NBC News analyzed what changed from the first 100,000 Covid deaths in the U.S. to the 100,000 deaths from July to the end of October 2021.
This analysis showed key geographic and demographic (racial and age-related) shifts in the evolution of the pandemic, and that analysis coupled with stories of the dead and data visualizations painted a picture for readers of how deaths have changed. What we found: The people who died in the latter 100,000 were younger, whiter and from southern states.
This project was read and shared as you would expect a flagship data story such as this would be. These flagship stories aren’t something that you see competing news orgs pick up and re-report immediately — it’s not that easy. Instead, a month after publication, another leading national publication reported out and published their own version of the story, a testament to the value of this way of looking at Covid deaths.
-We wrote python code to crunch numbers and analyze Covid death data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Since this story took six weeks to put together, care was taken to make the code adaptable and repeatable as the most-recent 100,000 deaths dataset changed on a weekly basis. Multiple datasets were used, which meant multiple scripts to analyze each dataset.
-We leveraged “scrollytelling” code to narrate a complex portion of one of the visuals.
-Custom d3 code powered the multiple graphics on the page.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Journalistically, it was a challenge to figure out how to present this analysis in a way that still captured the human cost. We gave a lot of thought to how these weren’t just numbers and statistics that told the story, we thought a lot about how to humanize the findings and pay proper tribute to the human toll behind the trends that we were seeing.
Technically, navigating changes in the scrollytelling portion so it worked on all devices was a challenge that required us enlisting additional technical help to solve.
What can others learn from this project?
In the face of a pandemic that’s filled to the brim with numbers, with the right eyes and enough work you can find new stories in the same old data.
It’s important to continue to center the humans that these numbers represent.