Research associate Betsy Ladyzhets discusses data journalism in the COVID era

Kyle Ross, Contributing Writer

Iona recently hosted a discussion with research associate Betsy Ladyzhets, who has been analyzing gaps in data and misinformation about the pandemic that have occurred over the past year. 

 Ladyzhets founded the COVID-19 Data Dispatch, a private publication whose sole intent is to inform Americans on all developments and important news on the current pandemic. They provide a wide range of data and experts to give people the most accurate information on COVID19. At the event, Ladyzhets described her day-to-day activities and the various other organizations that the COVID-19 Data Dispatch works with.  

The organizations website is used as both a bulletin and forum. It provides visitors with information of hospitalizationantigens and vaccination data for the common person. The forum part of the website allows her and other volunteers to share information with one another. Since this is a non-profit organization, Ladyzhets is one of many volunteers from around the country. There are many different data-analyst-journalists like her in all the hotspots of the country in states such as Texas, California, Florida and here in New York. Data is also shared amongst journalists, which allows them to combine the storytelling of journalism with facts and data backed by research from experts. 

 Ladyzhets also described her process of communicating findings to the public. First, she gets her research either from the field or from interviewing experts. Then she cleans the information, which means she analyzes what she found and does more investigating on this information, basically double checking her sources. For example, she found that the average American can contract COVID-19 in 27 different ways. The main cause of this project was to fill in the gaps of information that the CDC had left unfilled due to administrative problems or problems with local and state governments in the past year.  

Through Ms. Ladyzhets’ investigations she has found that throughout the country, there are several super spreader events and even areas. She and her organization have found that factories and processing facilities are where the most people have gotten infected with COVID-19People in these areas are close together and may not always be wearing the proper gear or taking proper hygienic precautions. 

 Another group that works with the COVID-19 Data Dispatch is the Marshal Project, which focuses on infection rates within prisons. Prisons across the country are not the most hygienic places to be so it is abundantly clear that many people are at risk of contracting COVID-19, whether they are an inmate, a worker or even someone visiting a loved one within prison. Ladyzhets also mentioned a more heartfelt organization that has popped up in the midst of the pandemic, Missing Them. Missing Them is run by local news stations that wish to honor those who have succumbed to the virus. In New York alone there have been 35,000 fatalities commemorated by Missing Them. 

 Ladyzhets explained that there will always be people doubting the information coming out about the pandemic, however, if people show their work, their resources and the experts, then the information will be undeniably true. While the COVID-19 Data Dispatch has since slowed down with the new administration putting out more data about infections, testing and vaccination, the New York-based organization is still accepting volunteers to their cause.