The New York Times has graphed the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians in the context of previous years' deaths. Image: Screenshot, The New York Times
After almost a month’s hiatus, GIJN’s Data Journalism Top 10 column is back. This edition — featuring data stories spanning between September 25 to October 8 — includes The New York Times’ mapping of the recent events surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, ProPublica’s investigation into years of complaints about defects in a company’s breathing machines, The Pudding’s interactive exploring the relationship between one’s use of time and loneliness, and El País’ gender analysis of Nobel Prize winners.
Reporting on the Israel-Palestine Crisis
In the past week, the ongoing Israel – Palestine conflict radically escalated when the militant group Hamas launched a widespread surprise attack and deadly incursion into Israel from Gaza on October 7, which has been followed up with massive bombing and rolling airstrikes in Gaza by Israel. Thousands of civilians have been killed so far. Newsrooms around the world have been following the situation closely by analyzing satellite imagery as well as photos and videos uploaded to social media. The New York Times is reporting on and mapping the attacks and events as they unfold, including where the initial Hamas rockets hit, which towns were evacuated, and the death toll of Israelis and Palestinians in the past 15 years of conflict.
Dangerous Breathing Machines
Breathing machines and ventilators are used to treat sleep apnea — where a person’s airway can collapse at night — alongside many other conditions. From the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica, in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, comes this deep-dive investigation into how one industry-leading company handled complaints that a foam product used inside its devices had released “black particles” or “dirt and dust” inside the machines. Reporters used newly unsealed court records, internal documents, text messages, public records, and conducted more than 200 interviews to investigate. (In response the company said it began addressing the problem as soon as it was aware of it and regretted the “distress and concern” caused by the recall, but that complaints were limited in the years before the devices were recalled.) Read the reporters’ how-they-did it explainer here.
Epidemic of Loneliness
Imagine, or perhaps, remember, a weekend day in which you did not have any meaningful conversations, where your only stimulation was a trip to the grocery store and some passive time spent watching television. Through the story of “Martin,” a 62-year-old Hispanic American male, the Pudding’s Alvin Chang sets out what he calls an epidemic of loneliness in the US, and how the problem has been “supercharged” by the pandemic. The story uses data from the American Time Use Survey to allow readers to scroll through 24 hours in the life of people like Martin, with details of what respondents did and who with, and how happy (or unhappy) they felt. Chang found that the amount of time people in the US spend with family and friends has decreased across every age group — and especially among younger people — while the amount of time they spend alone has also gone up across the board. See too his behind-the-scenes piece on the interactive story that sensitively touches on the negative effects of loneliness.
Who Wins Nobel Prizes?
For nearly 100 years, the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature were typically male, over 60, and European. The Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, who won the prize this year aged 64, may fit that description, but according to this story from the Spanish newspaper El País, in general, the pattern is changing. Breaking down the data on winners, the report showed that while 93% of winners were male before 1990, since then, the gender gap has narrowed. It also looked at which countries have won the prize most often (France, the US, and Germany) to map where literary giants have come from, and analyze the ages of the winners, pointing to how octogenarians have gone from 5% of prize winners to 14%.
Climate Budgets in Pakistan
Last year, devastating floods ravaged one-third of Pakistan. It affected some 33 million people, with one of the worst-hit areas being the southeastern province of Sindh. Pakistan news site The Citizenry dug into the budget allocations and expenditures on Sindh by the government’s climate-related departments between 2007 to 2023. Their analysis showed that the state’s entire spending on mitigating the effects of climate change over that period was less than the funding allocated for one mega-expressway.
Corporate Carbon Offset Purchases
In a special series on carbon offsets, Carbon Brief, a UK-based site specializing in the science and policy of climate change, did a data deep dive into carbon offset purchases by the world’s largest companies between 2020 and 2022. It visualized, using Sankey diagrams, the types of offset credits bought and how they have flowed from projects around the world into the balance sheets of 34 top fossil-fuel producers, carmakers, and tech firms. Carbon Brief also investigated the impact of carbon-offset projects around the world and traced the 60-year history of carbon offsets.
Ukrainian Artifacts in Russia
Ukrainian data journalism agency Texty.org.ua set out to find artifacts originating from the territory of modern-day Ukraine that have been moved to Russia prior to Ukraine’s independence. The team studied open source data on Russian museum collections and managed to identify 110,000 exhibits in two Russian museums that could be traced back to locations in Ukraine. The items included parts of ceramic pots, tools, and other items made of gold, silver, and precious stones. The story is available in English and in Ukrainian.
London’s Demographic Transformation
Where 20 years ago about 70% of England’s Black population called London home, today the figure is less than half. In a story for Bloomberg’s Equality + CityLab divisions, titled How London Lost Its Place at the Heart of Black Britain, reporters used census data from the Office of National Statistics to explore how the makeup of the city is evolving, mapping the areas that have seen the biggest changes in terms of the ethnicity of residents over time. While the capital city’s population has swelled by 23%, to roughly 9 million people, since 2000, and become more diverse at the same time, the Bloomberg team’s analysis found other ethnic minorities driving the change. Black communities have instead been growing in London’s suburbs or even other cities as an “affordability crisis pushed its Black residents farther away from the core of the capital.”
Divorce in the Philippines
We expanded our date parameters to include this notable story from Kontinentalist — an outlet that focuses on data stories about Asia — published earlier in September. It explores why ending a marriage is still so difficult for women in the Philippines, using data from the Philippine Statistics Authority to explore religious affiliation in the country and World Bank information to chart what marriage rights women have across Southeast Asia. While divorce is not universally allowed in the Philippines, the other options, like legal separation and annulment, can take a number of years, impact a woman’s chance of securing custody of her children, and can be “financially, mentally, and emotionally draining,” the report explains. The reporter draws on timelines and cost estimates for different options — pointing out how the cost of leaving a marriage is often more than a monthly salary.
The haze is back in Southeast Asia. Parts of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia are experiencing transboundary air pollution and has seen worsening air quality in recent weeks. The haze has been blamed on forest fires in Indonesia, caused by “slash and burn” land clearing practices to make way for plantations. By analyzing wind and fire data, Singapore daily The Straits Times created an animated simulation to show how climate patterns, wind direction and intensity, and shifting hot spots can determine how far — and where — the haze reaches across the region.
GIJN’s Top 10 in Data Journalism list is curated fortnightly. Send your suggestions to us.
Laura Dixon is an associate editor at GIJN and a freelance journalist from the UK. She has reported from Colombia, the US, and Mexico, and her work has been published by The Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has received fellowships from the IWMF and the Pulitzer Center.
Eunice Au is GIJN’s global team manager based in Budapest, Hungary. Previously, she was a 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.