Traditional media seems to have suddenly woken up to the need of having its “presence” in data journalism. The irony is, few understand the opportunity and how it could potentially impact journalism. But no one wants to give it a miss; it is the coolest thing in the business.
Visualization, the most tangible face of data journalism is the fanciest thing to do. And most of the easy to use and cheap/free tools are slso available to do that. So why not?
This story from Hindustan Times, BJP’s loss in UP worse than it seems, is a great example of how visualization should not be made. The story which analyzes the recent bypolls data to argue that BJP actually lost a lot of vote share is a decent story. It achieves one thing. It negates any argument that BJP’s loss is because of some other party pulling more because of some other factors; or the loss is not because of vote share loss but because of arithmetic reasons. That’s a fairly timely story.
But the visualization that goes with it neither proves this point nor adds any information to the story. It is a completely different comparison between how much votes BJP got in different constituencies and a comparison of those votes, which actually is completely meaningless.
In short, the visualization that accompanies the story is not only unrelated to the storyline, it is of no use. A good visualization, says visualization guru, Alberto Cairo, should be beautiful, functional and insightful. If it is not insightful, it is still a story; a boring story. But this one is not even functional. What’s the point of comparing votes in different constituencies?
A visualization depicting a side by side comparison of BJP’s vote in last election and this one would have simply communicated the idea. In fact, what has been represented as two visuals, could be combined to make the point that the story is making.