1. 2020: The year the y-axis broke

Moving chart showing COVID-19 daily cases over one year as the axes adjust upward
Data: New York Times; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

In a year that smashed a lot of records, another trend became apparent to data journalists: Charts were showing shocking shifts in unemployment, debt, anxiety and depression, alcohol use and worldwide deaths, sometimes climbing at nearly 90-degree angles.

Why it matters: Changes that typically take months or years to show up on a trend line started happening in weeks — resulting in a year of numerical outliers that will be breaking the axis for decades to come.

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