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Data Journalism Top 10: Wagner’s Corporate Network, Barbie’s Career History, and Spain’s Election Results

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The private paramilitary organization Wagner Group has been fighting alongside the Russian Army in Ukraine as a parallel armed force for the past year and a half. But it — and its notorious owner Yevgeny Prigozhin — made global headlines last month when it staged, and then aborted, a quasi-coup against Russian military leadership. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to sideline Prigozhin and absorb the Wagner fighters under his country’s full military control. But Wagner’s vast corporate empire inside Russia makes that a challenging task, which was the focus of a recent Wall Street Journal data investigation.

This week, GIJN also highlights stories on the many careers of Barbie, Spain’s surprising election results, and a deep dive into the true number of missing children in Argentina.

Wagner’s Vast Corporate Network

The Wagner Group, a paramilitary organization made up of dozens of companies, staged a short-lived rebellion in Russia last month. Post-mutiny, the Kremlin has moved to take control of Wagner’s fighters inside Ukraine, while shutting down parts of the group’s holdings and canceling the nation’s contracts with the group back at home. In total, the Wall Street Journal identified more than 70 companies linked to Wagner and its owner. Readers can explore more information about these companies and how they are interconnected in WSJ’s interactive.

Barbie’s Career History

Since the launch of the Barbie doll in 1959, the iconic toy has been portrayed as a woman with a variety of careers over the decades. From ballerina to entrepreneur, and doctor to president, Barbie did it all. The Washington Post categorized and visualized the many jobs Barbie has held in the past six decades.

Russian Army Deserters

It has been 17 months since Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine. Although Russia has mobilized many of its targeted conscripts to join the war, there are many others who do not want to risk their lives at the front. Russian independent media outlet Mediazona analyzed data from the websites of Russian military courts in an attempt to gauge how many of its soldiers have deserted the army.

Privately Owned Public Spaces in NYC

The New York City Department of City Planning allowed developers of 392 buildings in the city to exceed zoning laws and build larger towers than normal in exchange for providing public spaces. However, city inspectors have regularly found that these stipulated public spaces are either inaccessible or closed for private use. According to a report by The New York Times, about half of the buildings have violated their terms of agreements with the city since 2011. The Times highlighted that the immense value of the bonus space developers received was highly disproportionate compared to the value of the public space they built. Journalists also mapped these privately owned public spaces here.

Generational Voting in Malaysia

Ahead of the six state elections that will be held in Malaysia next month, Malaysiakini analyzed the results of last year’s general election to explore how the nation’s electorate cast their votes along generational lines. Journalists found that young voters mostly opted for Perikatan Nasional, a relatively new political alliance formed in 2020, while older voters still leaned towards Barisan Nasional, a long-standing coalition that had governed the country for over 60 years. Readers can explore the interactive to see how their neighborhood voted, or check generational voting trends.

Canada’s Heat and Humidity Index

Canada has the “uniquely Canadian” humidex, which calculates how hot it feels when the air temperature is combined with humidity. CBC News created a tool for readers to search by postal code to get a personal humidity forecast and see how climate change will affect where they live. Heat and humidity are an increasingly dangerous combination, and there will be more hot and humid days in the future — but numbers will vary greatly by region.

Missing Children in Argentina

How many children and adolescents reported missing still have their whereabouts unknown? After making requests to the Ministry of National Security, Argentinian daily newspaper La Nación looked at data from Sibefu, the entity that keeps a registry of missing persons, from its inception in 2011 to May 2023. It found that out of 50,435 registered complaints for non-adults, 21,894 cases remain active. But the true number is impossible to know, since the agency’s lack of resources means many people who have been found are never accounted for in the system. La Nación also broke the data down by age, gender, and province. Among other findings of the current cases, those most frequently reported missing are babies under one year old.

Spain’s Surprising Election Results

For much of the day, Spain’s election on July 23 was on a knife-edge between the left wing Partido Socialista Obrero Español and the center-right People’s Party — with the latter winning more seats, but far fewer than its projected finish and short of an outright majority. El Pais breaks down voting patterns in Spain’s seven largest cities compared to the 2019 election, which yielded some notable information. For example, the increasing dominance of the right in many of its large cities, particularly Madrid, makes Spain an outlier among its democratic peers.

Murdered Councillors

The murder rate in South Africa is 45 per 100,000 people, noted Gemma Richie for South African data-driven outlet The Outlier, but it’s six times higher among ward councillors — a local government role meant to ensure the delivery of services in municipalities. Parsing the data for this grim statistic from election commission information and news reports, The Outlier found that about a third of the ward councillors who have died were shot, and that KwaZulu-Natal is a particularly dangerous province for these officials.

German Trains Running Late

Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s vaunted national railway, is “chronically unpunctual,” Der Spiegel found. But the delay figures the state agency releases don’t reflect that. With no reliable official information about this problem, over a period of four months, Der Spiegel examined 40 medium to long transfer routes that Deutsche Bahn classified as feasible — and mapped how likely it would be that each leg would go smoothly.

Additional Item: Hit Songs Written by Women

Breaking into the top five spots of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States is a feat that is not uncommon for women these days, thanks to the popularity of artists like Adele, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift. But the success of these tracks sung by women masks another gender disparity in music: songwriting. The Pudding analyzed the gender of songwriters for all Top 5 Billboard hits from 1958 to 2022 and found only 118 of the 3,077 (3.8%) hits were written exclusively by women.

GIJN’s Data Journalism Top 10 list is curated weekly. Send your suggestions to us.

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.


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.

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