
I worked together with my colleague André Pätzold. The both of us are full time editors with basic programming knowledge. Two students helped us gathering and refining the data. No programmers or designers were involved.

How did you get a hold on the data you needed?
The application is based on freely available data from the state election supervisor and the Parliament, enriched with own research.

Which tools were used making this production?
The app was implemented using HTML, Javascript (jQuery, jQueryUI), CSS, Google Fusion Tables API and Google Chart Tools. The app is based on free web technology so that it works on basically every device available. Besides Excel we used Data Wrangler to refine the data.

How did it take to make the app?
The application was developed by two editors as part of their daily work – all in all about 20 fulltime days. Since publishing the application it is being updated constantly (new MPs, new data, new political developments etc.)

Were there any bumps in the road?
The interactive was built by two journalists who have basic client side scripting skills. So we had to read a lot of API documentations, look at other examples and consult boards.

The data was not consistent. We spent a lot of time on classifying and simplifying information.

Also there is a lack of an API or machine readable open data in the Berlin parliament Therefore, we had to wrangle data and struggle with formats like PDF. But we are constantly working towards the Government to sensitize them for a need for open data.

Do you have a useful tip for starting data journalists?
Just experiment. Dont’ care about missing skills. If you have the idea – there is a way to do a data project – and a community of journalists and developers who will help you. Try something new. There is so much open web techniques you can use to create something unique.

‘And the nominees are…’ is a serie of interviews with the journalists behind the entries at the Data Journalism Awards Shortlist. The Data Journalism Awards (DJA) competition is the first international contest recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide. The Data Journalism Awards were organised by the Global Editors Network, in collaboration with the European Journalism Centre and supported by Google. (All interviews in this serie were conducted through e-mail.)