Author Archives: Tanveer Ali

From The Archives: Where Do You Stand or Sit On The Train?

One of the best parts of working at DNAinfo was our ability to experiment. One of the our most successful experiments came out of a discussion I had with a few friends that was based around this question: “What’s your favorite seat on the Chicago ‘L’?”

I took that question to our small team dedicated to data and visualization projects. From that, after months of iteration and testing, we produced two features examining ridership preferences in New York and Chicago.

You can still can take these theoretical commutes! So please take a ride now.

Merging Data Visualization With Video: An Appeal Video For Belt Magazine

Check out this appeal video I made for Belt Magazine, a fantastic publication based out of Cleveland that puts a focus on the Rust Belt and Midwest. You can contribute here.

Jordan Heller, Belt’s editor-in-chief, asked me to produce the video by merging compelling photos and article screenshots from Belt’s archives, with visualization and data that addresses the region’s journalism decline. Some information I gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • In 1996, the six states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana had 9,470 working “reporters and correspondents.” In 2016, that number was just 6,640.
  • The Chicago area has just 1,090 reporters and correspondents. Buffalo has just 50. Cleveland and Detroit have 400 each. The Washington, DC area has 3,010 while New York City has 3,610.

Starting This Back Up: Summing Up Five Years At DNAinfo Chicago

I haven’t updated this site in a while, mostly because of a lack of bandwidth. But since the sudden shuttering of DNAinfo last week — a place where I worked with some of the most-dedicated, talented and caring journalists I’ll ever meet for five years — I realized it would be good to restart the site that shares my name.

Ido plan on updating the look and functionality of the site eventually, but for now here’s an update on where I’ve been since my last post here in 2013 and how I plan to move forward in the next step of my career.

I’ve been at DNAinfo since fall 2012 up until last week. At the urging of the supportive and amazing Jen Sabella, I successfully pitched they make me the “data reporter and visualization producer.” Fundamentally, that means I’d tell stories with graphics and numbers, but rather than simply produce staid maps and line graphs, I was empowered to learn new techniques on the job and experiment with journalism. It was simply the best job.

Here are some of the features I produced, either independently, or with the fantastic team of John Ness (former DNAinfo Editor-In-Chief), Nicole Bode (former DNAinfo New York editor of everything), Nigel Chiwaya (my former DNAinfo New York counterpart) at the team at NiJel Mapping.

Special features:
How Every New York City Neighborhood Voted In The 2016 Presidential Election (Nov. 9, 2016)
How Every Chicago Neighborhood Voted In The 2016 Presidential Election (Nov. 9, 2016)
Where Do You Stand or Sit on The ‘L’ (Feb. 2016)
Where Do You Stand or Sit on The New York Subway (Feb. 2016)
This is Where Chicagoans Say The Borders of Their Neighborhoods Are (Sept. 28, 2015)
Chicago Craft Beer Atlas: The Ultimate Map Of Chicago’s Craft Beer Scene (April 2017)

Chicago crime databases:
Where Shootings Have Occurred in Chicago Since 2010 (MAP) (Since July 2015)
Chicago Murder Timeline (2012-2017)

A selection of census-based stories:
How The Racial Makeup Of Chicago Has Changed In The 21st Century (MAP) (May 16, 2016)
Young Black Families Move Back To Woodlawn, Reversing Exodus (Dec. 12, 2016)
Downtown Keeps Growing As Rest Of Chicago Shrinks (May 20, 2016)
Polish Population Plummets On Far NW Side As Residents Head To Suburbs (June 1, 2016)

Other data and visualization-based stories:
Less Than 25 Percent Of Chicago Kids Go To ‘Neighborhood High Schools’ (June 19, 2017)
Future Looks Bleak For Cabbies As Rides Dip 41%: ‘The Worst It’s Ever Been’ (Sept. 21, 2017)
Over 150,000 Cars Signed Up for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in Chicago (Nov. 23, 2015)

It was a pleasure to tell stories about the neighborhoods of Chicago and New York in this new and exciting way. My hope is to build on what I’ve done at DNAinfo and help a new audience engage with information in new, exciting ways.

‘Murder in Chicago: The Human Toll’ Wins Editor & Publisher Award

Pictured are just 97 of the more than 375 homicide victims in Chicago as of Oct. 31, 2013. Some of these photos include loved ones of the victim, but one (five from the right and three from the top) includes mother and son victims, Chavonne Brown and five-year-old Sterling Sims.

Pictured are just 97 of the more than 375 homicide victims in Chicago as of Oct. 31, 2013. Some of these photos include loved ones of the victim, but one (five from the right and three from the top) includes mother and son victims, Chavonne Brown and five-year-old Sterling Sims.

On Wednesday, DNAinfo Chicago’s project “Murder in Chicago: The Human Toll” was awarded Editor & Publisher’s EPPY Award for “Best Investigative/Enterprise Feature on a Website with under 1 million unique monthly visitors.”

I wrote about my role in the project earlier this year. Though it feels a little weird about winning an award about people who would never have been widely know except for the way they died, I find what we’ve done deeply important and am honored to work with such a great team.

How Home Shapes Chicagoans’ Lives, Part 1

Check out what will be the first of a series I’m doing for WBEZ’s Curious City project comparing life in Chicago’s public housing with downtown condo life.

The key question I’m trying to answer?

What’s it like to live in public housing versus the fanciest apartment downtown?

If you know someone who lives in one of Chicago’s fancy downtown apartments, shoot me an email.

Photo credit goes to WBEZ’s Logan Jaffe.

A Look at Chicago’s Murder Rate: Why Covering ‘Ordinary’ People Matters documented all 509 murders in the city in 2012.

DNAinfo Chicago documented all 509 murders in the city in 2012.

I recently finished reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo chronicling several years in the lives of a handful of residents of a Mumbai slum. The book is no doubt a herculean feat of journalism about what could be called some of the world’s more insignificant people. In the Author’s Note that follows this nonfiction novel, Boo writes:

When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.

For the past few months, I’ve been working with a team of hungry and talented journalists at, chasing down the stories of every homicide victim in the city of Chicago in 2012. The package launched a couple weeks ago, telling the stories of 509 people killed within city limits.

It’s fair to say that the large majority of these people were ordinary, at least in the traditional sense. Many were former gang members. Others, just victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. They were victims of their surroundings in neighborhoods not only plagued by gang violence, but poor schools and high unemployment. All, more or less, were destined to leave their mark merely as statistics.

Working on this project made me further appreciate the impact we have as journalists and that the individual details matter as much as the big picture. Journalism isn’t merely about holding the feet of decision makers to the fire but showing the everyday, often recurring, consequences of how we’ve shaped our neighborhoods, cities, states, nations and world. Just as the stories of the 20 children and seven women killed last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School matters in whatever debate about guns we have coming up in this country, so should the stories of Nicholas Camacho and Jeffrey Stewart.

All extraordinary things have an effect on ordinary people, in one way or another, and as journalists we have a duty to show that in our storytelling. If we forget this, why bother being journalists?

Public Appearance: KALW 91.7 on Sikh Shooting Coverage

If you are in the Bay Area or cruising the Internet today around 10:30 a.m. PST/1:30 p.m. EST, please tune into KALW 91.7 where I’ll be a guest on Your Call to talk about coverage of Sikh Americans, and more broadly minorities, in wake of events such as Sunday’s shooting at a Wisconsin temple. It follows up an article I wrote on the issue of minority coverage amidst breaking news situations for Columbia Journalism Review. I briefly discuss that story on a blog post on this site.

New Piece: On Minority Coverage During Breaking News Tragedy

For those of you who are interested in minority coverage in the media, please read my piece from today on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website titled “Breaking news: This minority group is different.” It’s specifically about the coverage of Sikhs in wake of Sunday’s shooting at a temple in suburban Milwaukee. Feel free to comment on CJR’s site or below.

New Piece: Urban Entrepreneurship Examined

I alluded to this story in an earlier post, but my nearly 4,000-word story on urban entrepreneurship in America was published today by Next American City.

The story examines how urban entrepreneurship, by that meaning largely small-scale, minority businesses in inner-city areas, has become a mission in the nonprofit, government and for-profit sectors. A key aspect of the story was deep-diving into what’s happening in Newark, N.J., where Mayor Cory Booker has developed into an inspirational leader of the cause of urban entrepreneurship.

The story is behind a paywall, a new revenue stream for NAC, which recently dropped its print magazine in favor of publishing longform pieces once a week. You may purchase my story, or any other for that matter, for $1.99. A yearlong subscription costs $17.98.