Data Visualization: A Hands-On Primer for Business Journalists by Dianne Finch


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Dianne Finch, visiting assistant professor of communications at Elon University, presented "Data Visualization: A Hands-On Primer for Business Journalists." This training took place during the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' Spring Conference in Phoenix, March 27, 2014. Sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, this hands-on workshop was geared toward journalists with little to no experience in creating data visualizations.

For more information about training for journalists, please visit

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Data Visualization: A Hands-On Primer for Business Journalists by Dianne Finch

  1. 1. SABEW 2014 Data Visualization Dianne M. Finch Elon University @dmfinch
  2. 2. SABEW 2014 ›  @dmfinch / #SABEWDataViz ›  I will tweet URLs that you’ll need ›  Or show them on screen ›  Sign in to ›  Sign in to Google. Go to Drive. ›  Make sure you have Google Fusion.
  3. 3. What We’ll Cover ›  Data and Encoding Overview ›  Charts and Junk Charts ›  Google Fusion – New Network Graph Tool ›  Map ›  Geocommons – Lat/Long and Map ›  Custom Icons ›  Google API – A timeline ›  Google API – How to manipulate code without knowing code. ›  Other stuff if time!
  4. 4. SABEW 2014
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  6. 6. Data-ink Ratio ›  More data – less ink! ›  Save the ink for infographics and text – add those to the same web page to help tell the story! ›  See: › Ink_Ratio
  7. 7. Data – most essential component ›  You’ve downloaded a CSV or XLS or JSON. ›  Does your data reflect any trends? Any outliers? ›  Did you vet your data? Talk to the source? Check for errors? ›  Did you look for spelling issues (John Smith and Jon Smith) ›  Are there redundant rows? One header row? ›  Do you need more data to clarify your story? ›  What is the simplest and clearest chart you could use? ›  Try using a sketchpad to draw circles, lines, texture, legends.
  8. 8. is not Absolute, is variable, is uncertain needs context is often biased (politics and agendas) is often sampled (census) doesn’t tell a whole story requires skepticism is error-prone (humans enter it – and they are often bored and unfocused) Data….
  9. 9. Data types ›  Nominal ›  Ordinal ›  Quantitative
  10. 10. So We Evaluate, filter, clean, question and attribute our data SEE: Harvard Business Review
  11. 11. Data Cleaning with Excel – ›  Using absolute and relative cell references Entering data using AutoFill and other techniques ›  Restricting input using validation rules ›  Sorting worksheet data ›  Creating a custom sort order ›  Filtering worksheet data ›  Introducing Excel formulas and functions ›  Adding a formula to a cell ›  Introducing arithmetic operators ›  Using absolute and relative cell references ›  Joining text in cells with concatenation ›  Summarizing data using an IF function ›  Creating formulas to count cells ›  Importing data from comma separated value (CSV) or text files ›  Introducing PivotTable reports (all 10 items in this category)
  12. 12. Chart design last step – and there are many choices ›  Position along a common scale e.g. scatter plot ›  Position on identical but nonaligned scales e.g. multiple scatter plots ›  Length e.g. bar chart ›  Angle & Slope (tie) e.g. pie chart ›  Area e.g. bubbles ›  Volume, density, and color saturation (tie) e.g. heatmap ›  Color hue e.g. newsmap
  13. 13. A look at the good ones ›  Arab Spring ›  Simple and Clear ›  Google Chart Gallery ›  NYT-Nursing Homes ›  Flu ›  Guns and Games ›  Other
  14. 14. Google Fusion •  Produce a network graph •  Produce a map •  Embed both in a web page NOTE: WE DIDN’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS IN THE SESSION. I’VE INCLUDED THE CSV Fbmutual.csv so that you can try it. Quite easy!
  15. 15. SABEW 2014Create Fusion Table
  16. 16. SABEW 2014 Find .CSV file to import
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  19. 19. SABEW 2014Click red button to create a chart
  20. 20. SABEW 2014 Click for network graph
  21. 21. SABEW 2014 Set to share publicly
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  23. 23. SABEW 2014 Change to “public” Click “done”
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  28. 28. See HTML template Make a copy!
  29. 29. Google API “Serving” Viz Via Web Pages Not everything can be run from local computers
  30. 30. Hosted Sites You will need a web server to place your pages and images (png, svg, jpg, html) Today we are using a Bluehost site. All web servers make files inside “public_html” available to everyone
  31. 31. Sign into: Yellowdollar.png (you will use my hosted site) coin_us_dollar.png (you will use my hosted site) SABEWlist.csv
  32. 32. Maps and Layers and Custom Icons!
  33. 33. Google API ›  Programming: JavaScript ›  Copy/paste without programming ›  Tweak using intuitive options
  34. 34. Google API ›  Programming: JavaScript ›  Copy/paste without programming ›  Tweak using intuitive options
  35. 35. Try this ›  Latitude Longitude ›  Tableau – take a peak ›  Build layers on maps ›  Add more custom icons
  36. 36. Geocommons Steps to produce “geocoded” CSV ›  Clean your data in Excel ›  Save as a CSV ›  Upload the file to Geocommons ›  Choose to “geocode” - add latitude and longitude ›  Save your new CSV file (download from Geocommons with new “geo” fields) ›  Save your new KML file (it will open in Google Earth)
  37. 37. Geocommons Maps ›  Upload CSV to geocommons ›  Choose to geocode ›  Go through steps. Make sure you add the date on the screen that has several questions. ›  Save your newly uploaded file. ›  Choose “Make a Map” ›  As we saw in the session – the map shows up with your data. ›  Click on the CSV filename on the right to open the “styling” section. ›  Change the colors, shapes and tooltips. ›  Try adding layers to the map by locating another CSV that you’ve uploaded. Or – choose one that someone else uploaded, such as census data on income. ›  ***Make sure that you are using data that is trustworthy and vetted when you use datasets found on Geocommons. You’ll need to look into it, do some spot checking, or contact the creator. There is a lot of census data available on Geocommons.