Data journalism: visualizing data for reporting and storytelling
NASW annual meeting
November 6, 2010
It can help you:
• find a story
• understand a story
• tell a story
“Finding ways to visualize datasets
can be as important as ways to
(in Maltz, from Unwin, quoting Ripley)
It makes you truly understand the data
It can help you find errors in the data
• More common than you think!
You can find manipulated data
• More common that you’d hope!
Most of them are terrible at it!
• They are too close to the data
• They want to include too many details
• They can’t see it from the audience’s viewpoint
Journalist can be better at it
• We can take a reader’s perspective
• We know how to find the story in the data
• We ask different questions
• Only use it when it’s genuinely the best way to tell
the story – text is still powerful!
• Get the data and try it out
• Test you visualization on some audiences
• Remove some of the information
• Learn by studying good examples
A big question in criminology: how did
criminals get to where they are?
Can we see an individual’s criminal history
and relevant life events easily?
People have been trying to do this for
decades without much success (based on
uptake from others in the field)
Start by sketching a design (scrap paper)
Prototype it (Adobe Illustrator)
Design your data structure (Excel)
Program it (Processing)
This data comes from a study of 800 civilly
committed sex offenders in
Massachusetts. Thanks to:
• Danielle Harris, San Jose State University
• Ray Knight, Brandeis University