Making of | Confiscated Goods: what we did for making better our data journalism

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On September 5 we had a Publication Day in Italy for our inve­sti­ga­tion regar­ding goods Confiscated from the mafia: one natio­nal new­spa­per (L’Espresso) and eighteen glo­cal web­si­tes of the same publi­sher (Repubblica-L’Espresso) — see the map at the bot­tom — did put onli­ne our arti­cles for disco­ve­ring how many buil­dings and com­pa­nies are sei­zed, region by region, to whom did belon­ged, what the Government is doing for giving back them to Italian citi­zens. It was a big oppor­tu­ni­ty and an ama­zing expe­rien­ce for us of wor­king on the inve­sti­ga­tion, we star­ted our job at July.

See the full list of the 18 local chapters and L’Espresso!






Mafia, la map­pa dei beni con­fi­sca­ti: ma lo Stato non rie­sce a gestir­li

Alto Adige


Beni con­fi­sca­ti alle mafie, ecco la map­pa open data regio­ne per regio­ne

La Nuova Ferrara


Ndrangheta e camor­ra si spar­ti­sco­no immo­bi­li e azien­de Mappa inte­rat­ti­va dei beni con­fi­sca­ti in Emilia-Romagna

La Sentinella del Canavese


Beni con­fi­sca­ti alla mafia, Torino secon­da in Italia solo a Palermo

Il Tirreno


Dal fac­cen­die­re di Riina alle truf­fe sul­le aste. I casa­le­si tra Firenze e Versilia: map­pa dei beni con­fi­sca­ti

Gazzetta di Mantova


Beni con­fi­sca­ti alle mafie, ecco la map­pa open data regio­ne per regio­ne

Gazzetta di Modena


Ndrangheta e camor­ra si spar­ti­sco­no immo­bi­li e azien­de Mappa inte­rat­ti­va dei beni con­fi­sca­ti in Emilia-Romagna

Mattino di Padova


Mafia in Veneto: la map­pa dei beni con­fi­sca­ti

La Provincia Pavese


Migliaia di beni con­fi­sca­ti, Lombardia come Sicilia e Campania

Il Centro


I beni con­fi­sca­ti in Abruzzo tra camor­ra e ban­da del­la Magliana

La Gazzetta di Reggio


Ndrangheta e camor­ra si spar­ti­sco­no immo­bi­li e azien­de

La Città di Salerno


Ville, ter­re­ni, castel­li: i beni con­fi­sca­ti nel­la ter­ra di Gomorra

La Nuova Sardegna


I beni con­fi­sca­ti tra cor­leo­ne­si, camor­ra e ban­da Mesina

Trentino Corriere Alpi


Mafie, sono 16 i beni con­fi­sca­ti in Trentino

La Tribuna di Treviso


Beni con­fi­sca­ti alla Mafia La map­pa nel Veneto

Il Piccolo


I beni con­fi­sca­ti alle mafie in Friuli Venezia Giulia

Messaggero Veneto

Friuli Venezia Giulia

I beni con­fi­sca­ti alle mafie che stan­no occu­pan­do il Friuli

La Nuova Venezia


Mafia in Veneto: la map­pa dei beni con­fi­sca­ti

Corriere del­le Alpi


La map­pa del­le con­fi­sche tra mafia, camor­ra e Mala del Brenta 

Meanwhile a very inte­re­sting blog­po­st writ­ten by Alberto Cairo was publi­shed from Niemanlab, titled “Data Journalism needs to up its own stan­dards”, tal­king about over-pro­mi­ses from FiveThirtyEight and Vox​.com data pro­jec­ts who should need “treat their data with more scien­ti­fic rigor” — Cairo says. For the­se and for other exam­ples that he quo­ted, you may find — IMHO — a lot of inte­re­sting sug­ge­stions, expe­cial­ly if you’re doing jour­na­li­sm with data, as issues and doub­ts we meet eve­ry day on our job into Dataninja’s pipe­li­ne. Until now data jour­na­li­sm — as I saw — was deve­lo­ped as descrip­ti­ve sta­ti­stics, data visua­li­za­tions, pre­dic­ti­ve ana­ly­sis, spe­cial effec­ts on the web (“Wow!-Effect” — say some friends of mine — or “map-itis” for tal­king about peo­ple who pub­bli­sh maps eve­ry minu­tes but without news).

So I’d share what we did for the pro­ject “Confiscati Bene” (lit., “Well Confiscated” — here the about page), aiming of having back sug­ge­stions for under­stan­ding what we well done and what we needs to up.

First step — From meeting the Open Data project “Confiscati Bene” to working inside

The Openess world gave me a big oppor­tu­ni­ty of refac­to­ring my skills and some years ago I joi­ned the “Spaghetti Open Data” Italian Community. At March 2014 we had an mee­ting in whom — during a hac­ka­thon — was deve­lo­ped a fir­st ver­sion of “Confiscati Bene”, an indi­pen­dent pro­ject powe­red by citi­zens who aims to open the data regar­ding goods sei­zed from the Mafia: fir­st of all, they scra­ped data from offi­cial web­si­te of the Agency who have a data­ba­se of con­fi­sca­ted goods. What a big oppor­tu­ni­ty! Not only of tel­ling the data, but for try­ing to impro­ve the pro­ject with our jour­na­li­stic and data skills for gro­wing it bet­ter and more quic­kly (as pos­si­ble). We joi­ned the team and we hel­ped for buil­ding an onli­ne plat­form with a data cata­log regar­ding mafia asse­ts that needs to be upda­ted. Walking this way we lear­ned a lot about con­fi­sca­ted goods (by rea­ding of Acts from Parliament and by disco­ve­ring reports and docu­men­ts): team mem­bers shared each one of the­se docu­men­ts into the Mailing List of the pro­ject. The que­stion is: how long I would have to spend for fin­ding the­se resour­ces, instead of having it and rea­ding thank to the team, that shared it quic­kly? How much peo­ple could help us (as jour­na­lists) for doing bet­ter our job, if only we gave them the oppor­tu­ni­ty? Do it toge­ther — and not only with jour­na­lists — should be bet­ter.

Second Step — From starting the investigation to pubblishing on 19 newspaper and disseminating on the web

In the end of July we’ve star­ted our inve­sti­ga­tion and built a team of three jour­na­lists (Andrea Nelson Mauro — it’s me! 😉 — Alessio Cimarelli and Gianluca De Martino). We did read some­thing like 3,000 pages of docu­men­ts and reports of insti­tu­tions and obser­va­to­ries, for bet­ter under­stan­ding the data (even we are not domain experts). By Matching resul­ts and sug­ge­stions, we made a kind of “con­tent cura­tion” from the docu­men­ts, extrac­ting the most jour­na­li­stic issues (for us): for instan­ce we disco­ve­red that Italian Government (with EU) have fun­ded 6Mln of euros to the Public Agency of con­fi­sca­ted goods for buil­ding a big data­ba­se for col­lec­ting the­se data, but no one did nothing, no one kno­ws whe­re money went, no one saw the pro­ject.

Regarding skills and acti­vi­ties deve­lo­ped:

  • Data (and sto­ries) mining — It was a big chap­ter of the inve­sti­ga­tion: we did it on offi­cial docu­men­ts and also on the web for poin­ting out the mat­ching resul­ts and sta­ti­stic with data scra­ped from Public Agency of Confiscated Goods. Sometimes you needs to be pic­ky for under­stan­ding in whi­ch step the good is (sei­zed, con­fi­sca­ted, free­zed by law acts, assi­gned to some NGOs)
  • Coding and Geo Issues — For sho­wing con­fi­sca­ted goods on a map, we’ve nee­ded of deve­lo­ping a visua­li­za­tion tool: it was made by Alessio Cimarelli, using only open­sour­ce tools (Leaflet, D3js, OSM Nominatim and others). Data are sho­wed on the Italian regions by abso­lu­te values and not nor­ma­li­zed by popu­la­tion or by other dimen­sion, becau­se we aimed to draft a kind of raw over­view: whe­re the Mafia spent the money, what are the dif­fe­ren­ce bet­ween big cities and small towns, for instan­ce by mat­ching the North and the South.
  • Content Curation — We thin­ked that eve­ry con­fi­sca­tion should alrea­dy told by eve­ry new­spa­per, as well. Starting from this idea, we’ve poin­ted out and aggre­ga­ted all of sin­gle sto­ries by each regions and from the new­spa­per archi­ves, and regar­ding the most impor­tant boss to whom goods are con­fi­sca­ted. Walking down this way (and after mat­ching resul­ts with quan­ti­ta­ti­ve data) you may draw an over­view by kind of mafia (e.g., Mafia, Camorra, Ndrangheta), sho­wing a kind of distri­bu­tion by regions.
  • The Review Process — Working in team is very hel­p­ful for poin­ting out mista­kes, but the bet­ter way in my hone­st opi­nion it was of sha­ring the draf­ts of the arti­cles with other mem­bers of the pro­ject (as usual­ly it does with books of resear­ches).

Third Step — Looking Forward, we’re doing Database Journalism

After we’ve pub­bli­shed, we’re giving back data to ConfiscatiBene, by uploa­ding in a data cata­log deve­lo­ped with DKAN (a Drupal cms like CKAN, powe­red for us by Twinbit). We’re into the team of the pro­ject, so we’re inte­re­sted for impro­ving it, col­lec­ting other data and deve­lo­ping other chap­ters (for instan­ce in Europe). With the pub­bli­ca­tion on 19 new­spa­pers, we’ve made even a kind of dis­se­mi­na­tion of the pro­ject “Confiscati Bene” and not only of the news extrac­ted from data, and we’re kee­ping (and will keep) upda­te data. I don’t know whe­re we’ll arri­ve but I know we’re wal­king and try­ing of making bet­ter, and may­be you will hear yet about Confiscati Bene.

Andrea Nelson Mauro

Data journalist at
Andrea Nelson Mauro, data jour­na­list. Vincitore dei Data Journalism Awards e dell'European Press Prize. For­mato nella cro­naca locale, fondatore di,, Collabora con gruppi editoriali in Italia e all'estero, agenzie di data journalism in Europa, NGOs e Pubbliche Amministrazioni italiane. Folk della com­mu­nity e
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