Did you know that there’s a plant in the Namib Desert that relies solely on air moisture for water, yet lives for thousands of years? Or did you know that some toads are so eager to mate, they’ll hump anything that moves, including other males or frogs of a completely different species? Or did you know that the number one cause of mortality in three-toed sloths is climbing down from their leafy perches to poop?
Much as I’d love to keep talking about frog sex or sloth defecation, this is my portfolio website, so I need to tell you about myself. My name is Betsy Ladyzhets. I use she/her pronouns. I’m an independent data journalist on the science and health beat, based in Brooklyn, New York. I run the COVID-19 Data Dispatch, and am open for freelance projects.
I am passionate about using data and a variety of storytelling formats to help readers connect with science and health concepts. To that end, I’ve sought to communicate science where science has not been communicated before. In my previous staff position as a data journalist at Stacker, I launched and managed the publication’s Science & Health vertical, producing unique, data-driven stories about everything from COVID-19 to our warming climate. I additionally increased science coverage at Bwog, a Columbia University student news publication, when I served as its Editor-in-Chief during my time at Barnard College.
Since March 2020, I have been fully immersed in pandemic data. My work on this topic has included founding and running the COVID-19 Data Dispatch, managing COVID-19 coverage at Stacker, and volunteering for the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. As a Shift Lead on the Project’s Data Entry team, I contributed regularly to the core Testing and Outcomes Dataset and the Racial Data Tracker. I also worked on data quality efforts and coauthored widely cited analysis posts on COVID-19 hospitalization data and antigen tests.
I founded the COVID-19 Data Dispatch in July 2020 in an attempt to make the wildly complicated world of pandemic data more accessible for my fellow journalists, friends, and family members. The publication quickly grew into a trusted source for COVID-19 news and resources, and I started doing more interviews, analysis, and original reporting. In October, I was accepted into the first cohort of the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; this program provided me with key business skills while pushing me to think big about my project’s potential.
In January 2021, I relaunched the COVID-19 Data Dispatch on the website where it now lives and started a membership program to make the publication more financially sustainable while inviting feedback from engaged readers. I also organized a series of virtual workshops on COVID-19 data, supported with an Idea Grant from the National Association of Science Writers.
I took my biggest leap in April 2021: I left my job at Stacker to pursue freelance projects and work on the COVID-19 Data Dispatch full-time. You can read more about that decision here.
So far, the highlights of my career are running a session on data journalism at the 2020 Science Writers conference and finding out that my Avengers: Infinity War fanfiction helped one reader ace an intro biology exam. Outside of data and writing, most of my neural power is spent overanalyzing movie soundtracks, dreaming of Costco free samples, and wondering when the next G train will arrive.