Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualizations

The Basics:

Data visualizations, frequently referred to as information graphics, are a powerful tool that will inform and educate your readers. Often important data-heavy information can bog down a narrative or slow the pacing of a story. That data might be edited out to streamline a story or put into a table for readers to browse. A better solution is to use simple graphics that can be created in minutes and delivered for free using web tools.  These information graphics will compliment and add context to your stories. Graphics can help you highlight  important information from a database in a way much easier to understand than a text-only presentation. – Data Visulations: Basics by Len DeGroot

Examples in the News:

Fewer Helmets, More Deaths (NYTimes.com)

The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath (NYTimes.com)

Drone Strike Deaths (MotherJones.com)

Guide to Jokes in Arrested Development (NPR.com)

Places Where College Football Means the Most (NYTimes.com)

Texas Tribune’s Data Library

911 Breakdowns (LATimes.com)

Places to start exploring:

Tableau Public, a free data visualization software, has a nice infomercial that explains the basic process.

Visual.ly is great place for exploring, creating, and sharing infographics. And it’s a hub to connect designers with clients.

FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data and visualization.

VisualJournalism – A blog on information graphics and journalism by Gert K. Nielsen.

Data Journalism Handbook – This open-source book is a collaboration of 50 journalists and programmers and offers data journalism case studies from news organizations likeThe New York Times, Financial Times, Guardian, and Chicago Tribune.

35 Best Data Visualization Tools  – A roundup of tools and how they are being used.

Skills for Data Journalism:

Data journalism can be done by one individual or by a team of people. The main tasks can include:

1. Reporting – the ability to obtain data and identify a compelling story within a mass of information.

2. Expertise with data and research – the ability to mine, organize, and clean data.

3. Web development and design – the ability to create a web-based visualization that presents the data in an understandable manner and allows the user to navigate it.

Four Simple Infographics You Can Create:

1. A word cloud is a visual representation for text data that seeks to demonstrate how words are used.

For example: Here is a wordcloud of the most common words used in each presidential inaugural address from Washington to Obama.

You can make your own with http://www.wordle.net/

2. Graphs and Charts

USAToday is famous for their charts and graphs.

You can make pie, bar, line and other charts using Google docs or a program like Piktochart

See tutorial on how to make a pie, bar, line or area chart using Google Spreadsheets

3. Interactive map mashups have become a standard way to tell a geographic story on the web. A mashup is an application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool.

See 7 innovative online maps and keyword “maps” on 10000words.net.

Google Maps allows you to clickable maps and embedded them in your blog.

4. A timeline can be a great way to tell a story that stretches over a long period of time. It can also be used to chronicle the life of a person or institution.

Look at an overview of Mariano Rivera’s career and a unique way of tracking history of Middle East protests

You can use timetoast to create a simple online timeline.

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About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine, Slate.com, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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