Project description

Terrorism events are rare in the West — but gain a disproportionate amount of media coverage. With our project, “Was there terrorism where you live?,” we help the reader understand that terrorism happens almost every day in some parts of the world. Each day, a map of the world is updated to show where attacks took place on this day last year, and the reader can see if their country was affected. Clicking a country redirects to a page with charts showing where most attacks took place, including an interactive table where the reader can explore all the incidents, and links to related stories.

What makes this project innovative?

Most stories on terrorism focus on individual attacks, specific groups or tactics, but our project gives the reader a sense of the overall landscape of terrorism.
Our project is one website, but has a story for every day of the year because the data is updated daily. This gives the reader incentive to check back and develop a sense of where terrorism takes place. Although the Global Terrorism Database has been used for decades, our story makes it smaller, searchable, and more reader-friendly to navigate.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

“Was there terrorism where you lived?” was the first interactive project our three-person data team produced in a newsroom without a strong existing data culture. Building the website created a template and workflow for future projects. In addition, familiarity with and analysis of the Global Terrorism Database resulted in more beat reporting, including articles about the rise of mass kidnappings by terror groups, the global breakdown of terror attacks, ISIS claims in the Las Vegas mass shooting, and more.

The interactive was also shared by START and republished on partner websites.

Source and methodology

For the “Was there terrorism where you lived?” project, we used data from the Global Terrorism Database, an open-source collection of terror attacks around the world maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a US Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence located at the University of Maryland. We spent several days analyzing and verifying the data, finding topline statistics and looking for patterns using the python library pandas. Preliminary charts and graphs were created in jupyter notebooks. After choosing the statistics we wanted to show for the interactive, we tested the data for outliers before narrowing down the database from 108 columns to nine.

For each day in 2016, we then analyzed the number of incidents that happened on that date, as well as the number of deaths that occured, and created bar charts illustrating the countries that were impacted the most. We also created an interactive table that allows the reader to read details on each incident that happened in the past year.

Technologies Used

To analyze the terrorism database, we used the python library pandas, and visualized preliminary results in Jupyter notebooks.

We then wireframed ways to visualize to present our story in an interactive website using Adobe Illustrator. After the final design was chosen, we used HTML, CSS, and Javascript to code the interactive. The map on the landing page as created with D3.js, as well as the calendar heatmap on the story page. In addition to Jquery and Bootstrap, we used the following Javascript plugins:

Chosen (https://harvesthq.github.io/chosen/) - to make nice dropdown select box
Highcharts (http://highcharts.com/) - to make bar charts on country.html
Datatables (https://datatables.net/) - to make the result tables on table.html.

We added final touches to our page, including suggested dates and filters for the calendar heatmap and searchable table, optimizing for mobile views, and social sharing and tracking.

Project members

Sophie Chou, Kuang Keng Kuek Ser

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