As this infographic-of-infographics (Meta, isn’t it?) points out, data visualization is “in.” This circles back to a point the Pulitzer Center’s Meghan Dhaliwal stressed when she guest-lectured: creating engaging infographics is an up-and-coming skill for journalists. So just how useful can data visualization be?
I found this infographic about women in television. (If you’re interested, Forbes dives deeper.) It combines several types of data visualization in a way that I found useful without being overwhelming, a problem with many other infographics I encountered. It blocks data off in a way that’s visually pleasing, with more image-heavy content acting as a literal frame for more text- or number-heavy content.
I liked how the take-away points (the disparity between actual and represented populations, the decline of female writers to 15%) were set apart in images (the circles and arrow respectively). This way, if I didn’t want to interpret numbers or even read all the text, I could still walk away with a basic understanding of main ideas.
I found the line-graph easy to interpret (again, a relief from overly complex versions) and useful for comparing how women have fared over the years. The representation of “what 25% actually looks like” was more visually striking than merely reading the statistic, and it stuck with me more than it otherwise would have.
All in all, I think infographics are a great way to understand information “at a glance.” Especially with today’s short attention-spans (personally, I know I rarely make it to the end of longer pieces), journalists can use infographics to ensure their readers understand important points regardless of whether they read through the whole article.
That being said, they are not without shortcomings. Data is especially easy to manipulate, and I think infographics have the potential to be misleading. Unlike more traditional journalism where you can read another version of the story at a competing source, there is no way for readers to “fact-check” infographics unless they have access to the raw data set and/or the literacy to sort through it.
Last but not least, even though this is an ad, I thought it showcased some pretty interesting uses for infographics. I also noticed a few of them were pulled from media sources:
Also, for those who are interested in data visualization, here’s a nifty “how-to” infographic I stumbled upon (I’m not sure why it looks so small here):