By Guido Romeo
«So what are you doing with the data... statistics!?!» I've been getting a lot of this in the last couple of days speaking of the iData project and I've understood that, in particular with journo colleagues, the best answer is an example of what has been done.
A beatiful piece of work - for once not from overseas... - is Killing Roads, a project on road casualties developed for Bergens Tidende, the main daily paper in Bergen, Norway (kudos to Michele Kettmaier for pointing me to Beta Tales ).
The beauty of the project, on top of its impact, is the multitude of levels tipical of data stories that rapidly turns it into a multiplier of possible stories at the local level.
The starting point for Tidende's reporters, teamped up with develppers, has been the data from the Norwegian Road Authority releasing data on 11.400 road accidents all over Norway. The first move of the norwegian daily has been a massively data rich Google Map allowing endless browsing esperiences at national as well as local level.
Every signpost on the map details the exact position, date and info as number of victims and weathr conditions. Reporters quickly understood that the only detail missing were the names of the victims, canceled to protect their privacy.
That was obviously no match for a team of reporters who are used to find names for a living, expecially after they openede the database to colleagues from local outlets even more interestd in digging out theri angle of the story. The result is a disturbingly impacting collective portrait of the victims of road casualties.
Tidende's multimedia journalist Lasse Lambrechts (interviewed here on YouTube), has been one of the main actors of the Killing Road project (which, in his own admission, turned out to be "much much more work rthan expected").
And this is when your listener always throws in that casual question: «Could this be done in Italy as well?!?».
The data is certainly there. Here is an example of what Parma's Province bureau of statistics has done with its local data. (pdf scaricabile) Every casuality is very data rich: metadata range from the kind of vehicle to climate conditions.. But getting them in a usable form (e.g. a nice and tidy excel sheet!) is a different story.
But this is a story project to which we'll come back to explain the issues and possibilities of accessin and scraping darta through legal requests and web tools.
One thing to keep in mind is that Italian roads are the scen of an everyday manslaughter: about 500 accidents avery day causing more than 10 dead and hundreds of wounded.