Helping Journalists Tell More Compelling Stories Through Data

In the current run-up to the 2020 U.S. elections, some pundits have found tracking the comings and goings of just the Democratic presidential hopefuls a dizzying process.  

Imagine then following the European parliament’s May elections with 242 parties vying for 705 seats, which translated to thousands of candidates that newsrooms like Politico Europe had to track.  

To make this phenomenally complex story easier to tell, Politico Europe sought to integrate data journalism and visualizations into its election coverage. It also had another goal:. Based in Brussels—the seat of the European Union—the influencer media outlet counts policy and business leaders amongst its regular readership. Politico Europe wanted to expand its coverage to reach the average voter and show how a single vote for a country leader could have continental ramifications. 

In the Transform blog, Politico Europe’s newsroom recounts its recent data journalism journey and evolution. In the months leading to the 2019 election, Politico Europe partnered with Microsoft News Labs to learn how to use Power BI, a business analytics service that can produce interactive visualizations. With its roots in Excel, Power BI has become a data journalism tool for newsrooms such as the Associated Press, Recode, Vox, and KING-5 (a Seattle TEGNA TV station). 

But a tool is just that: a tool. Politico Europe and Microsoft News Labs also worked together to identify how to extract the key issues in numbers, how different visualizations emphasize different angles in a story, down to the importance of color and visual consistency so that a data interactive is intuitive at first glance.  

Newsrooms have long wanted to invest more in data journalism, and the audience demand for transparency and accuracy has made the need more urgent. But it’s a challenge for newsrooms small and large to carry that off: Not many can spare a team of data scientists, graphic designers and IT wizards for special projects. Politico EU’s small team published nearly 30 visualizations, covering everything from polling to gender breakdown.  

And the audience responded: Today, traffic remains about 24% higher compared to the same time last year. 

Microsoft News is grateful to be able to help newsrooms tell vital stories and, more importantly, to enable audiences to explore and understand the facts on their own. Check out the Transform blog and Politico Europe’s upcoming plans. 

Vera H-C Chan is the Sr. Manager, Worldwide Journalist Relations for Microsoft News Labs