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5 Stories Made Better By Visualization

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
By numbersguy

I recently attended the CAR2010 conference and at one panel posed the following question:

Why isn’t there more, much more, data graphics in the news?

By way of example I listed 5 recent news stories that could have been significantly improved if the right data graphic accompanied the story. The goal was to get a sense from news industry insiders what the barriers were to using more data graphics when reporting stories. To pose this question it wasn’t necessary to show the actual data graphics, the mind’s eye version would work just as well (if not better).

I’d like to bring the discussion started there to this forum and to kick that off the next several articles will present these 5 news stories along with hypothetical data graphics. Again, the focus of this series of articles is to spark discussion about the effectiveness of using data graphics in news stories and to that end a large number of sample stories (even with mocked up graphics) is better than fewer stories with real graphics. Real data may also be distracting as it would spur discussion on the actual story. In general this would be a good thing, and so the graphics may be updated with real data later, but for now to be both speedy and focused we’ll be using mocked up data.

The recent news stories in question will be:

  • The change in breast cancer screening guidelines
  • The court ruling that autism is not caused by vaccines
  • The European study that showed increased heart attacks shortly after the switch to daylight savings time
  • The Sunlight Foundation’s story on Reconciliation (this will include a mock graphic as distinct from the recent article)
  • Economists and bankers statement in late 2008 that the economy was “going over a cliff”.

More may be added before this series concludes.

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, come join the fun!

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