#DataViz Headline Challenge: How to Write a Great Data-Driven Headline

Like many exciting career paths, today’s journalism jobs demand good statistics skills to succeed. From surveys to local open-source data reporting  and more, statistics is often at the heart of understanding the big stories about what’s going on in the world—and data visualization is an increasingly important way to share that information with readers.

Just look to the New York Times Learning Network’s (NYT LN) free, weekly online feature “What’s Going On In This Graph?” (WGOITGraph?) for examples of this in action!

This is Statistics is partnering with NYT LN for the 2022 spring contest. The #DataViz Headline Challenge starts this Friday, March 4.

Are you ready for it? Put your best creative stats thoughts forward in the contest with these tips for writing a great data-driven headline:

1. Reflect on the Data

The first step of writing a great headline is understanding the content.

For each week of the challenge, you’ll be presented with a data visualization from a recent article in The New York Times (much as real journalists must explore data as part of their research for their reporting).

Take the time to orient yourself to the graph’s content, using the WGOITGraph? prompts as a guide:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?
  • How does this relate to you and your community?

2. Consider Story and Significance of the Data

For a great headline, it’s not enough to understand how to interpret the graph—it’s also important to grasp how the information in the graph relates to what’s going on in the world and how it relates to readers. This is the intersection that news lives at! Ask yourself: What story does the graph tell?

Now that you have a foundational understanding of the information the graph provides, it’s time to think bigger picture. Consider:

  • What’s notable about this graph?
  • What surprises you in the graph?
  • How does this graph relate to current events in the news? 
  • What do readers need to know most?

3. Craft into Catchy, Compelling Phrasing

All that’s left now is to bring it all together! A headline’s job is to tell readers what the article is about, with the goal of conveying important information and capturing their attention, so they read the full article.

Now that you understand the graph and have noted what’s most significant about it, you should be able to identify the most important or captivating point in it.

Once you’ve identified that point, write it out. Now think: What can you do to make the headline as interesting as possible without losing accuracy?

For more inspiration, browse recent headlines from The New York Times or top contributions from previous WGOITGraph? content and their headlines. 

Breaking News: #DataViz Headline Challenge starts Friday, March 4! Each week students get a new opportunity to submit a headline inspired by a New York Times data visualization. Sign up for weekly alerts for each new challenge here.

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