Data Driven Journalism

In the third part of this blog series on infographics, we spoke with Hendrik Lehmann from the Tagesspiegel and explain how the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab works and understands data-driven journalism: Interactive graphics, data analysis, crowd research, special longreads and visual stories are their specialty.

The Berlin-based Tagesspiegel initiated the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab in January 2019 to further expand its multimedia formats and strengthen its core journalistic business across all channels. The Lab conducts cross-topic research and develops new narrative formats that are intended to make even greater use of the potential of journalism on the net.

The Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab’s team (from left to right): David Meidinger, Hendrik Lehmann, Andreas Baum, Michael Gegg and Helena Wittlich; photo: Kitty Kleist-Heinrich

Since its foundation, Hendrik Lehmann* has been head of the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab, which is interdisciplinary in its approach – a science journalist and two physicists work together with the sociologist Lehmann to develop new interactive reports, also with the aim of increasing the Tagesspiegel’s reach and the scrolling depth and dwell time of its readership. The topic determines the narrative form and the media used, emphasizes Lehmann. In this way, the team wants to explore open narrative styles and new technologies. It is worth noting that the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab is a separate department within the daily newspaper and reports directly to the editor-in-chief. Lehmann emphasizes that this means that they do not merely have a supplier function, but can also choose and prioritize topics themselves. Cooperation with the other departments is then project-related. Their aim, he says, is to use the interactive formats to convey an even more differentiated picture of complex topics.

The Lab meets three times a week for a team meeting to present and discuss visual and data-driven examples from all over the world – New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, etc. – in a digital newspaper review. For Lehmann, this exchange is important for his own inspiration and above all for regularly reflecting on current positions in data journalism and storytelling. This datasheet is not only for internal use, but will be regularly published on their website and made publicly available. Current sample collections on Covid-19 are Woher das neue Coronavirus kommt, Die besten Erklärstücke zum Coronavirus weltweit, Die besten neuen Erklärstücke zum Coronavirus, Mit diesen internationalen Coronavirus-Artikeln verstehen wir, was auf uns zukommt, Wo sich das Coronavirus inzwischen am schnellsten ausbreitet.

Datasheet Die besten Erklärstücke zum Coronavirus weltweit

The Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab also sees itself in the role of a curator in the data society. In this context, Lehmann mentions crowd research, a digital method of research. In this long-term research, readers are asked to actively collect data. The example of the extensive survey on “Who owns Berlin? ” showed the readers’ keen interest in taking up this invitation to interact. This resulted in several stories that could be told in different ways – such as Wer profitiert vom Berliner Mietmarkt, Gehört meine Wohnung Berlins größten Eigentümern? or Wem gehört(e) der Boxi?

Naturally, the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab will be working in the home office during the corona pandemic. According to Lehmann, the change in working methods during the “first global crisis in the digital age” was easy, as all employees are very technology-savvy. Moreover, there were fewer meetings, which would increase work efficiency. The demand for interactive reports is higher than ever. This forces them to keep the speed high without neglecting precision – i.e. scientific contextualization.

During the corona pandemic, readers’ need for information is very great – yet the narrative and explanatory formats are very different. For example, corona cases are communicated worldwide in real time and the most important figures are published. Another example illustrates how the corona crisis has drastically reduced traffic in large cities. An impressive example is the Erklärstück, wie sich das Coronavirus ausgebreitet hat. The path of the corona virus 2019-nCoV is described and explained using scrollable texts and interactive maps. This form of communication allows the chronology and the different scales of the map material to be presented synoptically. Readers can determine their own reading speed and immerse themselves in the material.

The origin of corona: Screenshots from an article showing how the new corona virus spread from Wuhan

Due to the corona crisis, some of the ways in which the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab is presented have changed. For example, the Deutschlandkarte is updated and new content is generated. As usual, the contribution is therefore not completed. It will be continuously developed further – daily updates and new findings will be incorporated, so that this page will be visited regularly and become a corona reference work.

Corona virus Live: All corona cases in the districts, federal states and worldwide

In conclusion, Hendrik Lehmann suspects that the corona crisis will at least have this positive effect: Readers are now more practiced in reading data visualizations than before – and more critical.

In the next blog post we will look at how traditional infographics are becoming the scene of parodic expressions and how – especially in the social media channels – humorous expressions are being used in response to the corona pandemic.

Hendrik Lehmann heads the Tagesspiegel Innovation Lab, which develops new digital narratives and interactive applications, often based on data analysis. The lab consists of developers and journalists and often cooperates with universities, start-ups or artists. Lehmann is a recipient of the German Reporter Award 2018 and 2019 and the Data Journalism Award 2019, among others. He studied politics at the FU Berlin and urban sociology at Goldsmiths College London.


Jimmy Schmid

Prof. Jimmy Schmid is a professor of Communication Design, head of the MAS studies Signaletics - Environmental Communication Design and senior researcher at the Bern University of the Arts (HKB).

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