NY Times Uses Data To Bring Voice to Refugees

The New York Times put out an interactive, data-driven story about the trend of refugees fleeing war-torn countries like Libya and Syria and crossing the Mediterranean to find asylum in Europe. The text is organized into short, easy-to-read chunks that act as an accessory to the interactive maps and graphs, which really drive the story forward.

Here’s the link to the story if you’re interested in taking a look:


The reporter gathered information about the number of deaths by drowning that occur when smugglers take large groups of refugees in small boats across the rocky Mediterranean waters. Like we discussed in class, it’s one thing to write in a print story that thousands of people are drowning while trying to escape their countries, but showing the actual numbers on a map brings those numbers to life.

Photo from nytimes.com

The surge of refugees into Europe is a big numbers story with a lot of different components and a lot of data. But instead of overwhelming the reader with long lists of numbers, the reporters break down each piece into an easily understood graph, which take a huge story and break it down.

Other graphs show which paths refugees are taking and a large map that shows Africa and the Middle East takes that information even further to show the full journey of one of these individuals. For example, how someone gets from Nairobi, Kenya, to Benghazi, Libya and then over to Europe.

Using data in this story made the details more accessible to readers, who may not have taken the time to read a long print story about this crisis. Even coming from someone who would have taken the time to read a long piece about this story, getting to see how data applies to real people and real locations brought this story to that next level.


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