While today’s post is not an uplifting story, I did find it remarkable in its presentation. Nothing too fancy or revolutionary to be certain, but remarkable nonetheless. What was it? This morning when I picked up the Times there was a chart in black and red, above the fold, below the cover photo.
The story is about the rising number of deaths in the United States attributed to drugs. And, no, the line chart is not groundbreaking—though I do love the way the designers cut into the space to efficiently set copy and annotations. But as an above-the-fold graphic this morning, it did the trick.
Pennsylvania was the country’s first state to operate a nuclear power plant for electricity generation and is today the second-largest nuclear-generated electricity state after Illinois. But in recent years the triple threat of the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, wind power subsidies, and solar power subsidies have hit the state’s nuclear industry hard. Consequently the power company Exelon has announced plans to shutdown the generating station at Three Mile Island—yes, that Three Mile Island—in 2019 if Pennsylvania does not rescue the industry as have the states of Illinois and New York, each facing similar challenges.
I wanted to take a look at the electricity generated by nuclear power in Pennsylvania, but had to settle for energy produced. And while the data was only as recent as 2014, it did extend back to 1960 thereby dating back almost as far back as nuclear power in Pennsylvania—it began in 1957.
The subject has always been of interest to me and was the focus of one of my first data visualisation pieces back at university. And so while the data is not quite the same, nor over the same geographic area, it is interesting to see the spike since even 2008. (Worth noting that even in a coal state the long, slow decline of coal even before President Obama is self-evident.)
Unfortunately the EIA data came through a .pdf and not a more accessible data file so I spent most of my time recreating the data. Consequently, I had little time to do more than track these changes. But even still, I think you would agree the message is clear: natural gas has quickly disrupted the market. (Let’s again ignore the fact I could not plot renewable energy sources.)
Small disclaimer I suppose, I have always supported nuclear power as part of a non-carbon energy portfolio. But I also grew up within sight of and fascinated by the Limerick Generating Station steam clouds, so call me biased.
My battery is about to die this morning and I don’t have my charger so this is going to be a shorter piece than usual. But I wanted to look back on the 100 Day polling that the New York Times posted. It does paint an interesting picture of somebody so polarising that Trump is probably safe despite being one of the least favourably viewed presidents in modern times. Why? Because his supporters are so fervently loyal.
But that piece is almost a month old now. And so I wanted to point out something that FiveThirtyEight is doing—a running tracker of Trump’s polling. I am sure I will return to it in the future, after all we have over three and a half years to go until the next four year presidential term begins.
Credit for the piece goes to Karen Yourish and Paul Murray for the Times and Aaron Bycoffe, Dhrumil Mehta, and Nate Silver for FiveThirtyEight.
If this week’s news cycle cooperates, I am going to try and catch up on some things I have seen over the last several weeks that got bumped because of, well, Trump usually. Today we start with a piece on life expectancy from FiveThirtyEight.
The piece begins with a standard choropleth to identify, at county levels, pockets of higher mortality. But what I really like is this small multiples map of the United States. It shows the changes in life expectancy for all 50 states. And the use of colour quickly shows, for those states drastically different than the national average, are they above or below said average.
Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.
Yesterday Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, testified to Congress about the airline industry. All of this just a few weeks after such a great week of press coverage. Of course, the last few weeks have also been a wee bit busy, so I was unable to post today’s piece. But with Munoz’s testimony it makes the perfect segue.
Today’s piece is a graphic article from the New York Times. It examines the state of the US airline industry. I use the term graphic article, because outside of headlines and subheads, it uses few words. Instead the point of the article is conveyed via charts. And what I found really nice is that, as the below photo shows, the article comprised most of the front page of the Business section.
In terms of the structure, the piece did a nice job of giving breathing space around the various elements. This helps focus the reader’s attention on the charts and the data therein. Long headers and subheads break the vertical flow and create sentences or paragraphs that the charts prove.
But then we get below the fold and low and behold we have a pie chart. I would have probably used a bar chart to show the market share. Especially with the top-three airlines so close. On the other hand, I can see the argument for the large, colour-filled visual. It does a nice job balancing the area charts at the opening and puts an emphatic period at the end of the piece.
Overall, a solid piece and one that I am glad occupied a significant portion of the Business section front page.
I know I spent yesterday on the NFL Draft and that a lot of you would regard that as the lighthearted piece for the week. But trust me, here in Philly, it’s not so much. Just walk three blocks west from my flat.
So today we have another piece from This Is Indexed that looks at the creative process. And in my 8+ years of experience, this is nothing but true.
On Thursday President Trump announced that the Commerce Department would investigate imports of steel to the United States. This falls under the Buy American campaign pledge. A lot of talk in the media is, of course, about the threat of Chinese steel to the United States. So I dug into the Census Bureau’s website and found their data on steel imports.
Well, it turns out that steel imports were already down by over 5 million tons before Trump took office. And from 2015 to 2016, China fell sharply from 7th to 10th in a ranking of our import partners. In fact the only country from whom we import significant amounts of steel to see a rise over that period was Mexico.
But we’ll probably need their steel to build the wall to keep out their steel.
I visualised the data in this datagraphic. Enjoy. And look for a later post today in the usual, light-hearted vein.
Credit for the data goes to the US Census Burea. The graphic is mine.
Of all the things I expected to cover this week, this was not one of them.
This is Fox New’s firing of Bill O’Reilly, their lead personality and heaviest hitter for the last 21 years, for accusations of sexual harassment both externally and internally. But up until yesterday afternoon, just how important was O’Reilly to Fox News? Well, as you might guess somebody covered just that question. The New York Times addressed the question in this online piece and uses a nice graphic to buttress their argument.
I like the use of the longer time horizon across the top of the graphic. But most important in it is the inclusion of the trend line. It helps the reader find the story amid the noise in the weekly numbers. The big decline towards the end of December looks important until one realises that it probably owes the drop to the Christmas holidays.
Then the bottom piece does something intriguing; it shows both the actuals and percentages side-by-side. Typically people love stacked bar charts—by this point you probably all know my personal reluctance to use them—and that would be that. But here the designer also opts to show the share as a separate data point beside the stacked bar charts.
I think the only thing missing from the piece is a bit more context. Is O’Reilly still the heaviest weight in the lineup? The top chart could have perhaps used some additional context of other shows over the last few months. For example, how does O’Reilly compare to Hannity?
Regardless, this piece does a fantastic job of showing the until-yesterday increasing importance of O’Reilly to Fox News and then Fox News’ importance to 21st Century Fox.
The British government is delivering its budget statement today. So as a teaser, the Guardian published this article with six charts to help understand where things are at. Chart-wise there is nothing radical or revolutionary here, but I have a soft spot for articles driven by data visualisation.
Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian graphics department.