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Here are the top stories from our data visuals team in 2023

By Chris Essig, The Texas Tribune

Here are the top stories from our data visuals team in 2023” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The Tribune’s data visuals team was responsible for a wide range of creative and innovative work this year. Our data journalists looked at the long-term impacts of climate change in Texas, helped readers understand the Ken Paxton impeachment trial and much more. Here’s our year in review.

Like the rest of the newsroom, the data visuals team was absorbed in covering the 2023 legislative session, including charting the lack of diversity in the legislature and putting Texas’ enormous budget surplus into context. As the end of the regular session drew near, we helped track the status of major bills and key deadlines. And when lawmakers returned to debate school vouchers, we helped readers understand how vouchers work, examined the geographical disparities in private schools locations and looked at underperforming charter networks that were allowed by the state to expand.

On the political front, we covered the Paxton impeachment saga, with designer/developer Alex Ford creating a quick-turn diagram showing how the impeachment process would unfold. Before Paxton’s Senate trial in September, senior developer Carla Astudillo dug deep into his campaign finance records to see who backs him and later examined one of those PACs more closely when ties to a known white supremacist were revealed. Designer/developer Yuriko Schumacher published two visually impressive and informative stories setting the scene for how Paxton’s impeachment trial was going to work. Finally, when Paxton was acquitted, we tracked how Senators voted.

We also worked on major stories outside of politics, including a deep, long-term look at climate change’s impact on Texas. This story, which was a culmination of months of research and design, showed how the state has gotten hotter over the last 100-plus years. We also examined how this past summer was the second hottest on record and helped visualize renewable energy trends in the state.

Our team was involved in several other critical stories this year. Caroline Covington, the Tribune’s Scripps Howard data visualization fellow, dug into a large amount of unreported air monitoring data to show large spikes in benzene levels after a 2019 chemical fire outside of Houston. Covington also wrote about how a frayed refugee system is creating obstacles for Afghans in Texas. Dan Keemahill, data reporter for the ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative team, helped show how a dark money nonprofit was trying to work to defeat a Midland school bond. Astudillo put together diagrams on the power and influence of the Texas attorney general office and later wrote about the lack of hate crimes being reported in Texas. And summer fellow Susie Webb visualized and helped write two stories on the growing number of gun fatalities among young people in Texas.

This year, we also found time to cover declining animal populations in the state. Webb wrote a feature story on bats in central Texas, whose numbers are ravaged by a new deadly disease. And Schumacher charted the drop in oyster harvest areas along the Gulf Coast.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/12/28/texas-tribune-data-visuals-top-stories-2023/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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