Municipality Radar

Municipality Radar

Organisation: Yleisradio (Finland)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017

Size of team/newsroom:large


What if we made the matters of municipalities more approachable and familiar. The idea of Municipality Radar was born. We looked at every municipality in Finland and investigated how they are doing. Over the next five months we gathered data from municipalities to create easily adoptable content which gave the audience simple, approachable and quick overview of the status of your municipality through 4 five-star rating. Municipality radar gives the reader a summary about town’s 1) vitality 2) economy 3) health care and 4) atmosphere. Municipality radar is a news data application that ranks every municipality and town in Finland (all 295 of them) based on data analysis which includes 39 data variables. It tells the reader how well his home town and neighbour towns are doing and what their future looks like. However it also serves those who want more specific information about the indicators: for example how much town has loan per each inhabitant or how many schools there are in the town. In addition Municipality radar gives reader information about how the neighbour towns are doing on the same indicators. Although the indexes were in focus we made the data more approachable by creating tailored text and headline for each municipality describing the municipality's status. Also municipality arms, municipality map, panorama of municipality's downtown and related news articles made the content feel like it was specifically personalised for the reader and it was about the selected municipality. Municipality radar was an early start for Finland’s municipal elections which are held on April 2017. Its objective is to get people think about the matters of their home town. Motivation for this project were the upcoming elections in Finland and that all of us live in a municipality, but we know very little about our municipality’s status. And maybe that is the reason why municipality elections in Finland have one of the lowest turnout percents. The main obstacle was that there was not full data from all Finnish municipalities as it was not available or even gathered. In addition it was a challenge to combine data which was gathered from different sources as the datasets didn't have for example same year or municipality structure. It was a challenge to coordinate every nine regional offices who made the municipality texts. Generally it was challenging to make distinctive and successful story/application from dry data. In addition we had to learn statistics to make the indexes and make a method to represent the different ranks and towns in a versatile way. The application was made in five months. The project started in summer 2016 and was finished in the end of October 2016. Second version with updated data and additional text for each municipality concerning specifically the election status and keywords was published in March 2017. Project included one coder, one graphic artist, two reporters and reporters from Yle’s regional offices.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Municipality radar is a remarkable story for the sake of municipal democracy as the meaning of the story was to increase people’s interest in the state of their home towns and municipal elections of spring 2017. Ratings are based on indexes which were made with experts from 39 different variables gathered from different sources. Each one of almost 300 towns have their own unique outlook, text and social media share text. Data was gathered mainly from Statistics Finland, Finnish Patent and Registration Office, Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finnish National Board of Education and Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. Municipality radar is an unique view to Finnish municipalities and it got very good feedback from the public but also from municipality leaders and researchers. The data which we collected has been requested from us by authorities. Municipality radar proved that municipality matters are not as boring as they are generally thought of - the application was one of the popular articles on Yle News website in 2016 and got was cited numerous times in other media in Finland. Many officials and municipalities also referred to it. Since publication other media companies have also been creating their own municipality machines, in Finland but also in Denmark. Municipality radar raised people’s knowledge about their town’s state. The additional value of the application is that before it municipal data has never been dealt with as comprehensively and approachable as in Municipality radar. We also involved our readers by asking them what is wrong in your municipality and we used this content to create questions for our election compass. Currently we ask people to tell us if they have comments or if they have found an error. The whole data which was used in story was published as open data after publishing. Additional analysis based on the data has been made by other media companies and individuals.

Technologies used for this project:

Municipality Radar was published on our CMS system called Escenic. The project was implemented with HTML5 (inc. Javascript, CSS and HTML). Project was made mobile first and it is responsive. Open Source Javascript libraries called Moment and Easy-autocomplete were used. The initial video was implemented with HTML5 video element. Google Maps was used to create the background map and Google Street View was used to create the panorama from each municipality's downtown. The movement of the device was used (if available) in panorama view so you could rotate your mobile device to look into different directions. Data format was JSON. Google Sheets were used to edit data and gather data. One single sheet collected all the data collected from 39 sources including the text content from our regional offices. Updates were automated as much as possible. Our own API was used to gather related news articles from our news site to give context.
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