New York Times Chronicle

Counting Names and Phrases in the Times

Chronicle LogoLogo for New York Times R & DThe New York Times Chronicle is a new resource for “visualizing language usage in New York Times news coverage throughout its history,” which began in 1851. Enter a word or phrase and it will appear as a colored line on a graph showing the percentage of articles it appeared in from 1851 to the present. You can search several words or phrases sequentially and each one will appear in a different color so you can compare them.

Or you can ask for the number of articles. “Obama” first appeared in 2004 in .1% of the articles. In 2009, it peaked at 6.63%. In 2012 he appeared in the highest number of articles: 19,675. The peak percentage in 2009 and the peak number in 2012 probably indicates that they published more articles in 2009. Numbers are not always as clear as we are led to believe they are.

What Are They Measuring?

Jackson Pollack appeared in 1 article in 1944, 2 in 1957, 6 in 1964, and peaked at 8 in 1980. He died in August 1956 and did not appear at all. I think there is a problem with this data. His market soared in 1961 but there were only 3 articles. He continued to be mentioned 1-5 times until 1985 when he dropped off the graph again. He appears a few times more but not as often as I would have expected. Low percentages, yes. Low numbers, no.

Not sure what they are measuring. If someone quotes this data, are they quoting the actual number of appearances or the number that the NYT Labs counted? Either way, it is still interesting and I’m sure it will be quoted often.

Export the Data

You can also export the data.

[Need a new example]

And Produces a List of the Articles

To see the actual numbers and dates, you put the cursor over the line on the graph. If you click on the line, you are taken to a list of the articles with an excerpt. That is really fine.

A very nice resource. One to remember.


NYTimes Reports: Women Do Not Die

In August of 2008 I began saving the obituary email alerts from the New York Times when I noticed that almost none were about women. Since the NYTimes is infallible and comprehensive to a fault, the only conclusion I could draw from this was that women do not die, at least, rarely.

This file now includes 1300+ email alerts that include links to an estimated 3000+ obituaries of which an estimated 99.9% are of men, assuming the Times has accurately assigned pronouns.

Preliminary statistical analysis reveals that compared to men, there are fields in which women never die and others in which they die in very small numbers. Women who marry famous men, for example, die far less the famous men they marry but far more than women who do not marry famous men. Men who marry famous women never die unless they are themselves also famous in which case the women are not mentioned and the men die of their own accord.

If a woman marries a famous man and is blonde, sings, and writes a book about the famous man, she is certain of death. Her obituary will be long and detailed, with pictures, often of her smiling admiringly at the famous man holding a copy of the book.

Being athletic is correlated positively with death, although women who win Olympic medals are much less likely to die than men who win Olympic medals, a significant portion of the women who die were Olympic athletes. Further analysis is required to determine if the medal metal influences death rates significantly but preliminary analysis shows that when women earn silver or brass medals their death rate falls to roughly zero. Men who win even one brass medal, still die at the same alarmingly high rate that heads of state, Nobel Laureates, and brothers of former United States presidents die.

Women who play football, basketball, or baseball do not die.

It also appears that when women do die, they die young because the only photographs on file at the New York Times show them full body with exuberant smiles in the unwise fashion choices that are characteristic of those under forty. When men die there are many photos of them on file showing them as mature and distinguished citizens, in suits, looking pleasant but serious, as shown in head shots. Since so few women die, however, this may be a statistical anomaly. More complex analysis is required.

This is very rich data; this report only skimming the surface. Due to other constraints on my time I am unable to do the analysis required to determine in what ways the New York Times could be more helpful to women. For example, given that women have reduced their death rate to 10%, could it go even lower if they avoided writing books, winning medals, assuming responsibility for parenting world leaders, having blonde hair, etc.

To aid in this cause, I am offering my files to anyone who would like to build on my research. Please email me and I will send them along.