Identified: the Members of Parliament that are 'doing nothing'

Identified: the Members of Parliament that are 'doing nothing'

Organisation: De Tijd (Belgium)

Publication Date: 04/05/2017

Applicant(s)

Size of team/newsroom:small

Description

When the president of the parliament states that there are some MPs “doing nothing” you know what to do as a data journalist: you turn to the numbers. So I wrote a scraper to get data on the activities for every MP in from the website of the Flemish Parliament. Data was presented (online and on paper) in the form of a scatterplot with 2 axes (number of initiatives (documents filed) and number of times the MP took the floor). The scatterplot was then divided into 4 quadrants: - the Busy Bees (MP's who talk a lot and also took a lot of initiatives) - the Silent Workers (lots of initiatives, but talk little in Parliament) - the Chatteres (talk a lot, but few initiatives) - the Passive MPs (talk little, few initiatives) Online, small multiples were used to compare the activities of MPs by party. The conclusions were a little surprising: MPs from the president of the parliament's party are the least active. And the president himself qualified as a passive MP. I documented the process and shared the code on my website: http://www.maartenlambrechts.com/2016/10/03/how-i-built-a-scraper-to-measure-activity-of-mps.html

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The whole process, from scraping data to visualising it, was done with a single R script. This means the analysis can be run again with a single click of a button. This also means that sharing the methodology is very easy. This is proven by the cloning of the project by Dutch medium KRO (see here: https://evajinek.kro-ncrv.nl/artikelen/deze-kamerleden-zijn-heel-actief-en-deze-leunen-vooral-achterover) Dividing up the scatter plot into 4 quadrants (and categorising all the MPs in this way) helped to tell the story, but was also handy to explain what a median is. On the scatterplot, half of the MPs are always lef, right, above and below the two lines dividing up the scatterplot. Online, buttons can be used to highlight MPs by party. On hover, data for every MP is displayed. A zoom button can be used to zoom in on the Passive MPs.

Technologies used for this project:

R was used to scrape the data and visualise it. Final touches for print were done in Illustrator, the online interactive graphic is done in D3. The small multiple charts (by party) were done in R with the ggplot2 package.
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