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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!

Newspaper

Region

Article

L’Espresso

Italy

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

Alto Adige

Trentino

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

La Nuova Ferrara

Emilia-Romagna

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

La Sentinella del Canavese

Piemonte

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

Il Tirreno

Toscana

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

Gazzetta di Mantova

Emilia-Romagna

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

Gazzetta di Modena

Emilia-Romagna

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

Mattino di Padova

Veneto

Mafia in Veneto: la mappa dei beni confiscati

La Provincia Pavese

Lombardia

Migliaia di beni confiscati, Lombardia come Sicilia e Campania

Il Centro

Abruzzo

I beni confiscati in Abruzzo tra camorra e banda della Magliana

La Gazzetta di Reggio

Emilia-Romagna

Ndrangheta e camorra si spartiscono immobili e aziende

La Città di Salerno

Campania

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

La Nuova Sardegna

Sardegna

I beni confiscati tra corleonesi, camorra e banda Mesina

Trentino Corriere Alpi

Trentino

Mafie, sono 16 i beni confiscati in Trentino

La Tribuna di Treviso

Veneto

Beni confiscati alla Mafia La mappa nel Veneto

Il Piccolo

Friuli

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

Veneto

Mafia in Veneto: la mappa dei beni confiscati

Corriere delle Alpi

Veneto

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.

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Andrea Nelson Mauro

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