Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Upshot: Empowering infographics and visualization desks

Interactive graphic
embedded in a story
The Upshot has just been launched and it looks good. After Nate Silver left The New York Times, the paper has been trying to fill the void left. Silver's FiveThirtyEight is, for now, a bit disappointing, frivolous, vague, and uninteresting, despite the occasional top contributor or nice analysis and commentary (things will get better, I guess,) so The Upshot comes at the right time. And the good news is that it isn't just a substitute.

In the The Upshot's opening manifesto, David Leonhardt talks about the importance of information graphics and visualizations. They have published a few nice ones already:
"As with our written articles, we aspire to present our data in the clearest, most engaging way possible. A graphic can often accomplish that goal better than prose. Luckily, we work alongside The Times’s graphics department, some of the most talented data-visualization specialists in the country. It’s no accident that the same people who created the interactive dialect quiz, the deficit puzzle and the rent-vs-buy calculator will be working on The Upshot."
News organizations worldwide, take note: Graphics and tech desks mustn't be service departments. If you are not empowering them already, you're going in the wrong direction. Good information graphics are as important as copy to tell a story.

UPDATE 1: I have just seen that Amanda Cox has posted an article at The Upshot already. The election-forecasting roulette is fun.

UPDATE 2: James Ball has written an excellent article about the new data journalism websites: "All three sites risk what economists call adverse selection: let's say you're writing basic explainers, but the only people finding them are already pretty informed. They'll find your content superficial, and they won't return. If you respond by increasing the complexity of your articles, you'll please the wonks, but alienate a little more of your audience."

Here's another good point: "Data-driven journalism is easy when the data's easy to get: GDP figures, job figures, polling and surveys. What about all of the issues that need that kind of explanatory power when the data's not so easy to come by? (…) The hunt for data and figures should be an aggressive one.”

UPDATE 3: Related to what it's said above about empowering graphics and tech desks, see the bylines of The Upshot's stories that made it into the print edition of the Times. No difference between "reporters" (writers) and graphics editors. Both are shown as co-authors. Kevin Quealy and Amanda Cox are both visualization designers and developers. And journalists.