Illustration by Oscar Bray.

Visualizing 200 Issues of The Gazelle

Last week, The Gazelle published its 200th Issue. Beyond mere existence, what do 200 issues of The Gazelle reveal? What are the most read articles and what has its impact been on our community?

Last week, The Gazelle published its 200th issue — a testament to the publication’s longstanding presence at NYU Abu Dhabi. However, beyond mere existence, what do these 200 issues reveal? What has their impact been on our community?
To reflect on the publication’s identity quantitatively, we built a dataset exploring the article topics covered each semester, readership, issue composition and the writers that contribute.
What Topics does The Gazelle cover?
“Looking at the history of issues of The Gazelle is the greatest indication of major things that were happening on campus … institution developments, student opinions and major issues,'' explained Kaashif Hajee, Class of 2021 and editor-in-chief.
Given that the publication can serve as a time capsule for student interests, we analyzed what topics dominated article headlines by semester and by section.
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This packed circles visualization reveals the 20 most frequently occurring words in article titles by semester. Predictably, spring and fall 2020 contain an abundance of words like “coronavirus” “pandemic” and “virtual.” In a similar manner, we can revisit the titles in previous semesters to gain a sense of NYUAD before our time here.
For instance, “square” appears in our list for spring 2014 given the high level of collaboration with Washington Square News that semester. In current times, such a relationship seems like a fictional tale. The Gazelle also used to report on news from NYU Shanghai from fall 2016 to fall 2017, making “NYUSH” one of the top words in those semesters. Given that The Gazelle was co-founded by the Editor-in-Chief of WSN, has the publication moved farther away from the rest of the NYU global network over time?
“Indeed, if the Global Network is to live up to its lofty aspirations, then it requires journalistic institutions which can cover stories and hold administration to account across all campuses and sites,” commented Abhyudaya Tyagi, Class of 2022 and managing editor.
“This can take several forms, collaboration between WSN and The Gazelle is one option, but honestly, The Gazelle itself could use the diversity of its staff and their study away decisions to cover the Global Network more comprehensively. Unfortunately, pandemic-era restrictions on study always have obviously hampered such efforts, but hopefully this can be a point of emphasis moving forward,” he added.
Who Writes for The Gazelle?
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From our outsider’s perspective, an issue of The Gazelle issue can sometimes appear to have the same names in the bylines each week. We were curious to explore the number of unique writers per semester as well as the number of writer contributions by semester. This visualization reveals that the number of unique writers increased significantly in fall 2020 in comparison to the two previous academic years.
“One of our guiding principles is the aspiration to create a more democratic and representative newsroom. The more students writing consistently for The Gazelle, the more we are able to truly address a wide range of grievances and experiences of our campus. We also wanted to go back to our teaching publication roots, which are often forgotten and invite first-time writers to start their journalistic journey with us,” stated Laura Assanmal, Class of 2021 and editor-in-chief, sharing why writer outreach is an important part of the publication’s strategy.
Assanmal shared that making the publication more accessible and community-driven was the driving force of writer outreach. “We tried to make sure staff writers and aspiring contributors knew our editors by name, knew how to reach out to us, were aware that we can help them and work closely with them during the writing process and that we have all had stories of fear and insecurity when putting our voices out there for the first time.” Additional approaches included making the writing and publishing process more transparent through social media and designing the Saturday pitch meetings to resemble newsrooms where anybody can share ideas.
Who Reads The Gazelle?
An analysis of the publication’s identity would be remiss without understanding who is reading it. This radar chart visualization reveals the distribution of readership by age. In recent semesters, the percentage of young readers — in comparison to the overall readership — of The Gazelle has grown, suggesting that there has been an increase in students reading the publication.
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“What’s really important is not just the number of views per page or per issue, it’s the demographics [of] who’s reading,” stated Grace Bechdol, Class of 2023 and senior communications editor. “How old are they? Where are they based? Who’s reading what we are writing?”
This choropleth map reveals that the majority of readers are from the UAE and the U.S., an unsurprising find given our school’s identity as a U.S. American university in Abu Dhabi.
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What are the Most Viewed Articles?
“Whenever we publish an article, we want to keep the focus on how local, campus and international issues affect students on campus,” stated Dylan Palladino, Class of 2021 and managing editor.
Even with this range of topics from the publication’s side, examining the top articles over time reveals what has brought the most people to The Gazelle.
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Curiously, with the exception of “What Food Are You and Why?”, the top articles have centered around topics in the UAE.
“The fact that four out of the five top all-time articles are centered around the UAE is the result of circumstance rather than any concrete planning on our part,” Tyagi noted. Though the top articles’ focus on UAE topics was not intentional, further analysis reveals that readers mostly reach these articles through Google searches. This suggests that the publication may fill an information void in our surrounding community on specific topics, prompting further reflection on The Gazelle’s role in the greater UAE.
“Our role is to continue to highlight stories, facts and perspectives in the country, especially from our unique standpoint,” shared Tyagi.
Ari Hawkins, Class of 2022 and managing editor, also emphasized the publication’s distinctive position in the UAE. “I think it's pretty clear to most people that we are operating in a bit of a gray zone, especially when it comes to controversial topics,” stated Hawkins. “But, I think our perspective, one that is progressive and open-minded and happy to see diversity, is one at its core of the UAE that is celebrated by most. I think it’s a great addition.”
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This radial tree visualization shows the article views by issue and semester. “Looking at page views shows how far the publication has come,” reflected Bechdol. “It’s really awesome to see just how many people read our articles and our issues every single week and that the work of our staff writers, editors, illustrators and our whole team is genuinely being seen and appreciated by a really wide group.”
Page views can also help us understand the popularity of certain topics and fluctuation of readership between issues. However, the publication’s influence should also be measured by its ability to center marginalized voices in our community, create tangible changes on campus and prompt reflection on our values as a community.
“Articles that facilitate dialogue among both the student body and the administration are incredibly important,” said Hawkins. “However, I will also say that I have read many pieces that aren’t necessarily the top trending that are incredibly well done, informative and have important messages. I think a better metric is how happy an author is with their work,” he noted.
“I consider ourselves successful when we cover stories and issues pertaining to minoritized communities that otherwise would go unseen or unheard of, when writers learn and grow and find community after working with us and when people feel heard, seen and less alone through our pieces and personal essays,” voiced Assanmal.
“When we have members of the administration reading us, discussing what students are saying publicly, when our pieces are used to evaluate campus climate, etc., I feel like we have accomplished our mission.”
What have The Gazelle issues looked like over time?
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Generally, the publication has largely consisted of Features, News and Opinion sections. However, while Features and News have consistently had an average of 5 and 3.5 articles per issue, Opinion pieces have increased in frequency since spring 2020 from 3.5 articles per issue to 5.5.
Palladino speculated on a possible explanation for this increase: “It is also a very unique year. There are so many things going on in the world amidst Covid and a lot of people who don’t normally write for The Gazelle have been using it as a place to voice their opinions which has been awesome to see,” he shared. This increase in student opinion pieces signals a greater variety of student voices and journalistic activism to highlight certain injustices. Only time will tell if this shift will remain in The Gazelle’s future.
In the academic year 2016–17, the categorization of categories changed to “research,” “commentary” and other sections. “[There were] a few complications on people not being able to distinguish between what was news, a feature [and an] opinion and this became salient every time there was a mildly controversial article,” stated Tom Klein, Class of 2017 and former editor-in-chief. In an effort to provide more clarity, the editors reinstated the old categories.
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As illustrated above, the number of articles per issue has steadily increased over the years of the publication, from an average of 15 articles in 2014 to 18 in 2021. This average article increase and the spike in articles in fall 2020 seems unsurprising with the expansion of NYUAD’s student body and its corresponding growing pains, especially during the pandemic. “[The Gazelle] documents and captures the complexity of the institution itself,” stated Hajee. This complexity is perhaps under more scrutiny than ever before with Covid-19 pressures on administration.
What will the next 200 The Gazelle issues look like?
The Gazelle has existed for less than 10 years, but even within this short period of time, the publication has witnessed reinvention and innovation, success and failure, acclaim and controversy. In our analysis, we highlight The Gazelle’s transformations over time. We saw how in creating an independent student publication with different considerations for readership, authors and topics, The Gazelle has formulated a unique platform for NYUAD students.
As the publication looks toward the next few years, we must evaluate the new post-Covid-19 landscape that students, administration and the publication will experience. How will articles and sections reflect student interests, struggles and identities? What topics will become the most common among writers? And will the publication continue to foster a sense of authentic, raw student voices in its publications as the university matures and cements its tradition and sense of NYUAD identity?
Simran Parwani is Data Visualization Editor, Reem Hazim is Data Editor, and Cameron Wehr is a staff writer and Data Editor. Email them at
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