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Damn, We Wish We’d Done These 6 Stories This 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 do a list of our own.

But there’s no need to wait until the end of the year to share the good, envy-inducing work of other journalists. So here are six stories others published this month that wowed us. Hopefully our jealousy will lead to your discovery.


“Two theaters or 1,000? How to release an Oscar-winning film”

By Evie Liu and William Davis, MarketWatch

I never understood why some movies opened “in select theaters.” This chart-heavy article shows how films ride the wave of awards-season buzz and wash up on the Academy’s red carpet sometimes before they even arrive at a theater near you.

— Gus Wezerek, visual journalist


“How to Get New York Moving Again”

By David Leonhardt, The New York Times

I’ve been obsessed with The New York Times’s coverage of NYC’s transportation problems, and not just because it’s the perfect thing to read while stuck on a stalled F train. Their entire portfolio of stories has been excellent, but my favorite is this opinion piece by David Leonhardt. He uses the concept of the “tragedy of the commons” to help readers understand why vehicle traffic is so bad, which is an example of how a new social science lens can offer solutions to an existing problem. He also invites us to consider lessons from other countries on how we might improve our system.

— Andrea Jones-Rooy, quantitative researcher


“After a Debacle, How California Became a Role Model on Measles”

By Emily Oster and Geoffrey Kocks, The New York Times

This story was a great use of data and narrative to expose the complexities of the controversial issue of vaccinations and how infectious diseases spread. It also explained what can work to fight disease — and showed the impressive results.

— Hilary Krieger, Washington editor


“Keeping it 700”

By Bonnie Berkowitz and Tim Meko, The Washington Post

I know very little about skiing, but I do know beautiful maps, and Bonnie Berkowitz and Tim Meko certainly made some. Their whimsical pursuit of a U.S. location that echoes PyeongChang, the site of the Winter Olympics this year, is fun, and I appreciate their map-forward approach to Olympics coverage. (And the color palette made me swoon.) I love to see topography represented in online maps, since most maps I see are political boundaries like states or counties. All in all, I was super jealous but also super inspired by their visual choices.

— Rachael Dottle, associate visual journalist


“The Follower Factory”

By Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen, The New York Times

It’s easy to be jealous of the NYT’s killer exposé on fake social media followers. And it’s not just the in-depth investigative reporting or the undeniable results that have me seeing green. The fluid visual treatment on the Times’s website offered some ingenious twists on the popular “scrollytelling” format. Details like a working “show more” button inside a graphic of an iPhone were so clever I was almost annoyed. Don’t sleep on this one — it’s worth a little exploration.

— Julia Wolfe, visual journalist


“LOL Something Matters”

By Daniel Engber, Slate

Engber’s article delivers a deep and thoughtful account of the unfolding science of how people process facts, particularly inconvenient ones. It looks into research on the “backfire effect” and the “boomerang theory of debunking,” both of which suggest that fact-checking might have the unintended consequence of reinforcing erroneous beliefs. It’s terrifying stuff, but it turns out that these phenomena are more complicated than they first seemed and may be far less widespread than previously thought. They may not even exist much at all. The story becomes meta when efforts to publish research questioning the backfire effect face resistance. “In a way, the best evidence against our paper is that it keeps getting rejected,” said Alex Coppock, a researcher whose work showed that, despite the widespread notion that facts don’t matter, people really do update their beliefs when presented with new evidence.

— Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer