Using data from the US Social Security Administration, we found names with the same popularity trajectory as “Karen.” This project uses the viral “white woman who needs to speak to the manager” meme to discuss racism and stereotypes.
The project met people where they are, combining “low-brow” with “high brow” and using pop culture to reveal deeper systemic truths. The project was well received on the internet, but it’s impact might have been felt more internally. This project was released soon after Black Lives Matter protests spread across the United States in the summer of 2020, and it helped push our all white-presenting team to make commitments to equity and inclusion at The Pudding and in our industry. There is a transparent authors’ note at the bottom of the piece and it prompted us to better define our brand of journalism in our about section.
The data was collected from the US Social Security Administration using node.js and cleaned and analyzed using R (scripts are here). The story was developed using HTML, CSS, and JS, with a heavly reliance on D3.js.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of the project was presenting the story respectfully and with the right tone. The data collection for the project tooke place before the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we knew that this although we generally tackle “fun” cultural topics at The Pudding this piece couldn’t be separated from the current political moment.
What can others learn from this project?
- Journalists don’t have to seperate themselves from being human. You can acknowledge your role in telling the story.
- “Fun” projects can reveal something deeper.