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Some Of Our Best Work From 2016

As we hurtle toward 2017, the FiveThirtyEight staff has been thinking about our favorite articles, podcasts and videos from the past year. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are some gems that you might have missed — or that we think are worth another look or listen.

 


 

culture

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Oliver Roeder investigated a plagiarism scandal in an unlikely corner of media: crossword puzzles. He found that Timothy Parker, the editor of the crosswords for USA Today and the syndicated Universal Crossword, had been publishing crosswords that were extremely similar to ones that had already run in The New York Times. Parker was later removed as the editor of USA Today’s puzzle and put on leave from Universal.

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In 2015, Walt Hickey’s obsession with The Rock led to his estimation of just how much cod the actor eats every year. In 2016, things only got better. Hickey returned to the cod beat to write about what happened when someone ate like The Rock for a month. (He got buff.) And to cap the year’s Rock journalism, Walt outlined the three types of Rock movies.

 


 

science_health5

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The New Year’s resolution season is a great time to check out “You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition,” in which a team led by Christie Aschwanden learned how tricky it is to track your food intake in a scientifically sound way. They discovered that weird correlations are easy to find — like a link between eating egg rolls and dog ownership, or between drinking lemonade and believing that “Crash” deserved to win best picture. And be sure to watch Walt Hickey’s informative video with the post, too.

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“One town. Sixteen years. Four big, powerful tornadoes. It’s a hell of a coincidence. Can it really be just the work of random chance?” That’s the question that Maggie Koerth-Baker investigated in her report from Moore, Oklahoma.

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2016 was the year that Zika appeared in mosquitoes in the continental U.S., and communities have been trying to figure out how to fight it. Anna Maria Barry-Jester headed to the Florida Keys to explore the complicated ethics of a vote on releasing genetically modified mosquitoes.

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And as part of a series of articles about gut science, this video showed that there’s a lot more going on in your poop than you might think.

 


 

economics5

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What would happen if the government just gave people money, no strings attached? Andrew Flowers explored the ins and outs of universal basic income.

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When the media talks about college, the spotlight always seems to land on elite universities. But Ben Casselman argued that this view ignores the vast majority of students seeking higher education — and that we should “shut up about Harvard.”

 


 

sports3

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In the podcast world, our Ahead Of Their Time documentaries paid tribute to athletes and coaches who were under-appreciated in their era.

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A new video series on sports contracts examined why the Mets owe Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million a year until 2035 and how the rookie contract that Master P’s No Limit Sports agency negotiated for Ricky Williamsreported on here by Reuben Fischer-Baum — became one of the most infamous deals in NFL history.

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Neil Paine tried to figure out why Chris Paul’s Michael Jordan-level stats have led to so little success in the NBA playoffs.

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Muhammad Ali died this year. And while the Greatest had one of the most triumphant narrative arcs in sports history, that might still understate his mastery in the ring, Kyle Wagner wrote.

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Benjamin Morris went deep into an examination of a major sumo matchup, and Matthew Conlen created an interactive graphic that visualized hundreds of years of the sport.

 


 

politics4

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FiveThirtyEight published an interactive graphic and a set of articles about gun deaths in America that explored the more than 33,000 such deaths the country sees each year. The vast majority of them — nearly two-thirds — are suicides.

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Carl Bialik traveled to Baltimore to interview activist DeRay Mckesson, who helped build the Black Lives Matter movement, as Mckesson pursued the city’s Democratic nomination for mayor.

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Allison McCann analyzed references to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in hip-hop lyrics over the years, finding that artists used to love talking about Trump’s wealth but were starting to sour on his politics.

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The Republican Party was becoming more “Trump-like” long before Donald Trump declared that he was running for president. In “The End Of A Republican Party,” Clare Malone chronicled how the party of Reagan became the party of Trump.

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How polarized are American politics? There are a lot of ways to measure polarization, but check out how wildly different a stump speech written to appeal to a majority of Republican voters is from a stump speech written to appeal to a majority of Democrats.

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There’s been a lot of debate about who voted for Trump and why. An analysis by Nate Silver found that the biggest predictor of a Trump vote was education, not income.

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Before the votes were in, David Wasserman, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Ritchie King looked at how a changing country and the unusual coalitions of 2016 could affect the election outcome.

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Farai Chideya spoke to voters from various demographic groups for a series of articles about the people who make up the electorate.

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In July, when the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton for president, Christine Laskowski created a video looking at the state of women’s representation in the United States.

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Three podcast documentaries reassessed key storylines from past elections and broke down the conventional wisdom around them: Howard Dean’s famous “scream,” Barack Obama’s speech about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the role Ross Perot played in the 1992 election (and take a look also at this video about Perot in ’92, part of our elections video series).

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