I have long been interested in the role of data in journalism. Data visualization journalists to aggregate large chunks of information and present them in a way that you just can’t do with words. In Digital Storytelling class, we have discussed data journalism sporadically throughout the semester, particularly how data has played a beneficial but complex role in coverage leading up to the 2016 election. I covered this in a column I wrote for the Huntington News a few weeks ago.
I believe that a knowledge of how to use data is essential for journalists living in the digital age, but I don’t pretend to know much about techniques and programs for visualizing data. That’s why I was glad that one of our class sessions would be devoted to dabbling in data visualization with Professor John Wihbey. Unfortunately, I had to miss this class because I was taking photos for my final project, but my classmate Mayeesha (see her blog here) filled me in on our assignment.
This graph contains data from 2015 regarding gender of employees at Silicon Valley companies. I chose to present the data in a simple bar chart, where purple represents men and green represents women. Dark colors represent what percentage of men and women are employed in all positions at each company, while light colors represent employees specifically in technical fields. Though this is not the most visually interesting way to present this data (I particularly like how my classmate Tali used 3D stacks for the same data), it gets the point across.
Despite the fact that the gender gap is being reduced as more women enter scientific and technical fields, it’s clear that women are still underrepresented in large companies like Google and Apple. It’s possible to say this with words, but the data is a more dramatic representation. There are a lot of really beautiful ways to present data, and this is definitely something I’d like to explore throughout my education and career. However, the reason behind these numbers isn’t immediately clear from the graph – more detailed research and interviews is needed provide context for the data and tell a more complete story. In other words, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they are an essential part of it.