Read & Respond week 8: More Images

We’re not done with images yet! Last week we focused on photo; now we’re going to take a look at graphics. Graphics are ways to visualize data (we’ll focus on data more intently a few weeks from now), typically in terms of where, when and how much of something compares to something else. Graphics you’re likely familiar with include maps, charts, timelines, tables, and diagrams.

There are lots of free graphic-making tools out there, at a variety of quality levels, but just because you can make charts doesn’t mean you can make them WELL (or that your readers will understand them).

It’s easy to think of graphics as being extras to the story, but a good graphic IS the story. Here’s a good example: Take this New York Times quiz and see what it tells you about yourself. Any surprises? This quiz and resultant map was the Times’ most popular story of 2013 (and it was created by an intern). Can you see why? There’s something compelling about a map that tells us something about our favorite subject – ourselves – and people started sharing this story with friends.

That shareability is why graphics, and charts in particular, are such popular subjects in online communication, but without being graphic-literate, it’s easy to make misleading charts. Have a look at these common chart errors – would you have spotted any of these without being warned?

Lastly, as we segue into a focus on data, check out Google’s training links on data journalism. We’re frequently talking about analytics in class, so plunge into one or two of these 5-minute tutorials (I’d definitely do some tinkering on the Google Trends page – can you identify any interesting comparisons?). How could you incorporate this with your personal or group blog?

Remember, your responses are due by 11:59 p.m. Monday, February 25, as a comment to this post.

17 Responses to Read & Respond week 8: More Images

  1. I really enjoyed reading about how a graphic visualization can basically be the meat of an article. When I read the New York Times article about dialect within different regions of the country, I was compelled the finish the quiz the whole time—mainly because it was something that I could interact with. It made me think about things I’ve never thought about, and put more thought into the small, usually-overlooked details of my own dialect. In doing this, the reader (by default) is paying more attention and gaining more from the article. I think that’s something that’s very important in online journalism. Without including aspects that include and engage the reader, how do we set online journalism apart from tradition journalism on TV and in the newspapers?

    In regard to how easily charts can be misunderstood, I think that has to do with a lot of the “fake news” that spreads so easily on sites like Facebook. In a lot of these graph comparisons, the news isn’t even actually false—it’s just that the graphics have been designed to create that “shock” journalism that people are willing to believe as long as it excites them. Like on the Fox News graphic that depicts the unemployment rate under President Obama. When you look at the actual numbers, the percentage really doesn’t move too far above or below 9%. However, the graph’s design makes the line drops look much more drastic than they really are. This skews what the reader takes from the news story, even if the words don’t lie.

    Lastly, I had no idea how Google had all of these features that could benefit my blog-writing techniques. Specifically, using surveys to enhance my articles could engage readers in ways that my words cannot. For example, in my blog, I could use surveys to see what kind of classic rock tours they’d be interested in attending, or what artists they wanted to hear more from—or ever their favorite songs/albums from an artist I’m talking about. This could contribute to the purpose of writing my article. In regard to my group blog about arts in Appalachia, I could use surveys to ask people in my region about what genres of arts they pay the most attention to. This could not only help in determining future article topics, but it could add to the prominence of what we’re already saying.

  2. One of the lessons I read through were on surveys and gaining insight on your audience. People love giving their opinion and talking about themselves, so what could be a better way to engage your audience then through a quiz or survey. Just as we see in the survey/quiz from the New York Times, throughout the entire 25 questions the reader was engaged and curious to find out their end result. One can use this technique to not only engage their audience but to understand them. As results roll into google, they automatically create and analyze the responses to show the results through simple online graphs/charts/visualized data. Using this visualized data then in a follow up post on your blog can let your readers see people within your same blog community’s response and see how others feel.

    Just as we have learned that a catchy and informative headline can get someone to click on your post, putting forward an interesting data visualization such as a map, quiz, survey, tilegram, etc. can help tell your story to the audience making them want to dig deeper and read your corresponding post. What made the New York Times example so popular was that it was interactive. Using these tactics of data visualization and being able to allow your audience to go through and discover the information themselves is what will keep them on your page to know more. Anyone can use a map and show a static condition, but just as the google lessons showed we as writers and journalists can do so much more. For example, the Crisis Maps, electoral updates, and graphs, that let the readers/users move along with it and be able to click into something is how one can be more engaged and leads to more curiosity.

    Google has so many options for users to apply to things such as our blogs. I have heard of Google trends in the past and believe I have used it once or twice, but think it is a perfect thing to start adding to my blog. They provide so much information and allow viewers to grasp a better understanding of a topic.

  3. Holly Fry says:

    Going back through these charts I feel as I’m back in my statistics class, which I never really thought of how it related to journalism. With my blog posts, I’ve never really thought of adding charts or graph because I haven’t thought of any of my info as needing one. Also taking the quiz to see where I’m from it said Texas, and I’ve lived in Ohio my whole life which is interesting.

    I looked into the Google Trends: Understanding the Data lesson and it was cool to see how these graphs are updating themselves and how you can specify exactly what you want. By choosing when and where you want your data from, you can really help yourself figure out what your audience wants to hear if you know where most of the people who are reading your work are from. I think by typing in a couple of keywords, like in our group blog “Appalachian art”, or for my own blog “deaths on campuses,” it could help see what people are googling and asking to know about. Then I could use that information to make my blog post more targeted to what people would want to read.

  4. haileyspicer says:

    I really enjoyed The New York Times quiz! It was interactive and fun! It said I was from Philadelphia which is accurate because I only live an hour and a half from there! It was a great way to engage your audience and I would definitely include something like this in my blog because it sets you apart from other blogs. As humans we love learning new things about ourselves so this was a great idea for their blog.
    I would have never spotted any of the mistakes in the charts, so it was interesting to learn about how misleading graphics and charts can actually be. It would be interesting to include a chart in my blog to show if sales increase when companies begin to promote body positivity, since that is what my blog is about.
    It was interesting to see that Google has all of those features I did not know about before. I think it would be beneficial for my blog!

  5. I found the New York Times quiz to be extremely interesting and entertaining. I have seen this quiz before on the internet and have actually taken the quiz in the past. I took it again to see if my responses have changed, but they remained pretty much the same. I am from Pittsburgh so you can only imagine the slang and phrases that we use on a daily basis! I think that it is important for people all over the country to understand the different views and thoughts of other geographic areas. It is amazing that even though we are all Americans, we still have different sayings and slang depending on where we live.

    The data journalism was very informative to me and I was not aware that such a thing had existed. The maps say a lot and are helpful when dealing with a specific audience. This tool is important while working on my blog so I can appeal to the right audience and succeed in doing so. I think you could work this into a group blog because whatever the focus of your group blog might be, it is important to focus on the right demographic.

  6. Starting off this week’s discussion post, I took the quiz from the New York times about accents. Being a Pittsburgh native, I wasn’t surprised to see words on there like “yinz” and “hoagie” so I was not surprised when my results came through and the map showed Pittsburgh. However, it also showed that I talk a lot like people in Salt Lake City and Louisville, two regions which are not near me and I have never been to. This is a very fun graphic for a blog because it gets people involved which in important. Activity is fun and people take passion on where there from, I know I do so I was not shocked to read that it was the most popular story in 2013.

    Charts have a lot of detail, much of which the audience doesn’t look at. In the article about chart mistakes, I realize how important things like the numbers on the axes can affect the shape which is usually the only things readers look at. Especially if they’re uneducated about charts, shapes can be the only thing they understand.

    Google has so many features and I was not aware of the ones to help my journalism skills! I will be sure to use what I learned in these lessons moving forward with my blog!

  7. dmconwell says:

    I took the quiz from the New York times and I thought it was interesting because the three cities it guessed for me was Lexington, Springfield, and Pittsburgh. I’m from Pittsburgh so I thought that was interesting. It’s cool to see the different areas that have the same “lingo.” Using a graph makes the concept of it all much better.

    When it comes to graph/chart errors this didn’t surprise me too much. I’ve taken so many classes where they teach you about misleading and bad graphs. I do think this website is helpful. I also think the google training links were very helpful. It showed me the different things I can incorporate into my blogs like surveys, maps, and tables.

  8. I see multiple ways I could use charts like the graph examples in the links. For my personal blog, I could use them to rank and compare artists and their work. The addition of charts is a great visual medium that helps readers understand and picture certain data. Charts weren’t something I’d considered before when I initially thought about visual aids. For a music focused blog I didn’t think they’d have that much to offer, after reading I think that they’d be helpful and really contribute to my blog overall.

    For my group blog I think we could use it in many ways as well. Since we’re talking about WVU’s party reputation, we could use graphs to display things like crime rates, hospitalizations due to alcohol, and other WVU related statistics. I think charts and graphs will probably help in my group blog more than my personal one, as my group blog depends more on numbers and statistics than music.

  9. Cody Nespor says:

    I think making good charts/infographics that accurately represent the data is a tricky thing to do because it combines two different skills. On one hand, you have to be able to analyze and comprehend the raw data to the point of being able to explain it in simple and accurate terms. from there you also must be able to turn that data into something that is both visually interesting and accurate to the original data. When done well, one can create something like the NYT map that is visually interesting and provides clear and accurate data. When done wrong, even a little bit, however, they can turn out really misleading or just plain ugly.

    As seen in the misleading graphs link, simple things like what scale to use on the axis or how you label the data can unintentionally, or intentionally, skew the data in such a way that people draw conclusions opposite to that which the data shows. And then on top of having to make sure the data is visually presented in such a way as to be appealing to look at. Some charts, like the global warming example in the link, can be so complex and get so messy and hard to read that you would almost be better off presenting that data just using text in a paragraph.

    While tricky to perfect, I do think charts and graphics have a potential payoff that is worth the risk. Those kinds of visual representations of information are much easier for people to read and understand and share with their friends than a tweet thread or full article. I believe as long as they are created in good faith, graphics are generally a good addition to any story.

  10. adamjpayne says:

    While taking the dialect quiz, I immediately saw how shareable the graphics allowed the article to be in real time because as I was taking it, my roommates instantly wanted to take it alongside me to see if there answer differed from mine. This was almost an instant clarification for how enticing such an article was, yes we love talking about ourselves, but the article truly was well worth taking the time to complete because it was actually such an interesting topic. But, I think its true success came in the attention to detail given in the choices. You could tell that there was a ton of research that went in to how each different choice was flushed out and some even expanded to say something like “I use one more than the other but say both.” The success was in the details. (Granted it thought I was from Oklahoma but alas)

    As for the fake infographics, it was incredible to see how easy it is to manipulate a reader who isn’t scrutinizing the infographics for falsities. And, the sad fact is that most times, they were used in order to push a preconceived agenda *cough* Fox News *cough* However, it does show how captivating a good graphic, and a truthful one, can be in making a story more impactful.

    I have yet to use a chart or graph embedded into one of my stories and for my topic of choice I definitely will have to be creative in how I could implement it. That being said I think it is something I definitely want to use in the future, particularly on my group blog, because of how powerful of a tool it can be.

  11. The New York Times article was really intriguing. I enjoyed this article because the interactive graph was engaging and kept you wanting to click through. The topic of the graph was relatable to anybody, so I can see why it became so popular in 2013. It was interesting to me because I was born and raised in WV, but my dialect is similar to someone from Kentucky or Kansas. I never thought of putting graphs into my story. I never realized how powerful they were until reading about them.
    I also enjoyed the articles about the misleading graphs and what is wrong with them. Me personally, never would even notice things wrong with a graph. I always just look at them and assume what you first see from it. I have never actually put much thought into them other than it being a graph for visualization.
    I did not realize Google had so many features that could be used for journalism. Google is such a well known source, so it is really cool finding out more things you can do with Google. I can definitely keep this in mind when planning my blogs from now on!

  12. Patrick Downey says:

    After messing around with the different links to different kinds of graphics I’ve come to the conclusion that graphics are very useful if done correctly. I thought the NY times quiz was very interesting because all the questions were enjoyable to answer. The quiz ended up guessing an area pretty close to where I am from. This was a great example of a graphic done well, unlike the ones showed in the second link. I think that it can be hard to make a graphic that shows accurate information and is easy to look at. Overall, I think that if you are going to use a graphic make sure it is a simple and straight to the point.

    As for using graphics in my own blog, I think they can be very useful. I actually just used a graphic in my post today. I embed a tweet that showed a survey taken in the from of a bar graph. The survey only had two choices making the graph very easy to understand. I think that I could use graphics in the future especially with sports statistics. My group blog could also benefit from graphics like a graph or a survey taken by students, or a line graph something the admission rate for students the past couple of years.

  13. sadiejanes says:

    The New York Times quiz about dialects was so interesting that my dad immediately made me send him the link after he watched me take it. The three cities my dialect most resembled were Springfield, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City — but all of West Virginia was also highlighted red in the graph, meaning it’s one of the areas where the dialect most closely matches my own. I wasn’t so much surprised at my results as I was surprised at the regions where the dialect is most similar to West Virginia’s. And it’s so compelling for the same reason that Buzzfeed quizzes and horoscopes are so compelling – we love thinking and talking about ourselves.

    The common chart errors page was really enlightening. If I make graphics for my blog or group blog, I’ll try to avoid the sort of things that make it more difficult for my readers to interpret my graphics, like making them into uncommon shapes, making them 3-Dimensional, or making the graphic include too much data.

    I could easily incorporate some of these Google tools into my blogs, especially the Google trends page. For example, my personal blog is about the #MeToo movement. I searched “R. Kelly” and was immediately able to tell when that search term has been most popular in the last few months and which sub-regions were most interested in that search term. There was also a “related queries” section which included search terms like “lifetime documentary” and “surviving r. kelly,” both of which could help me figure out what to focus on if I were to do a blog post on R. Kelly. If a lot of people are searching with these terms, then including these terms could bring more traffic to my blog.

  14. I’ve always found data and the visuals that represent them fascinating. I’ve taken the New York Times’ quiz previously and while it tell me that I’m mostly likely from the Kansas area, I’ll accept it because that’s very Midwestern, just like Ohio where I’m actually from.

    As for the Google training tools for data journalism, I found these tools so cool and had no idea they existed. I’ve played around with Google Analytics and the Trends and Mapping features before, but this beyond even those. It’s even better because these mini sessions are free. I chose to work with the GIF maker, because I’d like to work in social media marketing and GIFs are a fun and easy resource to add to any post to make it more engaging—now that it could also be informational is icing on the cake.

    I’ve incorporated charts into some of my blogs before, when appropriate, but I’d love to start doing it more often to help back up my claims with more concrete evidence and facts. It’d also be extremely beneficial for our group blog, especially since the premise of it is based around science and what’s data if t’s not some form of that? I think Google would be a great platform to lean on to help with that, especially because then the images would be my own, and now copyright issues would stand in the way.

  15. shananelson says:

    To begin on a light note, as someone with a super thick Appalachian accent (or as the kids call it these days, “thicc”), I knew that the New York Times quiz was going to be able to read me like a book. It didn’t get it right on the money, but it estimated that I was from Lexington or Louisville, Kentucky. It isn’t southern WV, but it’s close enough for me to consider the quiz pretty much accurate. Besides that, it was a fun quiz, and I can see how it got so popular.

    On a more serious note, after taking a research and analysis class last semester, I learned the hard way just how easy it is to mess up a graph. (Using the right scale when making a bar graph is tricky, okay?). Previous mishaps aside, it’s too easy to fumble when creating a graph, and it’s even more of a mess when other people try to make sense of said fumble. For example, using the shape of a pie chart may present data in a way that seems more skewed than when presented with a bar graph or vice versa. Highcharts tip to avoid shapes at all costs unless you have a concrete reason to use them is sound advice, and one I’m sticking to in the future. When it comes to purposefully misleading graphs like those mentioned in the Statistics How To article, I’m mostly saddened and worried about the rapid spread of false information thanks to social media. To be fair, fake news isn’t nothing new now, and it’s something that we just have to live with, but the general population isn’t into fact checking, much less caring about how to accurately read a graph. What’s even more worrying is that trusted sources such as USA Today are actually known for making what the article referred to as “fussy graphs,” which begs the question: How much false information have I taken as fact from this site in the past? Overall, pulling stunts like this is an instant credibility ruiner, which is what makes me want to be extra vigilant not to make any mistakes on graphs in the future. Afterall, if you put inaccurate information on a graph, why wouldn’t you put inaccurate information in other things that you create?

    In terms of the modules, a very interesting one was the Global Forest Watch. Considering the fact that the group blog I’m a part of focuses on environmental issues in Appalachia, I think this would be something very valuable for us to implement in future posts. Another module that I found useful was the Google Fusion Tables. I’d dabbled with this once in the past for a media tools class, and I used it to create an intensity map for New Mexico. It was a great aid for my blog at the time (it was a baby blog, before I knew any of the grown-up blogging knowledge that I know today), and I knew it was something I might want to use again in the future. In this case, I think intensity maps would work perfectly for our group blog, serving as great visual tools to include in posts to allow readers to see everything from climate change comparisons in one area versus another, deforestation and forest depletion, natural disasters, and many other forms environmental information.

  16. It was so cool to me to take the NY times quiz and it knew exactly where I was from. Pittsburgh does have a lot of slang so it couldn’t have been that hard to guess but to just know i really do live up to the pittsburgh stereotype is funny to me. Most people assume I am from jersey which is not the case so now I know after taking the quiz I talk like where I am from. Also i love taking quizzes like this, i think they’re very interactive and I’m always so curious to see if my opinion matches my quiz answers.

    The errors i the charts really made me think wow I really need to be ore careful because I did not notice anything. Knowing that google has all of these helpful tools I plan to educate myself on these and use them for my blog in the future.I think graphics draw the reader in more and its like a say it see it type example.

  17. deanmarrazzo says:

    I found it very interesting how the New York Times was able to use a graphic to make up the beef of the article. As you said, it was a quiz about ourselves and its well known that people are drawn to things that they relate to or are about them. This specific graphic was interactive which made it much more appealing. The reader or user, quiz taker, is in control of what happens.

    When I was looking at the highchart graphics; It was clear to see how easily some graphics can be manipulated to give a specific message. Being able to see both of the visuals, and breaking them down, made it very easy to see how each one was doing it differently.

    I personally had no idea that google had those training links. It seems to be a great tool for really anyone to use to stay up to date and find information. One particular one stood out to me was the link that shows you the trends across google. This could be useful in keeping topics relevant on our blogs.

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