Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few graphs from Nerd Journalism

Last night I finished writing the draft of Nerd Journalism, my PhD dissertation. Now I need to spend the next 30 days or so editing the damn thing. I want to submit it at the end of January, and I'll try to defend it over the Summer.

I'll release the entire book as a free PDF in, probably after July 2017. I'll also publish around 30 video interviews, along with their transcripts, and the data collected from the Malofiej International Infographics awards, which covers around 20 years of the competition. Besides those, my other source was observations conducted at ProPublica and at UnivisiĆ³n News online.

The goal of this project is to explore the changes news information graphics have experienced in the past two decades. One of them is the kind of graphics visual journalists favor. In the past, they were mostly pictorial/figurative explanations and descriptions, and their central elements used to be illustrations, photographs, locator maps, etc. In the present, abstract representations of data are much more common.

With the help of some students I put together a spreadsheet of nearly 2,000 winners of the Malofiej awards, quantifying their country of origin, the publication where they appeared, and also the elements they included: Illustrations, graphs, charts, maps of different kinds, etc. Then, we also identified which of those elements had a more dominant place in the composition.

Let me show you a few graphs, even if I still need to verify and copy-edit their content.

The first one shows the dominance of countries like the U.S. and Spain in the Malofiej awards, but also the increasing presence of Asian publications thanks —I believe— to the South China Morning Post, which in recent years has been published a lot of excellent work. Click on the image to expand:

The graph below is about the most dominant element on each winning entry. You'll notice that I grouped graphic forms into two large categories, “pictorial” — figurative representations of physical entities, such as illustrated explanations and descriptions, photographs, locator maps, etc.,— and “abstract” —graphs, charts, data maps, etc. In recent years, abstract graphics are the main element in nearly half of the projects that won awards at Malofiej:

On this one I split up the abstract-pictorial data by region. “Non-Latin America” means mainly the United States. The differences, in comparison to the competition average, are stark:

This one shows the same in the countries that have won more awards, the United States, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom; the first graph on each country shows total counts, and the second percentages:

As long as one of the variables in my spreadsheet is “publication,” it was possible to show these trends also on specific organizations. See The New York Times, for instance:

More coming in the Summer of 2017...

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