How interactive news and data journalism responded to the major events of 2015

December 22nd 2015 by Christopher

An unofficial and incomplete look at how major news outlets over the world reacted to the main events throughout the year 2015. If you find something wrong or missing, feel free to comment below.

Charlie Hebdo Attacks

The year started off with the shocking and disturbing attacks on the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” when two heavily armed shooters entered the office of the paper on 7th January - killing twelve people and leaving eleven injured. The manhunt occuring after the attacks in the center of Paris claimed another five lives.

The international media responded with detailed coverage explaining the events in detail. Interactive journalists around the world tried to visualize the events using interactive maps and timelines combined with pictures and videos taken by reporters at the scene.

While the story developed in France, the New York Times came up with a visual timeline that was updated with the latest happenings. As the background of the attackers got revealed, the same newspaper published a visualization that explains how the two attackers got radicalized.

Five days after the attacks, The Guardian published an article which shows the victims and their respective background.

Germanwings Flight 4U9525

On 24th of March an Airbus-A320 operated by the German airline Germanwings was intentionally crashed in the french alps by one of the pilots which resulted in a death toll of 150.

While it was completely unclear how the crash has happened, news sites from all over the world started analyzing data obtained from Flightradar24 which gave insights about altitude, speed and position of the aircraft. This led to different maps that show the location of the crash site and charts visualizing the altitude of the plane.

After it became clear what has happened on board, infographics came up that explain how cockpit doors can be locked during the flight as one of the pilots locked out his colleague to crash the plane.

Nepal Quake

The biggest natural disaster of 2015 happened in April, when a devastating earthquake hit Nepal near its capital Kathmandu. Over 9,000 people were killed and 23,000 injured.

News organizations quickly came up with maps that show the intensity of the earthquake and the death toll by location.

Many others have published before-and-after image sliders [1], [2], [3], [4] which show the destructive extent of the quake.

Greek Dept Crisis

Greece, which is struggling an intense dept crisis since 2010 got international attention throughout 2015 by holding several important elections and negotiations accompanied by debates about the future of Greece in the Eurozone.

In interactive journalism, we saw strong pieces that aim to explain the more than complex negotiations and what could happen if Greece would exit the Eurozone.

The parliament elections in September were internationally covered by media outlets like Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine or The Guardian which also produced a live-updating visualization during the election day and a map of the election results for the referendum in June.

Refugee Crisis

One of the main topics that was reported on during the whole year of 2015 is the European Refugee Crisis which is far from over. In interactive storytelling and data journalism this topic has brought many powerful stories, dealing with the fate of the refugees trying to reach Europe under prohibitive conditions. Other pieces were rather rational than emotional by trying to find solutions for the crisis through data analysis and visualization.

Available data on migrant flows led to many data journalism pieces that explain how refugees are distributed across Europe. Interestingly, a lot of Sankey Diagrams [1][2][3][4] showed up which work well when visualizing flowing data. Another common type for visualizing the migrant flow into Europe were maps that were either static, explorable or animated.

The Syrian War and the “Islamic State”

Directly connected with the refugee crisis are the terrible events that happen in Syria, where the civil war has grown at a fearful rate. While the “Islamic State” is growing, many western countries have started to send out forces to fight against the terrorist group.

In media, this topic has been ubiquitous all over the year: There have been longreads, creative illustrations that show the devastating scale of the war, comprehensive maps of the battlegrounds in Syria, before-and-after imagery that shows the destruction of historic sites and reports on foreigners fleeing their home countries to fight with ISIS.

America’s 2016 Presidential Election

The race for the white house has officially started in 2015 and brought up many great interactives - not only from US-based newspapers. Data visualization covered many aspects, ranging from the career background of the candidates over qualifying for the next debate to an analysis of the number of candidates.

The Wall Street Journal has produced several pieces on the topic, for example multiple maps with election results of 2012, visualizations of interactions between the candidates, several graphics from Facebook data or charts which show how the candidates compare in polls.

Gun Violence in USA

Three years after the fatal mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, USA, the year 2015 was again overshadowed by several mass shootings. The long lasting debate on gun violence in the United States was captured by the media throughout the year, producing interactive maps showing the history of gun deaths, the location of gun dealers or the places where the incidents took place.

Other projects were using charts to report on the correlation between death rate and gun ownership, the ratio between deaths from terrorist attacks and gun violence or the reaction of congress members.

One of the most powerful and creative pieces of this year was published by the New York Times. With impressive simplicity, they illustrated in detail which weapons were used in the mass shootings and how the offenders got their guns.

Not only the mass shootings were present in the media over the whole year. The killings by law enforcement officers in the United States have also been a topic in 2015. The Guardian covered that topic with a special site called “The Counted” which is updated daily. The Washington Post has developed a similar project which allows the reader to browse through all victims of police shootings in 2015.

Paris Attacks

On 13th of November, 2015, the world again looked at Paris, when terrorists killed 130 people in multiple brutal attacks throughout the city. Large newspapers like The New York Times and The Guardian covered the ongoing events by creating updating articles that visualize the location of the attacks and the facts that were know by then.

After recognisation of the masterminds behind the attacks, other articles showed the connections between the assassins and how they were able to conduct the attacks.

Coverage of the newspapers also included live coverage of the manhunt directly after the attacks were taking place.

Shortly after the attackers were linked to the “Islamic State”, visualizations appeared that summarize the threat of the terrorist group and other attacks conducted by the group. Another data journalism piece focused on the role of Brussel’s district Molenbeek which was linked to islamic terrorism again in November’s attacks.

Climate Change

Although not a new topic, the global warming has been present in interactive news and data visualization this year. Starting with the proof that 2014 was the hottest year in history, Bloomberg has created one of the best interactives in 2015 with their piece on what is warming the world. Other players have created special sites or were using drones to cover the issue.

In November, the Climate Change Conference took place in Paris. On that occasion, the Financial Times published a climate change calculator and The Guardian created an interactive about the Mekong river.

In Germany, Correctiv - a nonprofit investigative newsroom published a visualization of the countries participating and Zeit Online analyzed how the temperature in Germany has changed since 1881.

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