Tag Archives: interactive news

Data is boring? Depends how you present it

When I told friends and families that my job is to tell stories with data, they often thought that it is a boring job because of the word “data”. But when I showed them some of my works, they started to smile and told me “this is very interesting!”

The secret lies in the art of personalizing and humanizing data. Facts and figures are no longer cold and heartless if you could build a bridge between them and the users. Here are two news apps that I created to serve as the bridge.

First is a calculator that complements a hard news on the unequal distribution of unpaid housework between men and women. The calculator helps fathers to count the total time they spend on housework each day and compare it with fathers in other countries. Some fathers like me felt proud when we saw our performance is relatively high. But when the calculator compared it with the time spent by mothers in other countries, that’s when we saw and felt the inequality.

You can access the calculator here.

The second news app is also a calculator. It estimates whether you had a higher chance of being targeted by a hate crime in the US now than before the 9/11 attacks, based on your demographics. It was published in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

You can access the news app here.

Both news apps are trying to make the hard, cold data relevant to individuals, to let them see how the numbers affect their lives. Such interactive approach not only makes the story more engaging, it unleashes more impacts. This is the power of data if used effectively.

Effective visualization with animated Google Map

Google Map is an easy and quick tool to make map for storytelling. If you need a map with just one layer of information but don’t know much about map-making technique, Google Map is the perfect tool. (For multiple-layer map, I would use Carto.)

Like other tools developed by Google for journalists, Google Map has a clear and comprehensive documentation. The best part is there are many sample codes  that you can copy and modify for your visualization.

After learning the basics, I started to try the animation feature of Google Map and found it to be an effective tool for a quick illustration of geographical movement. I have used it several times in migrant and refugee stories to show the long journeys taken by refugees across multiple international borders.

In this story that compiles essays from five Syrian refugees on their journey fleeing from home, I made an animated map for each of them. The little yellow dot that moves on the map has a magical effect that makes the maps clearer and more engaging.

The moving yellow dot is even more important in this interactive photo story about the 6,600-mile trail taken by a Cuban family to reach the US.  Without the animation, it would take readers more time to understand the map as the route is a little counter-intuitive.