Jaeah Lee


Jaeah reports, writes, codes, and charts at Mother Jones. Her writings have appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, WiredChristian Science Monitor, Global Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Grist. She was a 2013-14 Middlebury fellow in environmental journalism. Her work has been named a finalist in the Data Journalism Awards. In a former life, she researched and wrote about China at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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GOP Platform Flashback: "Government Must Have a Heart"

| Fri Sep. 7, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Last week, President Obama accused the GOP of time-warping back to the days of "black and white TV." True, the party's policies, especially on women and civil rights, are straight out of the 50s (if not the Middle Ages). But Obama's jab wasn't quite fair to Republicans of the Leave it To Beaver era, whose 1956 platform seems downright progressive when compared with some of the retrograde planks laid out in the 2012 version. The year President Dwight Eisenhower ran for a second term against Adlai Stevenson, the platform sung the praises of unions, called for government to have a "heart as well as a head," and backed the doomed Equal Rights Amendment. Oh, and the 1956 Dems were a lot more agro on labor, and positively chest-thumping when it came to defense. Scroll down to check out how the parties' positions have shifted over the past 50-plus years.

Wikipedia & Library of Congress


Image credits: donkey: The Noun Project; elephant: Adrijan Karavdic, from The Noun Project.


How Our Digital Newsroom Uses Google’s Chart Tools

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 11:15 AM EDT

Here at Mother Jones, our reporters, editors, and army of fact-checkers hoard more troves of chart-tastic data than our 2.5-person interactive team can keep up with. We love quality charts and take great pride in those we've produced before—our visualizations of income inequality from March 2011 are still in our all-time biggest traffic items. But our booming daily content calls for a charting method that allows for faster, easier collaboration across the newsroom, and our go-to solutions—Illustrator and Excel—don't always cut it.

So in June, our interactive editor Tasneem Raja asked me to dig into Google's Chart Tools API. Two nice things about this approach: first, our reporters and editors already know and love Google Doc's collaborative editing features. And second, since Chart Tools can hook into a Google spreadsheet, a reporter can easily update a chart visualization themselves by simply changing the data in the underlying spreadsheet. The API also comes with a suite of configuration options that allows you to customize your chart's font, colors, and dimensions to better match your existing site styles (to an extent—more on that later).

Here's how we got it working for us.

After some preliminary Googling, I found a Google bar chart example that used the Fusion Table API, and, even better, included some sample code. As you can see below, the chart mostly runs on JavaScript, pulling data from a Fusion Table and applying some basic queries and layout.

<html> <head>
<meta charset="UTF-8">

<title>Fusion Tables API Example: Google Chart Tools Bar Chart</title>

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/jsapi"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
.load('visualization', '1', { packages: ['corechart'] });

function drawVisualization() {
: 'visualization',
: 'http://www.google.com/fusiontables/gvizdata?tq=',
: 'SELECT Year, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece FROM 18k8XNgsc5ktLP2EHMCpoKIwymsVlzVV-xVuceA',
: 'BarChart',
: {
: 'Yearly Coffee Consumption by Country',
: {
: 'Year'
: {
: 'Cups'

<div id="visualization"></div>
</body> </html>

Stellar Crime Reporting Doesn't Come for Free

| Mon Aug. 20, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
This photo gallery shows victims from Homicide Watch DC's database.

Two years ago, Laura Amico and her husband Chris created Homicide Watch DC, a website that reports on every homicide in the nation's capital that the two can track down. Visitors can easily look up any recent homicide victim or suspect in the DC metro area, locate incidents on a Google Map, track cases through RSS feeds, and read public records associated to each case. The site gets 330,000 pageviews a month, and its commenting system has been particularly valuable for family and friends of homicide victims looking to ask questions, offer additional information, or simply express their grief.

Homicide Watch's data-driven approach, combined with Laura's more traditional style of reporting—she spends most days jotting notes inside court rooms or on the phone with victim relatives—has resulted in a deep historical archive and factchecking tool. Late last December, when the DC Metro Police Department held a press conference to announce a 94 percent homicide closure rate in 2011, Laura thought that number sounded implausibly high. Chris checked their database and found that Homicide Watch records showed 61 arrests made out of 108 incidents in 2011, falling short of MPD's closure claim. Laura made a few phone calls and determined that the disparity was due to the police department including arrests made prior to 2011* in their count (a practice also used by the FBI).

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