Data Stories That Aren’t Downers

In which NICAR-L provides a big list of stories that might make you feel a little better

Last week, ProPublica’s Olga Pierce wrote to the NICAR-L list asking for help putting together a list of “happy data stories” or stories related to the arts, at the request of some of her students. The listers responded in force, and many of those who offered links gave us permission to post them here, so we’re sending you off into the (US) Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a fat stack of reading that probably won’t make you feel worse.

Many thanks, NICAR-L!

Local, Civic, and Not Completely Bleak (Except the Roadkill)

—Todd Wallack

  • Here’s How to Avoid Minnesota State Patrol Speeding Tickets. “I did a data package a few months ago analyzing speeding tickets in Minnesota. I don’t know if it’s happy, but it’s certainly not a downer, and I shaped it as a sort of ‘consumer data journalism’ aimed at being useful rather than stirring up muck. Things like ‘how fast do you really have to go before you’re likely to get a ticket?‘ and ‘what time of day are you most likely to get a ticket?
  • Pup Inflation: Good Dogs Getting Better. “Oh, but for a much purer example of silly data journalism that I remembered as soon as I hit send, earlier this year I scraped and analyzed the dog ratings from the Twitter account WeRateDogs.”
  • —David Henry Montgomery

    Sneakin’ Toward the Weekend, Workers Fill Roadways “How about using hourly traffic counting stations to show how people are cheating out of the office earlier and earlier on Fridays? Mental note: we’re four years away from that link being older than my incoming freshmen. Also, note the wonder at phones able to receive email being someday widely available in the story.” —Matt Waite

    What Long Island Drives. “In the car-centric suburbs, we were just curious about what people drive.” —Tim Healy

    Even “serious” data can sometimes result in positive stories:

    —MaryJo Webster

    Arts & Music

    This Is Your Brain on Art. “Not a traditional ‘data story,’ but this cool piece shows how the arts affect your brain.” —Darla Cameron



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