The Freedom of the Press

By now you may have heard that this Thursday media outlets across the United, joined by some international outlets as well, have all published editorials about the importance of the freedom of the press and the dangers of the office of the President of the United States declaring unflattering but demonstrably true coverage “fake news”. And even more so, declaring journalists, especially those that are critical of the government, “enemies of the people”.

I have commented upon this in the past, so I will refrain from digressing too much, but the sort of open hostility towards objective reality from the president threatens the ability of a citizenry to engage in meaningful debates on public policy. Let us take the clearly controversial idea of gun control; it stirs passions on both sides of the debate. But, before we can have a debate on how much or how little to regulate guns we need to know the data on how many guns are out there, how many people own them, how many are used in crimes, in lethal crimes, are owned legally or illegally. That data, that verifiably true data exists. And it is upon those numbers we should be debating the best way to reduce the numbers of children massacred in American schools. But, this president and this administration, and certain elements of the citizenry refuse to acknowledge data and truth and instead invent their own. And in a world where 2+2=5, no longer 4, who is to say next that no, 2+2=6.

There are hundreds of editorials out there.

Read one from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and/or the New York Times.

But the one editorial board that started it is that of the Boston Globe. I was dreading how to tie this very important issue into my blog, which you all know tries to focus on data and design. As often as I stand upon my soap box, I try to keep this blog a little less soapy. Thankfully, the Globe incorporated data into their argument.

The end of their post concludes with a small interactive piece that presents survey data. It shows favourability and trustworthiness ratings for several media outlets broken out into their political leanings. The screenshot below is for the New York Times.

Clearly Republicans and Democrats view the Times differently
Clearly Republicans and Democrats view the Times differently

The design is simple and effective. The darker the red, the more people believe an outlet to be trustworthy and how favourably they view it.

But before wrapping up today’s post, I also want to share another bit from that same Boston Globe editorial. As some of you may know, George Orwell’s 1984 is one of my favourite books of all time. I watched part of a rambling speech by the president a few weeks ago and was struck at how similar his line was to a theme in that novel. I am glad the Globe caught it as well.

Credit for this piece goes to the Boston Globe design staff.

All Hail the Nurses and Working People

Let’s start this week with a quick hit on popularity and politics. It ties in nicely with the fact that my local congressman, a Republican, announced on Sunday he would not be seeking re-election in a very competitive district.

This piece in particular comes from the Economist and in terms of form, it is fairly simple. A scatter plot tackling the popularity of groups of people and specific politicians divided by whether the respondent is Republican or Democratic.

A nation divided…
A nation divided…

The reason I really like this scatter plot are the inclusion of the keys at the four corners. The split between Republicans and Democrats is fairly obvious and nicely coloured. But the little keys really help to clear up any confusion about what is happening as groups of people fall closer to one corner or another. The keys were a small and subtle, but very important design decision.

But what does it all mean? Well, as the headline says, we both rate favourably nurses and working people. Less so Congress and Mitch McConnell.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics team.

Russia Tomorrow

In news that surprises absolutely nobody, Russia “re-elected” Vladimir Putin as president for another six-year term. The Economist recently looked at what they termed the Puteens, a generation of Russians born starting in 1999 who have no memory of a Russia pre-Vladimir Putin.

This piece features a set of interactive dot plots that capture survey results on a number of topics that are segmented by age. It attempts to capture the perspective of Puteens on a range of issues from their media diet to foreign policy outlook to civil rights.

The ideas of youth…
The ideas of youth…

The design is largely effective. The Puteen generation sticks out clearly as the bright red to the cool greys. And more importantly, when the dots would overlap they move vertically away from the line so users can clearly see all the dots. And on hover, all the dots of the same age cohort’s interest are highlighted. I think one area of improvement would have been to apply that same logic to the legend to allow the user to scroll through the whole dataset without always having to interact with the chart. But that is a minor bit on an otherwise really nice piece.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics department.

Confidence in the US President

From those surveyed around the world.

The Pew Research Centre surveyed international respondents about their confidence in Donald Trump vs. Barack Obama. The Economist took those results and visualised them. And the results, well they kind of speak for themselves. But make sure to click through the link for the rest of the graphic.

That's a lot of declining values
That’s a lot of declining values

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist graphics department.

Two Tales of One City

Dickens is not my favourite, but that felt an appropriate title for today’s piece from the Washington Post on Chicago residents’ opinions on, well, Chicago. Turns out there is a notable demographic split on how residents feel about various things in the city.

Some of the issues
Some of the issues

Credit for the piece goes to Emily Badger.

When is Hummus Not Hummus?

The subject matter of this one interested me. I am new to hummus. Well, sort of. I never ate it before moving to Chicago. But when I did, I understood it to be essentially a dip made from chick peas. According to an article from Quartz, It turns out that’s what most Americans believe. Even if they’re not necessarily buying it. Literally (sort of). Because some popular brands contain no chick peas. (Disclosure: I work for the company that provided some of the market sizing data used in the piece.)

Kind of needs chickpeas.
Kind of needs chickpeas.

Credit for the piece goes to David Yanofsky.

Am I Your Type, Politically Speaking of Course?

Maybe? But thanks to Pew Research, you can see if we align politically. Today’s post comes via Pete, a coworker of mine, and it is basically a survey that works by asking you 23 political questions on topics from big/small government, immigration, climate change, gay rights, defence spending, &c. They crunch some numbers and spit you out on a results page, the image below a crop from the results for your humble author. (For better or worse revealing my political leanings.)

My type
My type

From a survey standpoint, I found it interesting the questions presented only binary responses. In general, I found that I never agreed with either statement entirely and was forced to choose the “closest” response. Since I never see myself on the conservative side of the spectrum, I was surprised to see my “type”, Young Outsiders, coloured with a tint of red. Regardless, I’m still thankful that according to Pew, I am still more in the centre than on the ends as it makes it a lot easier to compromise. I’ve heard that that is an adult thing to do.

By the way, if you want the results of the full survey upon which this quiz was based, you can check out that site here. It’s full of bar charts for those who like the data visualisation.

Credit for the piece goes to the Pew Research Center.

The New American Center

NBC News and Esquire magazine published results from their August survey of some 2000+ respondents that attempted to define the New American Center, i.e. the political persuasions of the majority of the country excepting the radical right and the loony left. For the purposes of Coffee Spoons, I am most interested in looking at the data visualisation and the infographics that result.

Both NBC News and Esquire visualised the results. While I could write two long blog posts looking at both of them, for today, it is more important to look more at the fundamental design difference between the two.

NBC News opted for a design direction emphasising data first. Perhaps because NBC is a news platform, their focus was on the clean communication of the data. Looking

NBC News results
NBC News results

On the other hand, Esquire opted for a more sensationalised direction. The same data points used for the screenshot above creates this graphic below. Not only is less data is contained, less context given, less subtlety and nuance captured, it also is just difficult to read. Is the 59% supposed to be the area of the cross filled in? Its length? Why is it three-dimensional? Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear? At first glance, I ignore the horizontal wings and focus solely on the vertical length of the main bar.

Esquire results
Esquire results

For a useful representation of data, I think NBC News clearly wins. But that both organisations used the same data to craft their separate results, this story on the New American Center is useful for comparing two different design directions and the results thereof.

No designers are specifically mentioned, at least not that I could find, so credit for each piece goes to its respective owner, i.e. NBC News or Esquire.

My/Your Dialect

Joshua Katz from North Carolina State University has created an interactive version of the dialect survey maps first perhaps popularised several years ago. Katz has also created an interactive map that looks at a city’s dialect and maps its areas of similarity and difference. An interesting extension of the original survey data, however, is the ability to take the survey yourself and see where your dialect fits. There are two versions, a 25-question survey and a 140-question survey.

The screenshot below is my result from the 25-question version. And it fits me fairly well since I spent most of my years in the suburbs of Philadelphia but every summer in South Jersey (and quite a bit of time in Allentown). Click the map to take the quiz for yourself. Feel free to reply and share your results.

Clearly I am Philadelphia raised
Clearly I am Philadelphia raised

From the technical side, for those wondering, this is a piece that is done in Shiny, the interactive version of R.

Credit for the piece goes to Joshua Katz.