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data journalism AR-15 history visualization wound
data journalism AR-15 history visualization wound

Image: Screenshot, The Washington Post



Data Journalism Top 10: AR-15 Gun Violence, US Mortality, Water Scarcity, Russian Atrocities

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data journalism AR-15 history gun violence visualization wound

After yet another school shooting in the US, The Washington Post examined the history of the AR-15, and created a powerful visualization of the wounds that its bullets can inflict on the human body. Image: Screenshot, The Washington Post

School shootings are yet again in the news in the US after the latest incident in Nashville, where three students and three adults were shot and killed by multiple weapons, including an AR-15 military-style rifle. The regularity of such incidents contributes to the US’s alarming mortality rates, according to a piece by the Financial Times. And The Washington Post, which keeps a running tracker of school shootings since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, did a 10-story deep dive on issues related to gun violence and the deadly AR-15 weapon. Our weekly NodeXL and human curation of the most popular data journalism stories on Twitter also features a look at global water scarcity hotspots, Russian war crimes, and the enduring appeal of the BBC’s television shows.

Marketing History of the AR-15

The Colt AR-15 rifle debuted in 1964, and has since become a popular tool of mass murderers in the US. As part of a series of stories examining the gun’s impact on US politics and culture, The Washington Post reviewed 400 advertisements, catalog entries, brochures, social media posts, and other messages produced by gun manufacturers and ad agencies to trace the history of how it was marketed to the public. First, ads promoted AR-15s for hunting animals. Later, the guns were marketed for self-defense and law enforcement, before pivoting to more nationalistic and military vocabulary after the September 11 attacks. Need a quick summary? Watch The Post’s TikTok on this. Also worth checking out: A disturbing but powerful visualization of what harm AR-15 bullets do to the human body.

Alarming US Mortality

One in 25 five-year-olds in the US will not make it to their 40th birthday — just one of many alarming observations in a Financial Times dataset this week. Columnist John Burn-Murdoch discusses some “utterly damning” charts that show just how dire American life expectancy and mortality rates have become. The average US adult has far higher wages than their UK counterparts, but about the same life expectancy of someone born in the UK’s most deprived town. America’s mortality problem, Burn-Murdoch explains, is driven primarily by high death rates among the young, and for grim reasons, overwhelmingly the result of external causes such as gun violence or overdoses — social problems that are far harder to tackle collectively than health issues. Read Burn-Murdoch’s summary in this tweet thread.

Mapping Water Scarcity

Across the globe, humans consume massive amounts of water — for domestic use, industry, and irrigation. When the human demand for water exceeds the renewable supply — which is sourced from rivers, lakes, and shallow aquifers refreshed by rainfall — water gaps arise. And gaps that occur in one country can affect other nations. Based on the data from a water model by Utrecht University, National Geographic mapped the water scarcity hotspots around the world and used graphics and quizzes to explain the problem and its potential consequences.

Mapping Russian Attacks

The nonprofit newsroom Disclose — in partnership with European outlets Die Welt, Le Soir, Le Temps, L’Espresso,, and Investico — has recorded and mapped 5,834 attacks carried out by Russia’s military against Ukrainian civilians in the first year of the war, including deaths, injuries, arbitrary executions, rape, torture, school shootings, civilian infrastructure damage, assaults on heritage sites, and more. While such attacks are particularly concentrated along the frontlines and around strategic cities in eastern and northern Ukraine, they span the whole country — including a rocket attack that damaged the railroad network in Volovets, a town about 70 miles from the Slovakian border.

Electric Vehicle Adoption in Europe

The EU wants to bid farewell to the internal combustion engine, but many European countries are dragging their heels. Indeed, EU member countries are bitterly divided on the issue, which has provoked strong emotions. A vote on phasing out combustion engines was recently delayed, because Italy and some Eastern European countries were likely to join Germany in a veto. This is not surprising, a data team at German weekly Die Zeit notes, because of the considerable variations in progress towards adopting alternatives — and in wealth — among EU countries. Figures from Dataforce showed that electric cars are particularly popular in Scandinavia, but that the EV adoption needle has barely moved in Southern and Eastern Europe, where fossil fuel-cars remain king.

Divorce in Russia

Russia is among the top countries with the highest rate of divorce per capita, and the children in these dissolved marriages usually remain with their mothers. Current Time TV, a Russian-language television channel based in Prague, analyzed census data and mapped the composition of families across the country. It also dug into the problems that single mothers have with obtaining alimony and found that, on average, 87% of annual alimony payments mandated by the courts go unfulfilled.

The Enduring Appeal of Ab Fab and British Television

Even in the age of streaming and on-demand entertainment, the humble BBC beats its considerable competitors when it comes to creating quality, popular shows. A team at The Times analyzed the 100 top-rated TV shows on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and found that BBC-produced shows accounted for almost a fifth of them — with Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries particularly well-represented. Classic BBC shows — such as 1990s hits Absolutely Fabulous and Jeeves and Wooster —  also tended to have more staying power than newer ones.

Evolution of Car Size

What explains the trend towards ever bigger, wider, taller, fatter cars? How and when did we start making them larger and ever more ill-suited to city streets, traffic rules, and parking spaces? Ambroise Carton, for the Belgian French-language public network RTBF, digs into data to explain. Using a database of thousands of vehicles marketed over the last century, interactive graphics showing innovations to car models, and expert interviews, he traced the evolution of vehicle appearances. But is it safety, style, cost, or comfort that shape how cars look?

Bubble Tea Fever

The US imports many types of food from Taiwan, but the popularity of boba — tapioca balls — is undeniable. According to trade data cited in Bloomberg’s story, these chewy pearls are now the US’s biggest food import from Taiwan. Journalists also charted the percentage growth in bubble tea shops across the country, and examined Google searches for the classic Asian drink.

Train Derailment Trends

Following several train derailments that hit the news in the past two months, USA Today took a look at how often these incidents happen, and just how deadly they are. According to its data analysis, although these occurrences usually wrack up expensive damages, very few of them actually result in evacuations, deaths, injuries, or the release of hazardous materials. Readers can use a tool created by the newsroom to search train derailment incidents by company, state, city, and more.

Bonus: Origin of Dates

The season of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting, has begun, and breaking the daily fast by consuming dates is a treasured tradition. Al Jazeera presents different facts about dates using physical data visualization techniques.

Thanks again to Marc Smith and Harald Meier of Connected Action for gathering the links and graphing them. GIJN’s Data Journalism Top 10 list is curated weekly.

Eunice Au is GIJN’s global team manager based in Budapest, Hungary. Previously, she was a Malaysia correspondent for Singapore’s The Straits Times, and a journalist at Malaysia’s New Straits Times. She has also written for The Sun, Malaysian Today, and Madam Chair.


Alexa van Sickle is an associate editor at GIJN. She was previously a senior editor for the foreign correspondence magazine Roads and Kingdoms. She has also been an editor at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a publisher at an international law non-profit in London. She lives in Vienna, Austria.

For a look at NodeXL’s mapping on #ddj and data journalism on Twitter, check out this map.

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