Do You Have Lead Pipes In Your Home?

Do You Have Lead Pipes In Your Home?

Organisation: NPR / NPR Visuals (United States)

Publication Date: 04/11/2017


Size of team/newsroom:large


This piece started as an in-depth data analysis of lead service lines, one of the main vectors for lead poisoning in the United States. However, it turns out there's practically no data. Decades of disincentives mean even government agencies do not know where these pipes exist or how much of a threat they may pose. Instead, our reporting team consulted with experts to create a "news-you-can-use" style explainer of lead service lines and a simple, highly-mobile optimized diagnostic tool to help users find out if they have lead pipes and what they can do to deal with them if they do. The project is in both Spanish and English and uses illustration and photography to explain the concept. It also allows user submissions and our analytics tracks geographic location of the reader and the outcome of their journey through the app. And users are encourage to submit more details at the end if they wish.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The project is innovative for NPR because it represents a very different approach to storytelling than we are used to doing and very different from most data journalism of this sort. It is a bilingual app, only the second time NPR has ever tried to reach the Spanish speaking audience. The story itself has the highest completion rate of anything the NPR Visuals team has ever published. Over 70% of people who visited the app made it to the end, and over 80% of Spanish audience completed it. Mobile usage was almost 70% for the English version and about 85% for the Spanish audience. We were able to use the analytics and user submissions to help guide member station reporting on lead in Michigan and Illinois and will almost certainly be able to use the data with other stations that wish to do such investigations.

Technologies used for this project:

Publishing: Python/Flask Interactive form and data collection: Amazon Lambda and DynamoDB Hosting: Amazon S3 / Cloudfront Significantly, this app represents my team's first chance to build on modern microservices to add interactivity to static files. In the process of building for these microservices, we built code we've continued to improve on that helps automate deployment to Amazon Lambda, a frustrating and missing step of that tool chain. By fall of 2017, we're likely to have a much more robust solution that is currently available anywhere.
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