What is Data Visualization?

Data Visualization is an intimidating name given to a simple concept. It is the study of the ‘ visual representation of data’. We actually use this more in our day-to-day life then you realize.

Sometimes visuals can do a better job at conveying information then our words can, and in today’s world of journalism this is a vital skill to learn!

Here is a link to a visual The Huffington Post put together in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown Conn. and the rising pressure for gun control reform. I think this visual is particularly impactful because we could write an article explaining the thousands of deaths that have occurred since Sandy Hook but instead we can convey the same through the use of a visual timeline.

Another interesting visual Propublica has produced on the tracking of U.S. bailout money is eye-opening. Dots representing each hemisphere that received money, each dot starts at a billion dollars! It helps to put into perspective for readers just HOW much money was put into bailing out U.S. companies in 2008. This is a quick and concise way to convey a hefty amount of information.


A less digital form of ‘data visualization’ I think is the use of photos in a succession throughout a story. Which is relied on heavily in restaurant reviews and by food writers. The photos help add depth to the story and bring the reader into their dining experience. A blog I enjoy reading is Eat. Live.Blog which always has great photos of the different restaurants the writer visits.

Data Visualization can be used in stories of any kind. Hard news, feature pieces and everything in between. It is a way to add a level to multimedia to your work as well as an innovative  way to tell your story.


Mapping as a Graphic Tool

Mapping  and other graphic visuals like infographics and charticles (articles themselves that are entirely a graphic) I think are a beneficial tools that can be overlooked in classic print journalism. I think the idea of incorporating visuals into their written pieces for some journalist can be daunting, for fear that their writing will be overlooked or seen as less as important in comparison. Graphics are more commonly used in broadcast pieces naturally and sometimes in longer feature writing for magazines – but in this ever-changing world of journalism we need to play to the trends of the future by being more multi-media and graphic oriented.

Written content, posted online through a newspaper website, blog or forum should not be overlooked or debased by incorporating graphics, they should be used as a tool to enhance the written story – to make information more easily conveyed as well as just to offer more visual stimulation.

In the world of broadcast journalism you are expected to be a one-man-band. You are your editor, your camera man, your script writer as well as the reporter.

In print and multimedia journalism you are now also a one-man-band. You are your writer, your editor, your graphic designer as well as your reporter.

There are certain areas in stories that lend themselves well to the incorporation of visual graphics and maps. Trying to explain in an article the recent budget-cut plan approved by President Obama  would lend itself well to a graph. Another example I found that worked well is explaining where relief aid went geographically after Hurricane Sandy rocked the greater New York City area and eastern coast. Graphic courtesy of ProPublica.org.

An ‘oldie but goodie’ trend in visual graphics is a US map during presidential races and campaigns– showing party allegiances in the 50 states. Writing out in a lengthy article which candidate has ‘won’ what state and which are still being contested would take a while to read through but taking that same information and displaying it as a visual graphic is not only more immediate but also more impactful and concise.

Mapping and graphics are beneficial on a global scale of large stories, but also in smaller local stories. Boston.com used an interactive map to display reported pot-holes in the Greater Boston. The information seems a bit comical, but being informed that there is a huge pothole along your daily route to work could certainly save you a lot of aggravation. Similar to the map above, this information lends itself well to a graphic because writing out where every pothole is in Boston would make for an extremely long article. With an interactive map you can jump directly to the areas of the city that you travel through daily and see if you need to make adjustments to your morning commute.

The use of interactive maps, graphics and visuals is a way to add a new level to a body of written work. As well, it is an innovative way to appeal to dominantly visually receptive world.