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2021 Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom finalist

No epicentro (At the epicenter)

About the Project

No epicentro is a data visualization tool created with the aim of alerting to the amazing numbers of deaths in Brazil. By November last year, it was replicated by American newspaper “The Washington Post”. Up until 2021 May 31st, over 462,000 people had died due to Covid‑19 in the country. But it can be difficult to visualize what this means in a country so large. These deaths are spread over all 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District (DF). Basically all Brazilian cities have been affected. When a plane crashes and 250 people die, it’s a national commotion. So why the same is not happening during the pandemic? Why is it faced with a certain apathy? Then we had an idea: what if all these deaths had happened near the user of a data visualization tool? Since the major Covid‑19 outbreaks happened in a few metropolitan areas, many Brazilians don’t see the effects of the disease in their daily lives. This simulation was created to make the dimension of our losses easier to understand.

Storytelling: After readers provide an address, they see a circle drawn around their location: in such a scenario, everyone who lives in that area would have died. In order to make it personal, this map-based narrative also presents a nearby city that would have vanished completely, if all deaths were to happen within its boundaries.
Gradually, the story shifts from a near view into a far view – from the most personal location (a simulation around the reader’s house) into the most broad overview (the real distribution of deaths in the whole country).

By the end, people are invited to download and share their own personalized map. This feature allowed the project to have an organic and pulverized communication through social media.

The most important lesson we learned – and other journalists can learn from the process by reading “the making of No epicentro”, published in Medium (https://medium.com/datavizbr/como-fizemos-o-mapa-interativo-que-te-coloca-no-epicentro-da-epidemia-de-covid-19-no-brasil-4ce949a9183b and in GitHub (https://github.com/noepicentro/) – was how valuable a multidisciplinary team is when we talk about digital journalism. Three professionals specialized in data journalism and visual narratives were responsible for the development of the project: the designer Vinicius Sueiro, data journalist Rodrigo Menegat and the developer Tiago Maranhão. Gilberto Scofield Jr., Director of Strategy and Business at Lupa, and Marco Túlio Pires, Google News Lab Lead in Brazil, were also part of the team and everybody coordinated by one of the best data-visualization professionals, Alberto Cairo, from University of Miami.

We also learned that good communication and openness to constructive criticism is key for achieving positive outcomes. The development team itself talked almost non-stop in a WhatsApp group chat which was particularly active late at night, with conversations about all dimensions of the content. In the end, the team worked under a strict division of labor, but with freedom to make suggestions on topics distant from each person’s responsibilities. The first half of the equation ensured productivity and efficiency. The second ensured creativity and critical sense.