Katie Riley

Tortoise Media

Although the Westminster Accounts was a huge project that involved dozens of people across two different news organisations, no one was more instrumental to its completion and success than Katie Riley. From the very beginning, she was the glue that held the entire endeavour – for which Sky News and Tortoise have already won a Press Gazette Award and the Cudlipp Award for Campaigning and Investigative Journalism – together. It was, for instance, originally her idea to start the tool journey by inviting users to type in their postcode and explore their Member of Parliament’s financial interests. She was also the de facto project manager and provided the critical link between the backend data, frontend design and development, and editorial teams. As the lengthy credits page for the project suggests, she also worked alongside the data, frontend and editorial teams.

Below we’ve outlined her contribution to each byline:

Written by – Katie wrote all of the text in the tool, including the introduction slides, each slide in the scrolling “story” part of the journey, as well as the text on the “explore” part of the journey at the very end. This involved both mapping out the progression of the story and writing the complex Javascript code that ensures each of the 650 MP journeys makes sense and is grammatically correct.

Data – Joseph White was the main architect of the Westminster Accounts database, but he and Katie worked closely together on all things data-related. Not only did they make joint decisions on how to interpret and transform the data, Katie also helped write some of the backend Python code that scrapes, processes and builds the database.

Design and Development – Katie worked with designers Oscar Ingham and Jon Hill to design the UI and UX of the tool, and she also helped the tool’s main developers Michael Kowalski and Chris Newell by writing some of its frontend code. In “Come fly, MP”, Katie wrote all of the code that made the story possible: a programme that searched through the Westminster Accounts database and flagged entries which appeared to be travel-related, a programme that analysed the database and identified clusters of MPs who were in the same APPGs (one of which was a group in APPGs that consistently take trips abroad), and a programme that ended up showing that many of the staffers who were travelling abroad the most were the spouses of MPs. She also shared the writing and manual research tasks with Tortoise reporter Phoebe Davis. And finally, Katie also worked on non-Westminster Accounts related stories. In “OhiNo”, she had the novel idea to take a dataset that many other news organisations have used to make maps and write stories – the Meyers Abortion Facility Database – and cross-reference it with current state laws restricting abortions by gestational limit. She wrote the story, did the data analysis, and made all of the visuals.