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When Data Tell the Story

Journalists are constantly being accused by those who work with data for a living of doing a poor job of incorporating data into their stories.
This is a fair argument. A lot of data gets mangled, cherry-picked, or turned upside-down on its way into an article. That said, I think most journalists and all data people would agree that the best journalism always tries hard to incorporate data if it’s relevant and reliable.
This morning, my paper copy of The Times included a replica of the paper’s special section on the moon landing from July 21, 1969. You’ve probably seen the iconic main headline: “MEN WALK ON MOON.” The lead article is by John Noble Wilford (who’s still going strong, btw), and includes one of the most elegant little uses of data I can recall seeing in a news article:

Although Mr. Armstrong is known as a man of few words, his heartbeats told of his excitement upon leading man’s first landing on the moon.
At the time of the descent rocket ignition, his heartbeat rate registered 110 a minute — 77 is normal for him — and it shot up to 156 at touchdown.

Someday I would like to write two sentences as good as those.
For those of you craving a photographic remembrance of the moon landing, it’s hard to do better than the collection put together by The Big Picture.