Telling stories with data visualization

Data visualization is now broadly used in online news articles, either as a side bar or to tell the story on its own. Here I picked three data visualization examples to see how they are used by journalists to tell thorough stories.

How Some Nonprofit Groups Funnel Dark Money Into Campaigns is an investigation by Propublica, showing how much money nonprofit groups are spending on elections instead of on social welfare. There is a related story based on the visualization, arguing that those groups do very little to justify the subsidies they receive from taxpayers, but put the money into political races. I think this piece is telling good stories because the data is sorted and organized in several ways, so that reporters can find different angles to write stories on how the groups are funneling the dark money. The structure is also very clear with the use of timelines and percentages. It is quite easy to compare between groups in different perspectives.

Where Congress Stands on Guns is also a good example of data visualization that I found tells good stories. They basically put members of Congress on a scale from 0 to 100 to show their attitudes on gun control. I like the use of members’ photos and how they are distinguished by party (blue and red). One can click on every member’s photo to check more individual information. Also the readers have the choice to show the chart by party, chamber or state.

Another one I found interesting is Government spending by department, 2011-12: get the data. Unlike the other two which include links/assortments/searching functions, this one is simply an infography. I like it because it is very visualized. You can tell the major information at the first glance. It directly shows 2011-2012 UK government spending by department. The only thing I think they can do better is to take off some detailed information and make another simple one for readers who only want to get a broad idea of how the money is spent, since the font size is a little bit too small to read.


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