FiveThirtyEight -- The Year in Data

FiveThirtyEight -- The Year in Data

Organisation: FiveThirtyEight (United States)

Publication Date: 04/10/2016

Size of team/newsroom:large


It’s been two years since FiveThirtyEight was acquired by ESPN, and during that period the website has expanded greatly on its founding principle: that rigorous and lively data journalism can enlighten readers about their world just as effectively as traditional means of reporting and writing news stories. In fact, it can often reveal deeper truths than conventional anecdotal journalism and punditry. Originally, FiveThirtyEight largely covered politics and sports, but in the last two years it has shown that its approach can be applied with equal power and impact to subjects like science, economics, law enforcement, and culture. The site is now one of the most popular of its kind on the internet, and is deserving of the Data Journalism Website of the Year award for its daily demonstration that readers can learn about many aspects of their world when they can see and understand the data that explains it. In politics, the site has extensively covered the tumultuous U.S. presidential election of 2016, using interactive graphics and a large reporting team to build on its founder Nate Silver’s forecasting models to explain why states and demographic groups vote the way they do. The site has built predictive models for several of the major U.S. sports, as well as entire histories of teams, enabling short- and long-term looks at important levels of performance. FiveThirtyEight has responded quickly to breaking news, explaining the economic conditions behind the urban unrest in Baltimore and other cities, studying the spasms of gun violence that regularly wrack the country, and the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia. It brings extensive research and data-analysis capability to issues like urban transportation and law enforcement, explaining how Uber has transformed how many New Yorkers move from place to place, and examining new law-enforcement tools that claim to predict how likely people are to commit crimes. The site’s abilities are particularly evident in its expanded science section, where it has shown how Michigan officials ignored clear evidence that water was poisoned in Flint, and what an epidemic of cheating tells us about the current practice of science. It has also looked deeply into popular culture, exposing a plagiarism scandal in the crossword-puzzle industry and unreliable movie-rating systems. We are proud to submit our data journalism work for 2015-16, and hope to continue breaking ground in the field in the years to come.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

FiveThirtyEight has combined extensive empirical reporting, using reporters trained in objective data-gathering and analysis, with the best graphical journalism in the industry, to create a new hybrid. No other U.S. news site is exclusively dedicated to this form of data-based journalism in all its subjects, whether on the topics of politics, sports, law enforcement, urban life, economics, culture or science.

Technologies used for this project:

Among other technologies, FiveThirtyEight regularly uses R, Python, Stata, d3, QGIS, topojson, and Github for posting data sources.
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