LA NACION, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2019

La Nación was founded in 1870 by former President Bartolomé Mitre. It is the most prestigious national newspaper in Argentina, well known for its quality journalism, investigative reporting and editorial integrity. It’s Brand has expanded and today it has the website with the mobile and social media versions, the Tv news channel, and several magazines including Hola!, and Argentine Rolling Stone.

LA NACION August 13, 2017

In 1995 we launched our website and became the first massive online newspaper in Argentina. Since then, the main premise of lanacion.com is to maintain journalistic excellence while taking advantage of new technologies as an indispensable tool for innovation.

lanacion.com has 32,500,000 unique browsers per month and this year became the first online media in Argentina to achieve 200,000 paid subscribers. We are part of the Group of Newspapers of America (11 main newspapers in Latin America Consortium) and we are known for being the most innovative digital media of Latin America and the most awarded as well. 

This year was special because our Driver’s Notebooks investigation, won the The International Prize King of Spain (Rey de España), and the National Investigative Journalism Prize of the Argentinean Journalism Forum (FOPEA). Also, this year we won the World’s Best Designed Newspaper award of the Society for News Design (SND) and our data unit, LA NACION DATA was finalist in 3 categories of the GEN Data Journalism Awards.

LA NACION’s Tv set 

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING:Investigative journalism is the core of our newsroom. We work with editors and journalists of each section who are interested in public transparency and willing to innovate with new tools and storytelling techniques. We specialize in deep digging and research, following breadcrumbs which lead to rigorous and powerful stories.

A recent example of this is the The Driver’s Notebooks of Corruption investigation. This investigation formally began on January 8, 2018, when Diego Cabot, an investigative journalist from La Nación was given eight notebooks that exposed Argentina´s greatest corruption scandal ever. We built a structured dataset from this handwritten notebooks,  we transcribed all the information into an Excel database and began analyzing each one of the records. Then, we verified and checked the information by crossing it with other multiple sources such as official and company records, corporate information, public works contracts. This verification process was used to carry out a strict process of standardization and structuring of data in which currency and descriptions were unified and names and addresses were standardized.

So far, 73 individuals have been prosecuted in this case (40 have been imprisoned and several continue and another 90 businessmen are waiting for prosecution), including a former President, the entire office of the Ministry of Planning and the main public works contractors of the country. About 40 persons repented and confessed their crimes. US$ 600 million were seized.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION: CLICK HERE

DATA JOURNALISM AND OPEN DATA FOR CHANGE: We also have a special unit destined for this job called LA NACION DATA who was chosen the Best Data Journalism Team Portfolio in the GEN Data Journalism Awards 2019 and became finalist in two other categories: data visualization of the year and investigation of the year. The team promotes Open Data Journalism for change, in order to better serve our audiences using data to discover and tell stories. They encourage the use of open data and access to information in Argentina as evidence to keep governments accountable, enhance transparency and allow citizen’s collaboration in the process of journalism.

Much of their work and effort is invested in building datasets from scratch, cleaning, structuring and normalizing to make them accessible for our newsroom and our users in Argentina. But their objective is also to produce long-term investigations that encompass a multiplicity of topics of interest with the intention of producing a political and social impact.

They work by projects and in multi-skilled teams to provide data as service in the daily reporting and to build innovative tools and data platforms for open collaboration. They even partner with NGO’s to promote civil participation in the process of journalism and because they never get tired of learning something new, they love sharing knowledge through hackathons and hosting multiple events.


An example of this is the open Statement of Assets (Affidavits) website of the main officers of government. Every year LA NACION DATA access hundreds of affidavits through FOIA requests. The problem is that most of the data is handwritten on a sheet of paper, so they organized hackathons in alliance with NGOs: Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ and Directorio Legislativo to upload all the information into an open source administrator we created for such purpose.

These are meetings held for several days in the newsroom where students and volunteers participate to build this dataset together. In total, there are already more than 4,000 published affidavits typed in our unique web site, that are constantly reused to investigate cases of corruption or to provide information on each new Government officer. This data is presented in open formats as well.

Furthermore, keeping the team and our newsroom updated, we are now focused in learning how data science can help society and journalism for good, As this happens LA NACION DATA supports and co-organized the Global Women in Data Science (WIDS) Conference in Buenos Aires 2018 and 2019. In this event journalists, data scientists, engineers and programmers meet in order to promote the inclusion of women as speakers in Data Science in different areas, industries and services in Argentina in order to inspire more women in STEM and in technology.

READ MORE ABOUT LA NACION DATA: CLICK HERE

PUBLIC SERVICE: We produce journalism that makes a difference and motivates the audience to act and improve a community’s welfare and quality of life. We are devoted to highlight stories that raise awareness among political leaders and civil society. We want to achieve a better future for all and we understand that it is our responsibility to act and be involved in the global challenges we face: poverty, inequality, climate, justice, prosperity, and peace and justice.

We even have a special unit called Fundación La Nación that produces community service journalism and actions to raise society’s awareness of different social problems, providing new perspectives, knowledge and approaches to them. They even make visible and work together with different causes and initiatives promoted by social organizations, companies and Government that are destined to achieve a more just and inclusive society.

A recent example of our work is our Hambre de Futuro (“Hungry for the Future”) project which explores childhood poverty in the most vulnerable locations in Argentina.We hoped that the project would raise awareness among political leaders and civil society and put the structural problem of childhood poverty on local agendas. Our mission was to promote the protection of children’s rights by spreading their voice to help them meet their basic needs and secure their survival, protection and development

VISUAL DIGITAL STORYTELLING: We make innovative efforts in telling stories through original, creative and interactive visualizations and graphics. The idea is to create unique and quality storytelling products that clearly convey the story’s topic or event. We give special attention in bringing stories and data to life so we even created “format meetings” with one delegate of each section, developers and data team members.

An example of this is our FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 coverage. The objective was to inform and engage the audience in two different stages. The first stage consisted of a series of playful and social visualizations prior to the beginning of the World Cup. The articles were strategically conceived according to the schedule prior to the event: selection of the 23 players that were going to travel to Russia, the 11 players that were going to play on the first match,  a draw simulator of the different possible groups in which each country soccer team could be selected and their possible opposing team, and a result forecast for the people to play with and bet.

Instead, the second stage was focused on the real time results and matches: a fixture with the times, teams and matches, a calculator for the audience to estimate results and evaluate the possibility of passing to the next round, a game that allows the audience to score the players after each match, a live statistics visualisations of the amount of shoots and passes between players and their positions on the field throughout the game, the possibility to vote for the best goal of the world cup and a monitor of the speed and the distance runned by each player.

READ MORE ABOUT THE WORLD CUP COVERAGE: CLICK HERE

Another example of visual digital storytelling is the piece we created a year after the disappearance of the submarine ARA San Juan. To commemorate the first anniversary of the tragedy of the ARA San Juan Submarine, a scrollytelling was made to present all the details and data about the sinking of the submarine. It was one of the most tragic events of the past few years as it involved the death of 44 crewmen that were on board. The purpose was to develop a visual piece with new data from the year-long official investigation to shed light on some of the uncertainties and controversies of the case.

It included data from official naval reports, videos of the crewmen families-specially produced and created for the occasion-, audios of the official naval announcements, 3D animations of the submarine made with two programs called Carrara and Blender, and satellite geolocated data of the search operations collected with Marine Traffic vessel platform.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SUBMARINE: CLICK HERE AND HERE

AUTOMATED DATA-DRIVEN CONTENTThe project was born in the context of 2017 elections. With the purpose of creating news articles automatically from datasets using different templates, we put into practice the automated technology which allowed us to cover the real-time election results in the 530 districts of the Argentine territory. 

We knew that the technology developed for the occasion could mean an opportunity to help the newsroom in its usual work process. Specially, in repetitive news that are data driven and that could be supported with series and graphs. So, we began to produce daily and weekly articles, automated through a systematic collection of data from different sources and topics.

Three examples

All the automatically generated articles are accompanied with infographics, images and interactive visualizations that are created from the automatic loading of data in Google Spreadsheets.

The first subjects covered by this project were thought in terms of the interest of the Argentine citizens: dollar, inflation and Argentine football. Three central subjects in the everyday life of our country.

The importance of this project is that we found a way to work in teams with our editors that understood how technology and data can help them better serve audiences and reach larger audiences thanks to a broader coverage. We developed an in-house automatization platform customized to each data source and worked with our graphics area to have the data visualizations ready.

Work that was repetitive and tedious became, thanks to this process and technology, a successful and efficient task that preserves the touch of quality journalism. The choice of topics helped change the newsroom culture since several traditional journalists are experiencing the benefits of technology and data to support their stories.

READ MORE ABOUT OUR AUTOMATED CONTENT PROJECTS: CLICK HERE

USER EXPERIENCE: We pay special attention in user interface and interactive innovation and how each helped our users. We think that special content should be presented in creative and useable applications and platforms. 

A perfect example of this is LA NACION´s SHOPPING CART: monitoring 2600 supermarkets and 170 product prices.

In March 2018, Argentina was one of the five countries with highest inflation according to the International Monetary Fund. The index climbed up to 47.6% anually according to official numbers. The jump of the exchange rate, higher than 100% also had an impact on the rise of prices on the supermarkets every week. Given the country’s inflationary context, there are several sources of information about price variation, but these end-user reports are abstract numbers that do not reflect their daily reality and do not represent the real impact on their economy.


To understand how supermarket product prices evolve independently of the official measurements monthly informed, and to bring this measurement closer to the daily economy of the audience, we created “Changuito LA NACION“  (LA NACION Shopping Cart), a price monitor that allows a weekly and monthly monitoring of goods product by product such as noodles, soft drinks and liquors and toothpaste, among others. Its name refers to the colloquial way of naming the shopping cart.

El Changuito presents a group of 170 food, beverage, cleaning and toiletry products from leading brands that are marketed nationally in 2,561 points of sale and are representative of household consumption in Argentina. Each one of the goods has a “premium” option and a “standard”option, differentiated by price.

To make interaction easier, we created four pre-set baskets, based on our official statistics methodology. They are: for people living alone, for couples, for a four-member family, and for retired persons. Thus, if the user selects this option, he/she can access a pre-set basket of food, toiletries and cleaning items that are similar to the consumption of the type of household chosen. In addition, you may modify: add or remove products and decrease and increase quantities. Each of them has its nominal price (total price) and its variation (on a weekly and on monthly basis).

The user also has the option of assembling a “changuito a medida” (taylor-made shopping cart), that is to say, to make a virtual tour among the monitored products to personalize his/her own basket. To enable an individual tracking, each reader registered on the Web or through the mobile app of LA NACION may save his/her own selection.

In addition, by clicking on each product, the user may see its current price and the weekly and monthly price variation with a linear graph.

READ MORE ABOUT LA NACION’s SHOPPING CART: CLICK HERE

TECHNICAL INNOVATION IN THE SERVICE OF DIGITAL JOURNALISM: We build digitals tools and platforms from open source code to achieve a sustainable industry. We learn from the works and tools of international media and take advantage of the knowledge we gain to improve existing tools and adapt them to our needs and style.

For example, we built an entire platform with Autotune, a product of VOX MEDIA that concentrates different tools that journalist can use to generate visualizations without having to write a single code line. We offer different templates such as: data tables, timelines, zoom for images, before and after sliders, fade in/out, 360° images, trivias and phrases tool.

Other examples involve for example NPR Books open source code. A platform that was made for book reviews we transformed it into two new products: a museum catalogue and a holiday calculator.

Furthermore, we also used VOX MEDIA Meme Generator that was available in open source to make our own LA NACION MEME MAKER for our social media team to easily produce Memes and Phrases.

SOCIAL MEDIA: We have 3,76mm fans on Facebook and a daily reach of 3,3mm. On Twitter we gained 3,17 mm followers and recently we launched a new way of telling stories and breaking news on Instagram where we have 714K followers. We are constantly trying to find different and new ideas to have a powerful presence on social media. We understand that the content is the most important asset we have and social media is an opportunity to attract and engage with new users.

We adapt our digital storytelling to innovative ways of attracting the attention and engaging new young audiences. An example of this is an interview with María Kodama, widow of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. We decided to create a short video to tell the story of a conversation between Mick Jagger and Borges to share it on social media:

We create this type of video every week to promote a specific article that is usually published on sundays. Here is another example:

Brand expansion: La Nación also introduced in september 2016, its own paid TV channel called LN+. A network designed for a digital audience that broadcasts directly from La Nacion’s newsroom. It delivers cable and on-demand programming, focused on analysis and news. It offers more than 20 shows and its objective is to expand the reach of the digital newspaper quality content. This is why we even created our own Youtube channel where we adapt all the TV content to a more dynamic and entertaining format.

THIRD PARTY RECOGNITION AND AWARDS: 

Our website won the Editor and Publisher EPPY Awards five years in a row (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and also received in 2010, 2011, 2013 the Online Journalism Award for General Excellence in Online Journalism, Non-English, Large Site. Also, last year lanacion.com was named the best news website of Latin America by WAN-Ifra Digital Media Awards. On 2018 we also received the OJA award last year for Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, and the Data Journalism Award for Best use of data in breaking news story. These are just some of the overall prizes we received in the past few years.

READ MORE ABOUT OUR AWARDS: CLICK HERE

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3D reconstruction: ARA San Juan in the Atlantic Ocean

3D RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ARA SAN JUAN

CONTEXT

A missing Argentine naval submarine was found, a year and a day after it vanished in the South Atlantic ocean with 44 crew members on board. The wreckage of the ARA San Juan, which “suffered an implosion,” was found about 870 meters (2,850 feet) down on the ocean floor.

The Argentine navy had called off its rescue operation about two weeks after the sub’s disappearance, saying there was “no chance of survival” for its crew, but search efforts continued.

The navy said early Saturday that a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible deployed by Ocean Infinity, a US firm commissioned by the Argentine government that began searching on September 7. On Sunday, Argentina’s navy released the first images of the sub on the seafloor under 2,975 feet of water nearly 400 miles east of the city of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

HOW THE 3D RECONSTRUCTION WAS DONE

On Tuesday, November 20, 2018, three days after the discovery of the remains of ARA San Juan, we received the first of the messages that would allow the reconstruction of the scene. The process took almost six months of teamwork. Interviews were conducted with a dozen people, including family members, experts and sources with access to images that were closed to the public.

The first draft of the 3D reconstruction began with an audio recorded by a relative of one of the 44 crew members of the Ara San Juan at the Mar del Plata Base on the morning of November 17 last year. The relatives were shown three photos that proved the finding of the sunken submarine 907 meters deep.

That first reconstruction was shared with people who were still sailing on their way to South Africa, in the Seabed Constructor, the ship with which Ocean Infinity did the search. Those who saw it were surprised by the reconstruction, because they still did not have a complete picture of the submarine and the rubble that surrounded it. Because of the darkness in that depth of the sea, they had only been able to see photos and videos of different parts of the submarine. Not a complete image.

That image would only be available in December, when the mosaic was made, a kind of puzzle, based on the 67,000 photos taken by autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) during the early hours of November 17.

Technical problems in the opening of some of those images delivered to the Court led to delays in the presentation to the relatives, experts and the bicameral commission of the Congress that follows the inquiries about the sinking of the submarine.

Last April 23 was the day when, finally, more than 140 family members could see the mosaic and almost five hours of video showing the ARA San Juan at the bottom of the Argentine Sea. With the reconstruction drafts and pencil in hand, we met infographers, journalists and staff from other areas of the newspaper, who saw the images that allowed us to reach the result presented in this interactive infographic.

Technologies used:

The render was made with Carrara 3D Software and the animation was achieved with JavaScript by using a sequence of images.

 

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Hungry for the future: journalism that makes a difference

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos or INDEC), 41.4% of Argentinian children and adolescents currently live in poverty. Alarmed by this measure, Fundación La Nación launched its Hambre de Futuro (“Hungry for the Future”) project.

This project explores childhood poverty in Argentina, highlighting stories of different families from the most vulnerable locations in the country. We hoped that the project would raise awareness among political leaders and civil society and put the structural problem of childhood poverty on local agendas. Our mission was to promote the protection of children’s rights by spreading their voice to help them meet their basic needs and secure their survival, protection and development.

Isabel González from Santiago del Estero, plays on the dirt floor with her plastic animals

Hungry for the future is not just about reporting on the issue of poverty in Argentina, but also to promote a type of journalism that makes a difference and motivates the audience to act and provide positive solution models that inspire new generations. 

The Miranda family lives in El Hoyo, a place completely abandoned and isolated.

THE DATA BEHIND THE STORIES

There can be no great stories without great questions. So we asked ourselves: where are the most vulnerable areas in Argentina? To answer this question, we worked with a data set from the the Observatory of Social Debt of the UCA (Catholic University of Argentina). Our data was representative of an incredible 3,542 locations throughout the country, each with its own number of households and dimensions. We knew that the sheer volume of data would inevitably lead us to insights, but we needed to transform it and find the most important story for our reader.

The first decision we made was to select the data we were going to work with. From the original dataset, we focused our analysis on only the 100 most vulnerable cities in each geographical region of Argentina. We determined which cities are the most vulnerable by consulting their average factorial vulnerability index. We also narrowed our analysis to include three main variables: Population, Housing, and Quality of Life.

Alexander Castillo has only 1 year old and his cheeks are burned by the sun. His mother, Elina explains she has no money to buy him sunscreen SPF.

We found that our main indicator — the vulnerability index score — varied if we looked at the map by geographical region, province, or locality. We therefore found it necessary to show three maps at the same time in order to facilitate a comprehensive look at the problem. Because we wanted to help our audience explore the data, we assembled an interactive visualization that could be customized and rapidly reused. But we also wanted to ensure that our audience didn’t lose the context while they interacted with the visualisation, so we kept the region and district views static.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BRINGING DATA TO LIFE

Each data point marked in the map of Hambre de Futuro is reflective of a person’s experience of poverty. We therefore felt it was important to match the data with real-world stories, so as to emphasize and give the people behind the numbers a voice. We wanted to produce a compelling coverage to motivate the audience to act and change the people’s quality of life.

Equipped with insights from our database and visualization, the journalistic team was able to prioritize their travel plans according to the most vulnerable places. We used varied digital and mobile techniques and resources to tell the story: interactive reports, text, photos and videos that focused on the children. We even produced a 5 chapter documentary (one video for each of the five regions). This formats allowed the poor children from all over the country to share their experiences.

Isabel Ojeda’s home in La Peligrosa, Chaco, Argentina. The walls are made of adobe and the roof was created out of sheets and nylon.

UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund) provided assistance, enabling us to help with grassroots public policy proposals. Through Toyota’s “Start Your Impossible” initiative, we received vans to reach some of Argentina’s most inaccessible places. We also had the support of our strategic partner Banco Hipotecario and other other companies who provided the necessary funds to cover the costs.

Thanks to Hunger for Future different children could tell, in first person, what their day to day was like, what they dream of and what do they want to become when they grow up. And most importantly, they could show and explain what where their most urgent needs.

A little girl with her doll eats her meal in the social service institution from Manga Bajada

A journalistic team from LA NACION visited the five most vulnerable regions and discovered dozens of malnourished children living in misery. For example:

In Bermejo, San Juan, Bruno Marin Bustos cannot go to school when it rains because the streets are flooded.

 Hernán Cumino and his sister from Manuel Choique, in Río Negro, do not have gas in their house, and the wood is not enough to get warm in winter. 

Camila who lives in a house with no clean water, gas, bathroom or electricity.

A family of 18 members who live in paraje Los Tigres between bugs and dirt in a house made of plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, and cardboard boxes.

Angie who wants to be a teacher when she grows up but can’t go to school due to the distance.

Nasael  who had his first warm shower at the age of 7

These are just some of the stories that were published during five months on all LA NACION platforms, from TV to digital and paper publications.

IMPACT


Throughout the notes published since July 30, we presented the problems faced by children and families in the poorest communities of the Patagonian, northwest and Pampean regions in Argentina.

Angie lives in a rural area, 20km away from Laguna Blanca

The response of the audience was immediate. After the publication of the articles we experienced an “online solidarity” phenomenon. With the help of LA NACION’s audience we could raise more than 1 million pesos to help the children and their communities. People provided beds and bicycles and some even volunteer to install the antennas and solar panels and built water cisterns.

In the case of the story we told about little Nasa, a 7 years old from Río Negro who had his first hot shower this year, in just three days, we obtained $ 70,000 to build him a bathroom. 68 people decided to get involved and make a contribution. One person was so moved that he even made an extraordinary donation of $50,000. Others offered to sponsor Nasa in their studies because they wanted to be part of their future.

In Patagonia, we also told the story of Angie Cheuquellán from the Laguna Blanca area. She is a little girl who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, but she has difficulty getting to school because of distance problems: she lives 20 kilometers away from school and the roads are impossible. Many people were moved by her reality and donated school supplies to the school and helped her family with the building of a house in the village.

Another case was about Camila Romero, she lives in the middle of the mountain, in one of the most vulnerable areas of Santiago del Estero, the province with the greatest child poverty in the country. She is 13 years old and her dream is to become a veterinarian. The impact of the precarious situation of the Piruaj Bajo community was extraordinary and the audience extended their help to other neighbor families in need, in addition to the Romeros.

In a week, $ 50,000 were collected for Camila’s bathroom. “The repercussions were impressive, I am asking for help with the calls because I cannot keep up,” explains Camila’s Jesuit brother Rodrigo Castells, who works in the church of San José de Boquerón. And he adds: “There are many people willing and eager to collaborate”.

A married couple from Argentina living in Australia even gathered a group of argentine friends to provide solutions for the communities communication and bought radio antennas. David, an Argentine who lives in Puerto Rico, also gathered his argentinian friends to improve the living conditions of the families living in Santiago del Estero. We even received money from people living in United States of America.

Milagros Montenegro received a special wheelchair

Also there were some persons who volunteer to donate their time and knowledge. This is the case of a doctor who volunteer to go once a month to deliver medical attention and provide medicines. Another engineer offered his knowledge to plan the extraction of groundwater from wells. Others wanted to collaborate with the construction of cisterns.

Thanks to the program SedCero, the NGO Asociación Civil Pequeños Productores de La Candelaria, learned how to build cisterns made of mud and cement.

Furthermore, people also bought wheelchairs, one for Camila’s great-grandmother, who is 90 years old and cannot walk, and another special one donated by the NGO Cilsa for MIlagros Montenegro, a girl with disability from the neighborhood.

Camila’s grand-mother received a wheelchair

The children even travelled to Buenos Aires and visited our newspaper. They even had the opportunity to talk about their necessities and dreams on our national TV show, LN+. NGO’s also provided a tour to get to know the city and gave them the chance to visit their favorite football team stadium.

 

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Open Data Journalism for Change

LA NACION Data was launched as an open data journalism initiative. Its strategy is to create impact and change in Argentina through the use and promotion of open data journalism. Our main focus is to develop and facilitate data platforms based in public information and open data to serve in investigative journalism as well as in daily reporting and automated content.

Every day we update our data series indicators that are linked to visualizations that we embed in the articles of the day. All of this interactive infographics have a download button for the user to reuse the information or simply to give access to the historical database in an open format. and source. We have aproximately more than 200 databases that we frequently update and open to the public.

In a difficult context in Argentina, we are coherent and consistent with enhancing openness and transparency. Since we launched in 2011, we base our success not only in products, but in helping our community use and demand more open data as well.

A classic example of this is our project Open Statements of Assets which was launched in 2013 and updated every year because its a tool that helps us and the citizens detect cases of corruption regarding public spending and companies owned by official’s relatives or friends. Its a collaboration project that produces open data from hand-written copies of Statements of Assets (Affidavits) that were requested using our FOIA law. We constantly request the information to the three powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each year we organize hackathons in alliance with NGOs: Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ and Directorio Legislativo to upload all the information into an open source administrator we created for such purpose.

We are heavy users of Open Data and access to public information (FOIA) in Argentina, in order to help citizen participation and open government because we believe this improves the quality of democracy. The first step to make datasets famous is to become open data USERS. And if there is no open data, we become PRODUCERS and transform closed formats to open data. We have to find and convert public information, so we file FOIA requests, we use more than 10 OCR engines combined with processes that automatize the feed from closed PDFs to a database adding rows in a database per month or daily, and we even type manually information from handwritten data files.

One new example in 2018 of this is The Driver’s Notebooks of Corruption. This investigation formally began on January 8, 2018, when Diego Cabot, an investigative journalist from La Nación was given eight notebooks that exposed Argentina´s greatest corruption scandal ever. We built a structured dataset from this handwritten notebooks,  we transcribed all the information into an Excel database and began analyzing each one of the records. Then, we verified and checked the information by crossing it with other multiple sources such as official gazettes and company records and public contracts. This verification process was used to carry out a strict process of standardization and structuring of data in which currency and descriptions were unified and names and addresses were standardized.


So far, 73 individuals have been prosecuted in this case (40 have been imprisoned and several continue and another 90 businessmen are waiting for prosecution), including a former President, the entire office of the Ministry of Planning and the main public contractors of the country. About 40 that were inprisoned already confessed their crimes and US$ 600 million were already seized.

Also, we are very proud of being a media initiative producing and evangelising about open data to key players of the knowledge ecosystem (Governments, Universities, NGOS, Academia, multilateral organizations, citizenship). We spread knowledge about the importance of building together structured machine readable data from reliable sources in which every player can benefit as User and Producer of new information combining datasets. We are active participants of the national, latin american and international open data community conferences, meetups and, EVEN, Whatsapp and Telegram Groups. In our blog, site and social networks we publish and promote open data projects from Argentina and worldwide as well as open government portals launched

 

A member of our team at Open Data Day


A recent example is a legislative training we delivered in alliance with an NGO called Nuevas Generaciones about the importance of creating an open legislative power. We travelled to four provinces: Salta, Mendoza, Corrientes and Córdoba and spoked with the province legislators about our experience as data users and producers with the province legislators to motivate them an generate a possitive change in the local governments.

A member of our team in the legislative power of Cordoba province

The vision we have is that each set of data that is digitalized and published means that more knowledge is released. Although it is true that we use data as input for journalism, our work goes far beyond including statistics in news articles.

 

A member of our team at the house of the City of Buenos Aires Government

An example of this is our project At What Price? (A que precio). Together with Chequeado, a Fact checker unit, and Acij, a transparency NGO, we researched, compiled and opened all public contracts and data from medicine purchase processes of the State. It is an observatory of health-related purchases depending on the National Government and the City of Buenos Aires. Particularly, HIV medicines, contraceptives and vaccines.

We developed a scraper to get all the documents from multiple State portals, contrast them with the data obtained through requests for access to information, structure the base and carry out an in-depth analysis. This led to two exclusive findings we published: a) only 25% of the investment for drug purchases corresponds to public tenders; b) the Government reduced the delivery of contraceptives.


Another example is the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires investigation were we manually monitored all purchases, contracts and infrastructure of the event from open data portals and a FOIA request from the City of Buenos Aires. After analyzing this contracts we were able to reconstruct the total cost of the event that exceeded 8 billion pesos and explain specifically the purposes for such an expense. Until then, the government had repeatedly refused to inform this figure and did not have the systematized information open to citizens.

In search of innovation in data collection, analysis and presentation this year, in August, we began to develop and  produce automated content from scratch and in house. In other words, 1,300 automatic articles are monthly created on several topics like: sports, prices and inflation, currency exchange rates and more. The idea is to save work and make in-depth content creation more efficient to journalists and better serve with more topics on time based on data-to text stories, for our readers.

For example, as regards the monetary exchange rate, an automatic extraction of real-time data is made concerning the value of the Dollar and the Euro informed on Central Bank website and the subsequent publication of articles with more than 1000 combinations of journalistic articles. All these articles are accompanied by a visualization that is also updated through an automatic process.

Finally, keeping our team and newsroom updated, we are now focused in learning how data science can help society and journalism for good, As this happens we support or co-organized the Global Women in Data Science (WIDS) Conference in Buenos Aires 2018 and 2019. In this event journalists, data scientists, engineers and programmers meet in order to promote the inclusion of women as speakers in Data Science in different areas, industries and services in Argentina in order to inspire more women in STEM and in technology.

 

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La Nacion Data’s team portfolio from Buenos Aires, Argentina 2019

La Nación Data is the data journalism unit from LA NACION in Argentina. We do Open Data Journalism for change, in order to better serve our audiences using data to discover and tell stories. We promote the use of open data and access to information in Argentina as evidence to keep governments accountable, enhance transparency and allow citizen´s collaboration in the process of journalism.

Much of our work and effort is invested in building datasets from scratch, cleaning, structuring and normalizing to make them accessible for our newsroom and our users in Argentina. But our objective is also to produce long-term investigations that encompass a multiplicity of topics of interest with the intention of producing a political and social impact. Here is a selection of this year´s work and strategy:

1.  The Driver’s Notebooks of Corruption. This investigation formally began on January 8, 2018, when Diego Cabot, an investigative journalist from La Nación was given eight notebooks that exposed Argentina´s greatest corruption scandal ever. We built a structured dataset from this handwritten notebooks,  we transcribed all the information into an Excel database and began analyzing each one of the records. Then, we verified and checked the information by crossing it with other multiple sources such as official and company records, corporate information, public works contracts. This verification process was used to carry out a strict process of standardization and structuring of data in which currency and descriptions were unified and names and addresses were standardized.

So far, 73 individuals have been prosecuted in this case (40 have been imprisoned and several continue and another 90 businessmen are waiting for prosecution), including a former President, the entire office of the Ministry of Planning and the main public works contractors of the country. About 40 persons repented and confessed their crimes. US$ 600 million were seized.

 

2. 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires investigation we manually monitor all purchases, contracts and infrastructure of the event. After analyzing the historical budget, the electronic purchase portal and requesting twice an access to public information, we were able to reconstruct the total cost of the event that exceeds 8 billion pesos and explain specifically the purposes for such an expense. Until then, the government had repeatedly refused to inform this figure and did not have the systematized information open to citizens.

 

All processed information and original sources are made available to the public for download and reuse.

3. Project At What Price?. Together with Chequeado, a Fact checker unit, and Acij, a transparency NGO, we researched, compiled and opened all public contracts and data from drug purchase processes in State. It is an observatory of health-related purchases depending on the National Government and the City of Buenos Aires. Particularly, HIV medicines, contraceptives and vaccines.

We developed a scraper to get all the documents from multiple State portals, contrast them with the data obtained through requests for access to information, depurate them and accurately structure the base and carry out an in-depth analysis. This led to two unpublished investigations: a) only 25% of the investment for drug purchases corresponds to public tenders; b) the Government reduced the delivery of contraceptives.

 


 

4. Congresoscopio : legislative transparency 2010-2019.  To promote government accountability and use data as part of citizen control and surveillance we monitor the use of public resources and institutions.

A clear example is the Congresoscopio application that we use every time a new bill is voted in Congress and where we download the forms from the official sites of the Senate and House of Representatives. Through an OCR process, we convert them to Excel format and upload them then to our admin. It is a platform developed in house where the citizens access all the legislation considered in Congress from 2010 to the present and delve into how each legislator voted. In addition, it allows the user to see how many bills each legislator submitted and the number of absences. Obviously, legislation is made available to the user.

 

On the other hand, we believe that all citizens should participate by activating the demand for public information as a democratic principle and human right. That is why we are dedicated to teach civil society and build community. We strengthen our relationship with NGOs and universities through hackathons, meetups and workshops.

5. Argentina’s Senate rejected the bill to legalize abortionCitizens followed the presentations of Senators as closely as if they were watching a suspense movie, to be on the spot was very important. La Nación reused code to build a visualization that could follow that rhythm of the vote; it was important to know the final result of the vote and the vote of each one of the Senators on real time as well. The first interactive shows the faces of those persons representing us at the Senate, some of them are unknown for the audience in general. Moreover, the interactive adds the possibility of crossing variables to understand whether his/her age, religious belief, politic orientation or university background were related to their vote.

The second interactive, published early in the morning the day after, followed the same logic as the first one, but this time it analyzed and compared the votes between both House of Representatives and the Senate (257 Representatives/72 Senators), trying to find a pattern that answered the questions that many of us asked ourselves: did senior legislators vote against the bill and the younger ones, in favor?; do the Catholic ones supported the 2 lives? Are lawyers against it? You can find the answers in the visualization

6. Open Collaboration with NGOs and Universities: the Open Statements of Assets

An example of this is the open Statement of Assets (Affidavits) website of the main officers of government. Every year we access hundreds of affidavits through FOIA requests. The problem is that most of the data is handwritten on a sheet of paper, so we organized hackathons in alliance with NGOs: Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ and Directorio Legislativo to upload all the information into an open source administrator we created for such purpose.

 

These are meetings held for several days where students and volunteers participate to build this dataset together. In total, there are already more than 4,000 published affidavits typed in our unique web site,  that are constantly reused to investigate cases of corruption or to provide information on each new Government officer. This data is presented in open formats as well.

 


7. Data Science and Journalism: keeping our team and newsroom updated, we are now focused in learning how data science can help society and journalism for good, As this happens we support or co-organized the Global Women in Data Science (WIDS) Conference in Buenos Aires 2018 and 2019. In this event journalists, data scientists, engineers and programmers meet in order to promote the inclusion of women as speakers in Data Science in different areas, industries and services in Argentina in oder to inspire more women in STEM and in technology.

 

8. Open Data and Open Government:  we actively participate in movements of open information and act as users of open data from open governmens, we share learnings and give talks in several universities: Universidad Austral, Universidad Católica Argentina, Universidad Don Torcuato Di Tella, Universidad de La Matanza, Universidad de Lomas de Zamora, and others in Latin America as well.

 

Open Data Day

Every year, we are speakers at Argentina Abierta (Open Argentina) , a federal meeting on openness and innovation to design better public services. It is attended by public officers, entrepreneurs, civil society organizations, students and journalists willing to share achievements and experiences throughout the country and beyond to continue promoting a more open and collaborative world.

Team member at La Sabana University in Bogotá Colombia

At the same time, we were media partners of the 5th International Open Data Conference (IODC) in the City of Buenos Aires. It is a meeting aimed at developing transversal thoughts on openness, transparency and citizen participation. Our team was moderator of the panel on journalism and open data and organized a media conference at the editorial office of LA NACIÓN.

 


9. Automated content, from scratch in LA NACION: in search of innovation in data collection, analysis and presentation this year, in August, we began to develop and  produce automated content from scratch and in house. In other words, 1,300 automatic articles are monthly created on several topics like: sports, prices and inflation, currency exchange rates and more. The idea is to save work and make in-depth content creation more efficient to journalists and better serve with more topics on time based on data-to text stories, for our readers.

 

For example, as regards the monetary exchange rate, an automatic extraction of real-time data is made concerning the value of the Dollar and the Euro informed on Central Bank website and the subsequent publication of articles with more than 1000 combinations of journalistic articles. All these articles are accompanied by a visualization that is also updated through an automatic process.

10. Playing with data: regarding the innovative and creative presentation of data, the aim of all our interactive pieces is to challenge the user to understand, interact and explore the topic to be covered.

 

A clear example is the coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia where a series of visualizations focused on the real time of the event were planned. More than 12 large productions were created related to penalties in the knockout round, a balance of the first round, live statistics, an interactive key to beat the knockout round, players’ scores, fixtures and many more. All of them were created for direct interaction with the user: draw simulator, select your players, make your World Cup forecast.

 

11. Data visualization in news stories:  the first anniversary of the disappearance of the Ara San Juan Submarine. A year of uncertainty had passed since contact with the 44 crew members was lost. Data was collected from the last messages sent by the crew members to their families and the last reports sent by ARA SAN JUAN were presented.

In addition, the route was visualized, and a 3D render was made to graph the ventilation system through which the water that damaged the batteries entered and that ended the lives of all the crew members. At the same time, special emphasis was placed on real time searching and tracking with the use of tools such as marinetraffic.com from which all the stories with data were told and all the rescue ships followed and simulated in our graphs.

Another year learning new tools, producing data journalism and enjoying every challenge with our data team.

TEAM MEMBERS:

Momi Peralta Ramos: Data Journalism Project Manager and Multimedia Development Manager

Ricardo Brom: Data engineer for investigative reporting – Data intelligence unit

Florencia Coelho: Research and training in digital media trends

Gabriela Bouret: Data analyst and data miner

Romina Colman: Data journalist and freedom of information specialist

Bianca Pallaro: Data journalist and data producer

Gabriela Miño: Librarian and Archivist

Florencia Rodríguez Altube: Data journalist and data producer

Nicolás Bases: Back and front end developer

Cristian Bertelegni: Back and front-end developer

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Driver’s notebooks exposed Argentina’s greatest corruption scandal ever: ten years and millions of cash bribes in bags

INVESTIGATION

ALL THE ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN LA NACION ABOUT THE SUBJECT

This investigation was published on august 2018 after 7 months of secrecy. So far, 73 individuals have been prosecuted including a former President, 40 have been imprisoned, other 40 already confessed their crimes and are waiting for oral judging and US$ 600 million had been seized.

More than 200 newspapers from the all over the world covered the news that broke in LA NACION, globally known as “The notebooks of bribes” (“Los cuadernos de las coimas”).

On january 2018, Diego Cabot, an investigative journalist from La Nación, was contacted by one of his sources. At the meeting, he was given eight notebooks that have been written by the driver of Roberto Baratta, the Secretary of Energy, an officer of the former Federal Planning Agency that included Energy, Transportation and Infrastructure. The Minister in charge was Julio De Vido, one of the most important officers during the 12 years of the Kirchner administration (from 2003 to 2015).

The notebooks contained a detailed record of each one of the routes the driver made for 10 years, taking Roberto Baratta and other officers to collect money in bags of cash representing bribes of several large companies of Argentina that have been awarded with public contracts.

From the beginning of the investigation, Diego Cabot, who has been a pioneer in data journalism since 2011, and a small team who accompanied him in the whole process, made two fundamental decisions. First, given the number of state officers and important businessmen involved, they decided not to publish anything until they could prove and verify most of the facts, No person, except for the team members and LA NACION´s Managing editor, knew anything about the investigation that was being carried out.

 

Second key decision: build a dataset from this handwritten notebooks. The 8 notebooks were transcribed to an Excel database. The team began working on each one of the records with all the objective elements that could be verified. The following columns were listed:

- Names and positions

- Adresses and destination of the routes

- Data from car plates

- Name of companies

- Places for the delivery

- Personal information of the individuals identified at the moment a bribe was paid.

- Amount of each one of the bribes

During the checking and verification process they consulted:

- Official gazette datasets and company records

- A large number of addresses using google maps

- The corporate information of the companies involved was gathered

- The amounts paid were compared to the Government accounting details

- The payment of bribes were cross checked with the information related to tenders and public contracts and the percentage of execution of each one to verify any relation to the amounts of money from bribes.

After checking and knowing that the whole matter was true, the team understood that they were working with the biggest corruption scheme ever revealed in Argentina. 

The content of this corruption scheme was formalized in a document and in March 2018, the journalist began a formal negotiation with a Federal Prosecutor (Carlos Stornelli). On April 10, a formal complaint was filed before justice.

There was a commitment between the Prosecutor’s office, the federal court and LA NACION: nobody could know anything about the cause and silence had to be absolute. “If the investigation was leaked, it would have been very dangerous and risky,” said the Prosecutor of the case some months later.

On the early morning of August 1st, seven months after Diego Cabot received the evidence, the case became known to the public and the Justice ordered 17 arrests and 36 search warrants.

 

The title of the case file had the name of the former President of the Nation: “Fernandez Cristina Elizabet and others for illicit association” (9608/2018). The Judge considered that the data provided proved the existence of a criminal organization made up of public officers who, using official means (including automobiles, employees, cell phone equipment, etc.) and commanded by the heads of the National Executive Branch (Néstor Carlos Kirchner and Cristina Elisabet Fernández) and the Federal Planning Ministry (Julio Miguel De Vido), between 2003 and 2015, obtained illegitimate amounts of money from several individuals, many of them businessmen who were contractors of public spending for infrastructure from the national government.

That same day, the Data team in LA NACION decided to compile all the spreadsheets that they had been previously worked on to deepen the analysis and processing of the notebook records. First, a check was made on the transcripts to verify that the amounts described, the individuals, the place of origin and destination that appeared handwritten in the notebooks were correct. This verification process was used to carry out a strict process of standardization and structuring of data in which currency and descriptions were unified and names and addresses were normalized. The exact date and time of the routes were also added.

On the other hand, a methodology was applied to classify each route, which was divided according to: a) if the bag of money was delivered to the head of the criminal bribery plan; b) whether it consisted of collecting the money given by the companies as a bribe. In addition, a series of tags were included to identify the relevance of each record.

 

Based on the classification, we created several dictionaries of equivalences because the notebooks contained various terms for the same concept. Example: “bag” = “suitcase” = “briefcase”. We did the same with personal names and addresses.

All the journalistic investigation work was accompanied by various applications and exclusive visualizations that allowed the user to browse in a digital and interactive way all the notebooks and current news on the subject. This included the full text searchable notebooks and the grouped by brives destiny visualizations . 

 

IMPACT

So far, 73 individuals have been prosecuted (40 have been imprisoned and several continue and another 90 businessmen are waiting for prosecution), including a former President, the entire office of the Ministry of Planning and the main public works contractors of the country. About 40 persons repented and confessed their crimes. US$ 600 million were seized.

Researchers from CONICET (a group of State scientists) calculated that the bribe money paid during those years of corruption was US$ 38,000 million.

More than 200 newspapers from the all over the world covered the news which was globally known as “The notebooks of bribes” (“Los cuadernos de las coimas”).

 The case file accumulated 35 bodies of proceedings in federal court in one month, in addition to voluminous documents and annexes. There were 70 search warrants, 36 in the City of Buenos Aires, 24 in the Province of Buenos Aires, 7 in Misiones, 2 in Santa Cruz and 1 in Mendoza. Moreover, the Senate considered the request of the Judge to search the private addresses of former President Cristina Kirchner, currently a Senator and holder of Parliamentary privileges and immunities. The vote in the legislative body ended 66 votes in favor and none against and the procedure was authorized.

More than two hundred and fifty (250) paintings were seized in possession of two accused for approximately thirty-seven million pesos ($37,000,000) and four million five hundred thousand pesos ($4,500,000). In addition, as a consequence of this, more than six million three hundred and fifty thousand pesos ($6,350,000), more than one million two hundred and forty-five thousand US Dollars (U$S 1,245,000), and two hundred and thirty-five thousand Euros (€ 235,000.00) were seized, as well as other currency: Chilean and Uruguayan Pesos and Brazilian Real, nine (9) firearms, mobile and electronic telephone equipment and finally, a large number of cars of different brands and models, many of them luxury cars.

 

Repercussion in the international press

- Bags of Cash in Argentina: Driver’s Notes Propel Corruption Inquiry – The New York Times

 Argentina notebook scandal: Driver details ‘decade of brives’ – BBC

Secret papers trigger argentine scandal: What you need to know – Bloomberg

Driver’s diaries of transporting bags of cash help Argentina score historic victory against corruption – Miami Herald

How a chauffeur could bring down Argentina’s political elite – Bloomberg

 

Diego Cabot and his team in LA NACION , thanks to their work in “The notebooks of brives” or “The notebooks of corruption” already won:

-The National Investigative Journalism Prize at the Argentinean Journalism Forum (FOPEA)

-The International Prize King of Spain (Rey de España)

-Society for News Design 

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Automated data-driven content

The project was born in the context of 2017 elections, with the purpose of creating news articles automatically from datasets using templates and allowed us to cover much more detailed results for all Argentina´s territory, so we did it to cover 530 districts with their results and local maps.

Then we found this could create an opportunity to help the newsroom in its usual work process in repetitive news that are data driven and that can be supported with series and graphs. So we began to produce daily and weekly articles, automated through a systematic collection of data from different sources and topics.

All these automatically generated articles are accompanied with infographics, images and interactive visualizations that are created from the automatic loading of data in Google Spreadsheets.

The first subjects covered by this project were thought in terms of the interest of the Argentine citizens: dollar, inflation and Argentine football. Three central subjects in the everyday life of our country.

Examples of automated data-driven content in LA NACION:

Dollar: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/economia/dolar-hoy-asi-cotiza-el-3-de-abril-en-banco-nacion-y-otras-entidades-nid2234795

Inflation: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/economia/la-canasta-de-precios-de-la-nacion-tuvo-un-alza-de-187-en-las-ultimas-cuatro-s-nid2232905

Football: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/colon-san-martin-de-san-juan-el-mapa-de-los-remates-y-quien-dio-mas-pases-nid2234453


Dollar , daily currency exchange

In Argentina the price of the Dollar has an important place in the life of the population. Every Argentine citizen knows the daily exchange rate because the fluctuation and volatility of the value of the Peso makes it necessary its daily monitoring. Our economic history developed an eternal distrust in the national currency in the Argentine people. And since the threat of recession and devaluation is always latent, a large part of the population´s savings are in Dollars. In addition, there is also the factor of high rates of inflation that prevents saving in Pesos because it quickly loses value. In fact, people are so interested in this topic that it has a permanent place in the home of all media.

Before automatization,  every morning a journalist tracked the day’s exchange rate price and wrote several articles according to the variation of the Dollar throughout the day.

This was useful as a clear example to automate. That is to say, to ease work of economic journalists and to assure that each article is consistent with the bank rates informed and an infograph to visualize the variation over time.

The automatic article that is created in the morning informs the rate of the previous day, then it is updated with the rate of the day and in the afternoon a new article is created at the closing of the rate. This article also makes easier the work of the journalists since when there is a significant rise or fall, the journalist may use it as a basis to create more content in the article: explain reasons, consult experts and add them as a source.

 

Inflation is another central subject in the daily life of Argentine people. In fact, inflation in 2018 was the highest in 27 years: it reached 47.6% yearly. There are several sources of information about price variation, but these end-user reports end up being abstract numbers because they do not reflect their daily reality and do not represent the real impact on their economy.

For this reason, we decided to create a platform where the price of products sold in supermarkets can be automatically tracked and in real time. We created “Canasta LA NACIÓN” (LA NACION Basket), a price monitor that allows a weekly and monthly monitoring of the price of several products such as noodles, soft drinks and toothpaste, among others.

And, from that moment onwards, once a week we produce an automatic article with basic food basket information of 43 products for digital and paper versions with corresponding interactive display.

 

Soccer:

In order to give more context and cover all soccer games, we automate the articles of the different matches of the Argentine Soccer Association. The automatic articles are summarized in three:
a) An interactive visualization with the passes, shots and movements of the players of the two teams of each match that is played

b) 24hs before a match, an article is created with minimum information and already pre-loaded widgets so that the match updates and modifies during the match.

c) A summary of all the matches that are played throughout Argentina, that is to say that it includes automatic articles of the local matches that are played in the different provinces.

INNOVATION

It project is innovative because we found a way to work in teams with our editors that understood how technology and data can help them better serve audiences and reach larger audiences thanks to a broader coverage. We developed an in house automatization platform customized to each data source and work with our graphics area as well to have the data visualizations ready.

Work that was repetitive and tedious became, thanks to this process and technology, a successful and efficient task that preserves the touch of quality journalism.

The choice of topics helped change the newroom culture since several traditional journalists are experiencing the benefits of technology and the context data gives to support their stories,

IMPACT

The impact of the project was immediate. Particularly, with the increase of entries in all the topics considered . But besides helping with figures and traffic, it also developed a cooperation culture between traditional journalists , data producers and developers. Now, journalists are approaching LA NACIÓN DATA to request the automation of different articles in order to add value to their work and speed up those productions that need most of the human work.

People constantly comment, claim, question and give opinions on inflation, football and Dollar and to do so they share news articles of LA NACIÓN.

Source and Methodology

The beginning of the cycle for creating an automatic article flow has several origins. In some cases, the same editor realized that the same article was repeated frequently and asked us about the possibility of automating such articles to lighten work of the journalist in charge. In others, it came up from the lopportunity to cover more topics and sub topics like all the soccer games in the main and second main league in Argentina, every week.

Once we confirm the possibility and need for automation, we research the source and origin of data. The source may be:

- A database regularly and manually completed by the journalist
- an API
- Scrapping and building a dataset from scratch

The next step was to create multiple text possibilities according to the variation of data. These texts are conditional and are used to produce thousands of articles that will work as text templates based on the figure obtained.

The last step was to configure and collect data with the generation of articles and define a date and time (cron) for publication that is done automatically without the need to go through the hands of an editor.

Technology

The project has a serverless architecture using the AWS stack. Each automatic article has its Lambda written in Python. In cases where the data source is a dynamic site made in javascript Node.js is used with Headless Chrome to do the scraping. As a database we are using PostgreSQL.

We use Google Docs API and present updated graphs in the front end using Javascript and Tableau Public.

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A year after the disappearance of the submarine ARA San Juan

Unpublished details of the disappearance

CONTEXT

To commemorate the first anniversary of the tragedy of the ARA San Juan Submarine, a scrollytelling was made to present all the details and data about the sinking of the submarine. It was one of the most tragic events of the past few years as it involved the death of 44 crewmen that were on board.

The purpose was to develop a visual piece with new data from the year-long official investigation to shed light on some of the uncertainties and controversies of the case. The story-telling was concieved for a wide audience without segmentation as the subject emotionally involved the whole of society. 

INNOVATION

The intention was to bring together all in the same development, a multiplicity of multimedia resources and to make available exclusive data on the subject. Its a vertical story-telling that only requires the user a minimum effort of interaction: scrolling. It includes data from official naval reports, videos of the crewmen families-specially produced and created for the occasion-, audios of the official naval announcements, 3D animations of the sumbarine made with two programs called Carrara and Blender, and satellite geolocated data of the search operations collected with Marine Traffic vessel plataform.

Everything was designed in a way that the story-telling surprises the user with the succesive appearance of these elements as the story goes on.

Sources and methodology 

To create contents for the project, official reports of the investigation were searched and provided. This allowed us to create and inform what had happened as faithfully as possible (something that had not been done until now). On the other hand, the transcriptions of the communications between the submarine and the operation base were obtained. This enabled us to georeference key moments of the voyage and subsequent sinking of the submarine.

Moreover, the data service of marinetraffic.com was used to recreate the search of the submarine. The tool is a global pioneer in vessel tracking that we got to know in a data journalism course at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, ItalyWe. Furthermore, we also contacted the families of the victims from whom we collected data as they provided testimonial evidence of the last Whatsapp messages delivered and recieved from their children before the fatal outcome.

Technology

The main purpose was to create and deliver different types of content through the scrolling. When a new section of the scrolling enters the scene, something should happen that draws the attention.

For such purpose, we used a Javascript library called “Scrollama.js” that helped us to detect which part of the interactive was on screen and trigger different events. The challenge was also to be able to control the videos with the scroll and to do so, we manage to preloaded them before the user gets to watch them on screen. For this last part we used our JS Player video hosting platform.

Another important part of the interactive was to be able to show a 3D sequence of the sinking of the submarine, given the need to visualize it in high quality, we divided the video in image sequences with Python software (so the user could download the image sequence by scrolling). In that way, we made sure that the image could be seen correctly and the sequence could be consistently controlled.

Another useful JavaScript library was Anime.js which helped us to do the animation using the scroll for the final part of the voyage of the submarine on a SVG line.

IMPACT

The development had a very good performance in metrics, the time spent on the page was 4.26 m rather above the average and a very good number of unique users: 76.762. It was also among the three most visited articles of the day.

 

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Youth Olympic Games 2018 Investigation

THE CITY WILL SPEND MORE THAN 8 BILLION PESOS ON THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES

The investigation lasted three months. In June we began to gather all the contracts related to the Youth Olympic Games that were registered in the electronic system of Government’s purchases named Buenos Aires Compras (BAC). This was complemented with three databases published on the City of Buenos Aires Open Data site: Framework Agreements, closed Purchase Orders and Open Purchase Orders.

However, the information had repeated records between the databases, the executing unit was poorly described, the information was incomplete and outdated, the monetary unit was not unified and there was no trace of those purchases that were held outside the Purchasing and Contracting Unit of the Youth Olympic Games (UPEJOL) and that were used for the event.

After a long normalization effort, we decided to contrast the total amounts with the sanctioned and executed budget of UPEJOL. We downloaded the Government Budget database from Buenos Aires Data site and filtered the information according to the executing unit until we obtained the figures from 2014 to 2018. There, we saw that the total amount of money declared for purchases and contracts was far below the budget which meant that the information that we had worked so hard to collect was incomplete.

That is why we decided to make a FOIA request under the Buenos Aires law 104. We requested all the purchases and contracts of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, disaggregated by lines of recruitment and divided by type of process, file number, description, object, company name, CUIT of the supplier and total price.

Within the period of time stated in the FOIA law, the director of UPEJOL, Florence Grigera requested us a face to face appointment at the headquarters of the agency to explain to her what was exactly the information we wanted to gather. Two weeks after that meeting, they ask us to pick up the information in the headquarters  of the Government (despite our repeated requests to send it via email). Finally, they handed to us 9 sheets of A3 paper. The information was not only in closed format but also it did not comply with the provisions of the access request. Faced with the refusal to deliver the correct information in xls or csv, we contacted María Gracia Andía, who leads the Legal Organization of FOIA rights. She intervened and gave us access to the information in PDFs.

Once we managed to transform those PDFs to Excel, we saw that the information we had collected from the BAC was totally different from the one we received. The same file had different amounts and descriptions. That is, the same purchase that appeared in both archives cost differently according to the documents and had been awarded to different companies. That is why we contacted the Undersecretary of Strategic Management and Institutional Quality of the Government. They had no previous knowledge of these disparities and problems so they contacted UPEJOL to solve them.

Furthermore, they decided to hold a meeting in the Argentine Olympic Committee with the finance team of the Youth Olympic Games and us. There we were able to identify the inconsistencies and errors in the systematization of the information and, consequently, they undertook the challenge to find out more about the errors and to correct the mistakes.

Within three weeks of that meeting, we received an email from the General Director of Institutional Quality with the information updated and in an open format. But the file only contained the purchases and contracts of UPEJOL and the Government Budget Execution 2014-2018. We still had to corroborate the contracts linked to the infrastructure: Olympic Village and Park. To do so, we decided to download the information from the BA Infrastructure data portal of the City Government that includes data of the most important projects of the City and of the awarded companies, description of the work and amounts.

This is how we managed to manually reconstruct the total cost of the Youth Olympic  Games that exceeds 8 billion pesos and to explain in detail on what specifically the Government spent the money on. Until then, the Government had repeatedly refused to report the money they had spent and they didn’t have a site with systematized and open information about it.

In addition, with the information published in the budget, we showed what other stuff you can build with 8 billion pesos. In other words, we explained what that money represents. That is, we showed that the expenditure required for the event organization exceeds the total investment needed to build the most expensive and largest work in the city, the Paseo del Bajo, which costs 6 billion pesos. Furthermore, we showed that 8 billion pesos represents four times the annual budget of a hospital like Ricardo Gutierrez and almost ten times more than the budget of the Moyano hospital.

Parte del documento oficial de la postulación que el Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires presentó ante el COI

Finally, we also gained access to an official document where the Government stated on their initial application as candidates to host the Games that they estimated an expenditure of only 231 million dollars at a price of 4.50 pesos and an annual inflation of 5.7% for 2018

Finally, we also gained access to an official document where the Government stated on their initial application as candidates to host the Games that they estimated an expenditure of only 231 million dollars at a price of 4.50 pesos and an annual inflation of 5.7% for 2018.

Regarding the impact of the investigation, the City Government informed us that, based on our request, they were able to resolve the errors that existed between agencies and were able to systematize and concentrate the information. That’s why they decided to create a legacy site for the Youth Olympic Games with the information gathered and then become the first city to open to transparency site about the Olympic event. We managed to negotiate that the publication of the site had to be subsequent to our investigation. Although the page does not report the total amounts and the information is disseminated in different bases, at least they opened the information so that the citizens can access by themselves.

The research was presented in digital format, paper and television programs.

 

 

 

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Cuadernos de la Corrupción: la investigación que cambió la historia política argentina

INVESTIGACIÓN

TOTAL DE NOTAS

El trabajo de investigación se inició formalmente el 8 de enero de 2018, cuando un periodista de La Nacion, Diego Cabot, tuvo un encuentro en el domicilio de una de sus fuentes. En la reunión, le entregaron ocho cuadernos confeccionados por un chofer de Roberto Baratta, uno de los funcionarios más importantes del exministerio de Planificación Federal que condujo Julio De Vido, el más relevante en los 12 años de gobiernos kirchneristas que fueron desde 2003 a 2015.

Los cuadernos contenían un registro detallado de cada uno de los recorridos de auto que realizó durante 10 años -sólo con algunas interrupciones- el chofer con Roberto Baratta y otros funcionarios para recolectar el dinero de retornos/coimas de grandes compañías de la Argentina a las que se le había adjudicado un contrato de Obra Pública.

Desde el inicio de la investigación, Diego Cabot y el pequeño grupo de trabajo que lo acompañó en todo el proceso, tomó una decisión fundamental. Dada la cantidad de exfuncionarios y de empresarios de primera línea involucrados, se determinó no publicar nada hasta no tener certezas de que lo que estaba escrito era verdad. Nadie por fuera de ese grupo supo de la investigación que se llevaba adelante.

 

En una primera etapa, se transcribieron los 8 cuadernos a una base de datos de Excel. Y se comenzó a trabajar en cada uno de los registros con todos los elementos objetivos que eran posibles de chequear. Se listaron:

-Nombres y cargos

-Domicilios de origen y destino de los recorridos

-Dominios de los autos

-Denominación de compañías

-Lugares de entregas

-Datos personales de las personas identificadas en los momentos en los que se pagaba la coima.

-Montos de los sobornos

 

En el proceso de chequeo y verificación se consultaron:

-Registros oficiales y societarios

-Se recorrieron gran cantidad de domicilios

-Se recolectó la información societaria de las empresas involucradas

-Los pagos que se hacían se cotejaron con los detalles de la contabilidad del Estado

-El pago de las coimas se cruzó con la información sobre las licitaciones y contratos de obras públicas y el porcentaje de ejecución de cada una de ellas para ver si había relación con los montos de dinero de las coimas.

 

Luego del chequeo y con la certeza de que era todo verdad, el grupo entendió que se trataba de la trama de corrupción más grande que jamás se haya develado en la Argentina.

 

El material que contenía la trama de corrupción era un documento privado y dado los antecedentes en la Argentina, la publicación en LA NACION podría generar que algunas pruebas desaparezcan. Es por esto que en marzo de 2018, el periodista inició una negociación informal con un fiscal federal (Carlos Stornelli) y el 10 de abril se presentó la denuncia formal ante la Justicia.

 

Tanto en la fiscalía, como en el Juzgado como en LA NACION hubo un compromiso: nadie podía saber de la causa y el silencio debía ser absoluto. “Si se filtraba la investigación corríamos riesgo de muerte”, dijo meses después el Fiscal del caso.

 

En la madrugada del 1 de agosto, siete meses después de que Diego Cabot se hizo de la prueba, la causa tomó estado público con una ola de 17 detenciones y 36 allanamientos.

 

El proceso se caratuló con el nombre de la expresidenta de la Nación:  “Fernandez Cristina Elizabet y otros s/ asociación ilícita” (9608/2018). El juez consideró que los datos aportados dan cuenta de la existencia de una organización delictiva conformada por funcionarios públicos, quienes valiéndose de medios oficiales (incluyendo vehículos, empleados, equipos de telefonía celular, etcétera) y comandados por quienes fueran titulares del Poder Ejecutivo Nacional (Néstor Carlos Kirchner y Cristina Elisabet Fernández) y del Ministerio de Planificación Federal (Julio Miguel De Vido), entre los años 2003 y 2015, procuraron la percepción de sumas de dinero ilegítimas, por parte de diversos particulares, muchos de ellos, empresarios contratistas de la obra pública del Estado Nacional.

Ese mismo día, el equipo de datos decidió recopilar todas las hojas de cálculo con las que se había trabajado en la primera etapa para empezar a profundizar en el análisis y procesamiento de los registros de los cuadernos. En primer lugar, se realizó un chequeo de las transcripciones para verificar que los montos descritos, las personas, el lugar de origen y destino que aparecían escritos a mano en los cuadernos eran los correctos. Y se aprovechó ese proceso de verificación para hacer un riguroso proceso de normalización y estructuración de los datos en los que se unificó la moneda y las descripciones y se estandarizaron los nombres y direcciones. También se agregó la fecha y hora exacta del recorrido.

Por otra parte, se construyó una metodología de clasificación de cada recorrido que se dividió según: a) si se trataba de una entrega del bolso de dinero a la cabeza del plan delictivo de coimas b) si consistía en la recaudación del dinero que le entregaban las empresas como retorno. Además, se incluyó una serie de tags para identificar la relevancia de cada registro.

A partir de toda la clasificación creamos múltiples diccionarios de equivalencias porque los cuadernos contenían múltiples términos para el mismo concepto. Ejemplo: “bolso” = “valija” = “maletín”. Lo mismo realizamos con nombres personales y domicilios.

Todo el trabajo de investigación periodística se acompañó con diversas aplicaciones y visualizaciones exclusivas que permitieron al usuario recorrer de forma digital e interactiva todos los cuadernos y las novedades de actualidad de la causa.

Entre algunas de las investigaciones aparecen:

IMPACTO

El expediente acumuló en un mes 35 cuerpos de actuaciones, además de la voluminosa documentación y anexos. Se practicaron 70 allanamientos, 36 en la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 24 en la provincia de Buenos Aires, 7 en Misiones, 2 en Santa Cruz y 1 en Mendoza. Además, el Senado de la Nación trató en el recinto el pedido del magistrado para allanar los domicilios particulares de la expresidenta Cristina Kircher, actualmente senadora y poseedora de fueros. La votación en el cuerpo legislativo terminó 66 votos a favor y ninguno en contra y se autorizó el procedimiento.

 

En los allanamientos se secuestraron más de doscientos cincuenta (250) obras pictóricas en posesión de dos imputados por aproximadamente pesos treinta y siete millones ($37.000.000,00) y pesos cuatro millones quinientos mil ($ 4.500.000,00). Además, como consecuencia de ello se han secuestrado aproximadamente, más de seis millones trescientos cincuenta mil de pesos ($ 6.350.000,00), más de un millón doscientos cuarenta y cinco mil dólares estadounidenses (U$S 1.245.000,00), más de doscientos treinta y cinco mil euros (€ 235.000,00), como así también sumas de dinero expresadas en chilenos, uruguayos y reales, nueve (9) armas de fuego, equipos de telefonía móvil y electrónicos y finalmente, una gran cantidad de rodados de diferentes marcas y modelos, muchos de ellos de alta gama.

En total y hasta el momento se han procesado a 53 personas entre los que se cuentan un expresidente, todo el despacho del Ministerio de Planificación Federal y los principales contratistas de obra pública de la Argentina. Alrededor de 35 personas se han arrepentido y confesaron sus delitos. Se han trabado embargos por 540 millones de dólares.

Por la investigación de los Cuadernos de las Coimas, Diego Cabot y su equipo ganaron el Premio Nacional de Investigación del Foro de Periodismo Argentino y el Premio Internacional Rey de España.

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