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Damn, We Wish We’d Done These 5 Stories Last Month

At the end of every year, we’re jealous of Bloomberg News’s “Jealousy List,” a list of stories that Bloomberg staffers wish they had published. We’re so jealous that we’re making monthly lists of our own.

So here are five stories published by other journalists this month that made us envious. Hopefully, our jealousy will lead to your discovery.


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“Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys”

By Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce and Kevin Quealy, The New York Times

If every newsroom in the country did a monthly jealousy list, I bet nearly all of them would mention this article from The Upshot, a project of The New York Times. Drawing on a comprehensive analysis of demographics and income in America, it provides definitive evidence that race — and not class — is the major barrier to prosperity for black men in the U.S. The multiple animated charts1 offer an intuitive and humanizing portrayal of the poverty trap ensnaring black boys and the relative upward mobility afforded to white boys. It’s a must-read. I’m mega-jealous … but still happy to see such an important question getting the attention it deserves.

— Ritchie King, senior data visualization editor


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“The Massive Prize Luring Miners to the Stars”

By Susanne Barton and Hannah Recht, Bloomberg

When I was a little kid, I had a book about science that I couldn’t put down. I slept with it and memorized it and wore out every page — except one. That dreaded page was filled with an enormous inky image of deep space, and the stars, planets, comets and asteroids scattered within it. If I looked at the page, I’d lose my breath and imagine tumbling, helmetless, forever outward into the cold expanse.

Somewhat older now, though, I happily faced my astrophobia to read this deep piece. It takes data journalism to these frightening expanses, beautifully plotting the distance from Earth to hundreds of asteroids. The story is about braver souls than I: futuristic miners who want to fly into space and return with metallic bounty — iron, nickel and cobalt, which our planet could soon find itself running out of. The material in one of these asteroids, called Davida, is valued at $15 quintillion, or about 200,000 times the gross domestic product of the world. For once, I couldn’t turn the page.

— Oliver Roeder, senior writer


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“The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant”

By Anna Flag, The Marshall Project

This collaborative piece between The Marshall Project and The New York Times’s The Upshot challenges the claim that more immigration leads to more violent crime in the U.S. The story relies on a large academic study and shows how various metro areas’ violent crime rates have risen or fallen alongside how their immigration rates have changed since 1980. After readers are done with the national trends, they can search the metro areas’ individual patterns. I thought this was a great way to turn a large study into a tool that allowed people to explore a claim themselves.

— Kathryn Casteel, writer


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“Women Lose Out to Men Even Before They Graduate From College”

By Jackie Gu, Bloomberg

I really loved the graphics and interactive elements in this piece about the job prospects for male and female college graduates. Though the story’s findings were disheartening, I really appreciated Gu’s coverage of the topic’s many facets. I thought the visual choices were smart and made it easy to find clear takeaways, while also offering wonkier readers the opportunity to dive into the data. The piece was comprehensive in its text and visuals — and beautiful too!

— Rachael Dottle, associate visual journalist


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“The Pattern Problem”

By Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia

Audio is not exactly data journalism’s native medium. When FiveThirtyEight staffers create articles that appear on the website, we have the luxury of relying on charts and tables to help display our findings in a way that (hopefully) resonates with our audience. But when we’re telling audio stories, those visual tools aren’t available, which can mean a lot of extra work to get the same information across.

In a recent episode of “Invisibilia,” the science storytelling podcast from NPR, I heard how to make that extra work sound like no work at all. The episode was about whether algorithms and predictive models could forecast a person’s future behavior based on their past experiences. It was a good episode, but what really stuck with me was the way that reporter Alix Spiegel described a simple bar graph. “There were no tall colorful towers. Instead what you saw was a bunch of squat bars crowded around the bottom like flattened mushrooms, indicating that the predictions were a lot closer to 0 percent accurate than 100. Most of the graph was a vast white space. Just emptiness.” That, I thought, is how it’s done.

— Chadwick Matlin, senior editor

Footnotes

  1. Each is a riff on what’s called a “Sankey diagram.”

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