Project description

This year, I’ve focused on working mainly on long-form and investigative data stories. Using a range of methodologies and approaches, I’ve uncovered systemic issues with Canada’s patchwork securities regulators, found infrastructure investment disparities across Canada’s federal political parties, revealed the state of transit suicide in Toronto, delved into the geography of Canadian intergenerational income mobility, and worked on a team that built a predictive algorithm for National Hockey League games. I’ve also worked on shorter pieces breaking down everything from the latest census releases to the Canadian federal budget, and strived to pick topics that’ll inform Canada’s diverse audiences.

What makes this project innovative?

My approach has been to work backwards from the story idea, unpacking it using data wherever I can find it. I’ve told stories with everything from bar charts to beeswarm plots, and have tried to keep my visualizations and storytelling fresh by constantly changing up my visualization style. I’ve also tried to learn techniques I’m not already familiar with: For instance, when building a hockey prediction tool, we used neural networks to simulate the outcome of hockey games and in the process built one of the first hockey predictors by any major media organization.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Aside from the traditional performance metrics such as time spent, page visits and total subscriptions generated, the stories I’ve worked on this year have had a meaningful policy impact. For instance, an investigation into securities fraud led to responses by the federal government, which vowed to undertake a national conversation together with Canada’s provinces about how to tackle the problem of securities enforcement, and the Ontario and Alberta governments, which issued statements within days of the series, promising to look into the matter further. A story on how infrastructure investments favour the (currently ruling) Liberal party led to the piece being brought up during Question Period Canadian parliament. And a piece examining the trends in subway suicide has been recognized by both Toronto trauma surgeons and the Toronto Transit Commission itself, who have held meetings with The Globe since to learn more about our findings and methodology.

Source and methodology

My sources have varied significantly this year. I’ve written dozens of web scrapers to build original datasets, used data from freedom of information requests, and worked with academics using exclusive datasets. For my methodology, I document everything in R and ensure an independent data journalist is checking my work and findings for accuracy. Sources this year have included all of Canada’s provincial securities regulators, the NHL (and Sportradar, a sports data company), Statistics Canada, the Toronto Transit Commission, an economist from the University of Ottawa, the Canada Revenue Agency, many branches of the federal government, Ontario’s landlord and tenant board, and other sources developed through past reporting.

Technologies Used

My data analysis workflow relies heavily on a combination of R, Excel, GIS software and JavaScript (particularly node.js) for tasks like scraping, data cleaning and analysis. During visualization, I rely on R to make quick sketches, later developing my visual ideas either in Adobe Illustrator (using ai2html) or D3.js for interactive presentations, along with React.js and Preact.js in cases where there are a lot of different inter-connected modules on a page. This year, I’ve used R notebooks while developing my methodology for individual stories, both so that my analysis can be documented and reproduced, and so that if I team up with another reporter they’re able to see my findings in an easily-presentable way. For most visualizations, I rely on an accessible and colour blind-safe colour template we developed at The Globe and Mail specifically graphics.

Project members

All the people at The Globe and Mail I’ve collaborated with on these stories and projects.

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