Class Notes: Infographics and Data-Driven Journalism


  • Graphics that use digital representations of information, data or knowledge.
  • Infographics can make information more accessible, more enjoyable, easier to understand, can be incredibly viral, have potential to drive traffic and generate interest and adds a relatively unused multimedia effect that has only reached the cusp of digital journalism.

Inverted Pyramid of data

  • Find: Searching for data on the web
  • Clean: process to filter and transform data, preparation for visualization
  • Visualize: displaying the pattern, either as a statistic or animated visual
  • Publish: Integrating the visuals, attaching data to stories
  • Distribute: Enabling access on a variety of devices, such as the web, tablets and mobile
  • Measure: Tracking use of data stories over time and across the spectrum of uses

Tips for creating an Infographic

  1. Be concise: Design your infographic to make one main point.
  2. Be visual and be creative: Although infographics do combine text and images, the emphasis should be on a visually appealing graphic.
  3. Be self-explanatory: The visualization should explain the data, with minimal exception.
  4. Be relevant
  5. Be transparent: Cite your sources.
  6. Be different: Pie charts and bar graphs are readily understandable, but they can be pretty biased.
  7. Be accurate: The visualization should not misrepresent your data.
  8. Say something: Your infographic should convey a message, and not be an infographic for the sake of itself.
  9. Be judicious: Not every story warrants an infographic.
  10. Copy Edit: As with any copy you plan to post online, it’s good to run your infographic by another set of eyes – to assess and edit both content and format.

Data-Driven Journalism

  • Strong examples of stories with data include: Employee salaries, test scores, government issues, polls, sports stats, crime stats, all the stats!

More tips for Working with Data

  • Make it manageable. Break the data down into chunks you can use.
  • Keep it simple. Ask simple questions of the data and try not to get too complicated.
  • Mash it up. Some of the best journalism is about joining datasets together you wouldn’t have thought of.
  • Don’t be scared of the numbers or don’t trust it too willingly. Journalists are often terrified of numbers to the extent that they don’t question them properly.
  • Try not to go native. Remember that you’re a journalist and your mission is to explain the data and interrogate it properly.

Data in Journalism

  • Make sure your sources are accurate.
  • Where did you get that data?
  • Polls and surveys can be conducted to create data from thin air, and this can be a story
  • After you have said data, it’s up to you, the multimedia journalist, to figure out how to use it
  • Broadcast/print journalists (TV/internet/print): charts, graphs, infographs, screen shots, diagrams, etc.