A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Good Data
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Numerical information is becoming more and more important in news reporting. This is not only due to interactive web abilities (I’ll write another post on this) but because big news is news of scale.

For instance, the floods in Pakistan are now being put into context with figures. The number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 13 million — more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,  the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the United Nations said Monday (09/08/10). These figures are headline news even though it’s not new. We’ve just been given new context.

The scale of disasters are usually revealed in the aftermath. The clean up. That point in time when news cameras tend to move on. When donations tend to peter. But putting an ongoing disaster in terms of recent ones where images are fresh in people mind and scale is concretized in a pocket of their cerebral lobes is an effective way of getting people to give and keeping the story in the news (which is obviously the UN’s agenda).

It’s a shame that news organizations don’t just do it on their own. It’s not that hard. In fact, I’m going to give it a try! But data of scale generally come from press releases as in this case. DIY data is the niche of a few good news orgianizations.

For instance, check out this visualization from the ever impressive Guardian Data Blog. Not only does it give a good comparison of the amount of money donated, it gives the funding per head of population. Because generosity is not just how much you give the how much of what you have that you can give. I also like the prettier (i.e. not just circles) Weather Crisis 2010 map.

Pictures truely paint a thousand words but interactives make 3D movies. And the best data is shared data! Thank you Simon Rogers.

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