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Data Journalism Top 10: Herd Immunity, Coronavirus in Prison, Elder Abuse, Journalism Rock Stars, Layoffs


Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen heated debate on whether to best solve the health crisis through “herd immunity” — the indirect protection that occurs when much of a population becomes immune to infection. Our NodeXL #ddj mapping from May 11 to 17 finds FiveThirtyEight creating a simulation calculator which shows that getting to herd immunity without a vaccine isn’t quite that simple; The Marshall Project tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths in prisons across America; the BBC’s Media Show highlighting data journalists as the media’s latest rock stars; and Istories and MediaZona examining elder abuse in Russia, which experts fear may worsen during the pandemic with so many people staying home.

Herd Immunity Debate

FiveThirtyEight explains that getting to herd immunity without a vaccine may not be easy. A number of variables can affect when herd immunity is reached — and what it costs to get there — and they vary depending on the disease. The team at FiveThirtyEight created a simulation calculator (not specific to COVID-19) that shows how a theoretical disease — Fictionitis — would play out in a population that has never encountered it before and does nothing to try to stop it.

Coronavirus in Prison

Since March, The Marshall Project has been tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths among inmates and staff in prisons across the United States. Find out how the virus has affected correctional facilities state by state by using their interactive chart.

Data Journalists: Media Rock Stars?

Data journalists used to be a niche part of the news industry. But now due to the pandemic, they have become “rock stars of the news business,” says the BBC’s Media Show. Radio presenter Andrea Catherwood interviews some rising stars about the increasing popularity of data journalism.

Best Practices for the Public Health Beat

Health reporting that misrepresents scientific findings can erode public trust in science, which in turn could fuel movements like climate change denial and anti-vaccination campaigns. On, investigative health reporter Aneri Pattani explains how to better understand the different types of studies, challenge their findings, and report on them accurately. The piece is also available in Turkish.

Where New Yorkers Moved to Escape COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit New York, many people living in the city’s wealthiest areas fled their homes. The New York Times pieced together where these residents moved by looking at mail-forwarding requests received by the national postal system. In April, the number of requests went up to 81,000, twice the number compared to 2019. Also, in the NYT’s coronavirus coverage, here are five ways to monitor the coronavirus outbreak in the US, and the country’s latest case numbers.

Abuse of the Elderly

The coronavirus pandemic has driven much of the world’s population to stay at home, but home may not be the safest place for the most vulnerable in our societies. According to human rights activists in Russia, the number of domestic violence cases has increased. To shed light on this issue, Istories and MediaZona examined publicly available court sentences for violent crimes against the elderly committed before quarantine measures were introduced.

Excess Deaths Tracker Data Repository

The Economist has been tracking COVID-19 excess deaths in several countries for weeks now, highlighting the problem of under-counting the pandemic’s true number of fatalities. Now, the publication has released the data behind its tracker, plus the code the team used to clean, analyze, and present the numbers. Find it on Github.

Noise Pollution and Hearing Loss

Data visualization designer Federica Fragapane created a beautiful work showcasing data on noise pollution and hearing loss in 50 different cities.

Intro to Machine Learning

The Google News Initiative released an Introduction to Machine Learning course that will teach journalists about the potential of machine learning and explore how it can be used responsibly to enhance journalism.

Layoffs at Quartz and Other Newsrooms

The news industry’s finances were already reeling before COVID-19, but now the pandemic is leading to major layoffs. Among those affected is Quartz, which saw nearly half of its staff (80 out of 188 roles) let go, including data journalists John Keefe, Jeremy B. Merrill, Youyou Zhou, and Daniel Wolfe. Their farewell tweets saw many from the community sending sympathies over Twitter. Cuts were also announced at other newsrooms.

Thanks again to Marc Smith of Connected Action for gathering the links and graphing them. The Top Ten #ddj list is curated weekly.

Eunice Au is GIJN’s program coordinator. Previously, she was a Malaysia correspondent for Singapore’s The Straits Times, and a journalist at the New Straits Times. She has also written for The Sun, Malaysian Today, and Madam Chair.


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

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