The Times of India’s regular STATOISTICS column in its print edition is a consistent effort to popularize infographics based stories. A good infographic, says visualization guru Albert Cairo, should be beautiful, functional and insightful. Most of the TOI infographics are beautiful and functional. But the “insight” or the “story” is often missing.
What’s a story? Something that is unusual (“man bites a dog”), counter-intuitive or in the other extreme, establishes something that people have somehow believed but there is no direct evidence.
Rarely does a great story comes from one source. You may get an idea. But then, you make a hypothesis, test it out by getting more information from new sources or verifying some of the already obtained information.
Data journalism is no different. Once in a while, if you are lucky, you can get a good story from a single dataset. You have to juxtapose a couple of datasets; may be some investigation is required. The “insight” or the “USP” of the story often comes from that. Even some basic observations about exceptions, predominant trend are a good starting point.
Look at this infographics
Almost in all food items (and these are not basic food items like rice, wheat, vegetables or dal) urban India outscores rural India. That is not surprising per se. But there are exceptions. Fish is something where rural India scores. Apple remains primarily an urban fruit while tropical fruits like guava or mango (the desi fruits) are consumed equally by rural and urban India.
A good starting point for a great story is often: why? And this (or any single) dataset won’t answer that. Some of the best data journalism ideas come from single datasets, but great ideas need great execution to make them great stories.