• My Last Graphic at The Times

    September 24, 2007  |  The Times

    Michael Mukasey Compared to His Peers

    Friday was my last day at The Times, and this past Sunday, my last graphic ran in the paper. The story discussed Judge Michael Mukasey's past rulings and experience. Who's Michael Mukasey? He's up for the spot of the new attorney general of course.

    Anyways, I got to look through a lot of cool data on past rulings and busted out R for some statistical fun. This brought me to my last graphic. It compared Mukasey to his New York Southern District peers. You can see he's been more strict overall but less strict in immigration cases. Unfortunately some spacing between each bar was lost in the web version; it looks much better in the actual paper.

    That's not the most exciting part though.

    Continue Reading

  • My Last Day as a New York Times Graphics Editor Intern

    September 21, 2007  |  The Times

    Today is my last day at The New York Times. Ten weeks and twenty something graphics later, I'm leaving NYC much more knowledgeable about data visualization and journalism and how they can make a powerful pair. It's a bittersweet ending today.

    On the one hand, it's been amazing working for such a prominent newspaper, but on the other, I'm also looking forward to taking a few days off doing nothing and then moving forward towards finishing, err, starting my dissertation. Do I know my topic? No, not really, but one thing's for sure. Data visualization is what I want to do and I've been extremely fortunate to have learned from some of the best this summer.

    Onward ho.

  • Deaths While Crossing the Border

    September 16, 2007  |  The Times

    Border-Crossing DeathsWith a stricter border patrol, more Mexican illegal immigrants are taking dangerous routes to get into the United States. As a result, treks through the dehydrating Arizona desert have caused a significant number of deaths. Most likely there are more deaths than this graph indicates because the data was only for deaths reported by the Border Patrol. There could very well be cases the Border Patrol did not handle or knew about.

    This graph was straightforward, mainly a waiting game for data from first, the Government Accountability Office and then the Border Safety Initiative. Take a look at the GAO report done last year, reporting a double in border-crossing deaths from 1995 to 2005. It's a little odd though that they use numbers from two different sources, so take it with a grain of salt.

  • Presidential Election Voting by the Young People of America

    September 15, 2007  |  The Times

    Young voter turnout

    I actually did this graphic some time last month for the Week in Review. Slipped through the cracks somehow. It was a slightly different experience doing a graphic for this desk, because, well, I guess they don't request graphics very often.

    As an aside, I just realized that old Times links are behind that silly TimesSelect thing, which kind of sucks. I hear TimesSelect is going to be free sometime in the near future though. Good.

  • Not Enough Lifeguards and Prison Libraries

    September 11, 2007  |  The Times

    Two more graphics -- one ran on Sunday with a story investigating lifeguard competence and the other went yesterday with a story on religious books (or lack thereof) in prison libraries. Probably the most challenging part of both graphics was figuring out what to show; there wasn't exactly a ton of data to choose from.

    Less than Satisfactory Lifeguarding

    I knew this was running on Sunday, but when I checked online, I didn't see it. I was a little disappointed, because it kind of sucks to make a graphic and then find out it was grilled. Luckily, that hasn't happened to me yet. Knock on wood. My lifeguard graphic wasn't on the Web, but it was in the paper.

    Lifeguards and Drownings at Beaches and Pools

    The graphic started as just small squares, but the results looked like they were missing something. It just looked like 32 tiny, shaded squares. They needed more context, so I highlighted incidents in which there were some serious lifeguard screw-ups. I think the excerpts make the graph a lot more human. What do you think?

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  • More Research than Anything Else

    September 7, 2007  |  The Times

    Iraq Senate VotingFor what seems like forever, Democrats have been trying to get Republicans to agree to some kind of timeline to pull troops out of Iraq.

    On the surface, the graphic seems pretty straightforward, but the research took me forever. I had to look through past Times articles to find suitable lead ups to the actual bill being proposed. We were looking for something specific like another version of the proposed bill. In retrospect, I'm not quite sure why it took so long. Maybe because it took me a while to pin down just exactly what direction I wanted to take it. Anyways, once I got the background info, it was just a short time of the boss whizzing through Illustrator hot keys and tada, we had our graphic.

  • Presidential Campaign, Five Graphics

    September 2, 2007  |  The Times

    Five of my graphics ran in the paper today in a special labor day weekend segment, What to Expect When You're Electing. The past few days, I and those I talked to have been referring to them as the labor day graphics, so I was surprised to see them go today. Nice Sunday treat.

    Gallup PollThe first graphic changed form a few times. It began as a bubble chart to a stacked bar and then to the pies. An editor quickly pointed out that the bubble chart indicated that the percentages were separate, but they should be represented as a whole. Good point, so I toyed around with a stacked bar chart, but it just didn't look right, given the alloted space. Hence, the pie charts. I'm not a big pie chart fan, but this one seems to work for me.



    What They RaisedA graphic about the amount of money candidates have spent, have, and raised, this graphic's stacked bar chart base was fairly straightforward. However, it's the styling and organization that took the most time, as is often the case. I've come to learn that it's very easy to make a graph, but it's the styling and organization that really makes a graphic worthy of being in the paper.



    Early Contest CalendarOther than the fact that the calendar is changing from day to day and the whole primary versus caucus stuff is kind of confusing, this graphic was pretty straightforward. I put in shades of gray to make things more readable.



    Candidates’ Internet Market ShareI thought this presidential Web site data from Hitwise was pretty interesting. Based on estimates, we can see what presidential Web sites are getting the most traffic. The tricky part was getting the wording right for the headline and lead-in so that readers would know what the percentages meant.



    Mega Primary VotingClearly very straightforward, Pledged Delegates, on the contrary, took the most time out of all five graphics. The construction was simple, but finding the correct numbers took time. Schedules are changing, the definition of a pledged delegate is different by state, and the whole nomination process is fuzzy. Nevertheless, towards the end of Friday, some somewhat reliable numbers came in.

    That's all. It was fun putting this group of graphics together. I got to learn about the nomination process and most importantly, learned more about style and organization. Good stuff.

    As I sat at my desk this week, working on these things (and one other coming soon), I thought to myself, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this. This is too entertaining." You know, this whole internship has never really felt like work, which I think is a good sign that I'm headed in the right direction towards data visualization.

  • Manhattan Inventory, Newark Killings, and Health Insurance

    August 23, 2007  |  The Times

    Unbelievably, I'm already in my sixth week, with this week practically over. I create graphics more efficiently (although I'm still constantly learning) than I did in my first week and have gotten a better idea of The Times style and the process of how a graphic gets put into the paper. Here's my last three graphics that have run in the paper.

    Convincing Data, sort of

    This past Sunday, the Real Estate section had a story on the rising Manhattan apartment prices and the declining apartment inventory. The Manhattan trends were then compared to national housing inventory, which shows (somewhat) of an increase, opposite that of Manhattan.

    Manhattan Inventory Versus National Inventory

    I wasn't especially excited about graphing this data, because I wasn't sure how confident I was in the national inventory estimates. Is national housing inventory really increasing? On the order of millions, a small move up or down in the order of thousands could drastically change how that line looks. I had Manhattan inventory data though, and it at least looks like something is going on there.

    Continue Reading

  • Peru Earthquake Map Graphic

    August 17, 2007  |  The Times

    20070816_peru_graphic500x467

    A huge 8.0 earthquake shook Peru a few days ago killing at least 510 people. Homes and buildings were destroyed and many people's lives were changed forever. I'm ashamed to admit that if it weren't for my internship, I probably would have never even known about the quake. I hope a lot of help is headed towards Peru.

    This map graphic was a bit tricky because it was made for color in the paper. That means the color layer and text layer had to be split and sent separately to the printers. It's this odd process, that I'm afraid I don't quite understand, but the color printers are in a different place than the black and whites. The color part gets printed, and since the text and color is separated, there's still time to make any last minute changes to the black and white. Uh, scratch that. That's probably wrong.

    One of the map people provided me with the base map and then I filled in the blanks i.e. everything that isn't land and water, and after about one billion back and forths I finally set it and was able to leave a couple hours later than usual. To top things off, some of the text was different in the paper today than I had put in.

  • Deadliest Explosions in Iraq Since Februrary

    August 17, 2007  |  The Times

    Terrorist Attacks in Iraq

    Two hundred and fifty people died a couple of days ago in the deadliest attack deadliest attack of the war. We compiled a list of the most deadly attacks since February and then mapped them out. It was a team (and by team, I mean two) effort -- I collected the data and a co-worker mapped it out.

    In this case, I went through old Times stories and took note of attacks that killed 20 or more people. It was really depressing reading all that stuff, but I'm definitely better for it. Without a doubt, I know more now than I ever have about what's going on in the world.

    As you can see, my co-worker went with the old bubble map standby. I wish we could show the data differently than the usual map, but what type of visualization would that be?

  • Big Happy Republican Family

    August 11, 2007  |  The Times

    Five Romney Brothers

    As you might know (or don't know), Mitt Romney is vying for the Republican presidential nomination. His five sons have all lent a helping hand to the campaign.

    This graphic is really basic, but sadly, it took me quite a while to finish. I thought I had finished it efficiently, but there were a bunch of style things I had to change e.g. how I cropped the mugshots. On my first pass, I had cropped the pictures in a way so that there was white space in between each brother. Of course, as I know now, that was a waste of precious space, and it looks a whole lot better this way.

  • ArcGIS and Excel are Worthwhile

    August 9, 2007  |  The Times

    If I've learned anything in my first month at The Times, it's that ArcGIS and Microsoft Excel are not worthless.

    For a while now, since I started grad school, I had this beef against Microsoft Excel. I hated how everyone used it and how I didn't have the money to buy the Office suite or even cared enough to want to buy it. It seemed so limited in what it could do compared to a quickly setup MySQL database.

    Then last year, I took this crash course on ArcGIS. It was four days, eight hours a day of mapping. I hated ArcGIS after that workshop. The whole software suite seemed sluggish, bloated, and so not worth my time.

    Today I saw some ArcGIS and Excel proficiency I had never seen before. My co-worker flew through giant spreadsheets, punched in formulas, and joined columns left and right. It was quite the scene. Once the data were prepared in Excel, she shot it over to ArcGIS. She quickly loaded a shape file for all counties in the Tri-state region, changed some limits, and voila, a few seconds later we had the map we needed. Put in some labeling, some numbers, and the graphic was complete.

    Yes, ArcGIS and Excel are worthwhile.

    I have so much to learn.

    Growing Minority Populations

  • Timelines to Show Changes Over Time

    August 5, 2007  |  The Times

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Changing Views on the Iraq War

    I recently put together a timeline for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's changing views on the Iraq war. In 2002, she voted in support of the war. In 2006, her language was a bit non-committal, as far as setting a deadline to get troops out of Iraq. Now, in 2007, she's firmly set on getting troops out of Iraq by some deadline. The goal of the timeline is to show this change.

    Here's the important lesson I learned during this task -- even though it's easy to put a timeline together, it still has to tell a story. Think about the purpose of the timeline. Usually, you want to show some change or progression over time. The tinting on the above timeline is for events during which Senator Clinton shows a definite change in her stance. The hope is that the reader keeps going left to right.

    If you don't keep the story in mind, the timeline is no longer as useful. It's just a bunch of text arranged in time order, which is sort of what the above timeline looked like after my first jab at it. I put tinting on the events i.e. the things that weren't quotes from Mrs. Clinton. In retrospect, such tinting plainly defeats the purpose of this particular timeline, which went with a story that discussed the change. Duh.

  • Prisoners Getting Shipped to Other States

    July 31, 2007  |  The Times

    I made this graphic early last week, or actually, maybe it was during my first week. In any case, they finally ran the story, and my graphic is on the front page of The Times Online (as of 1:39am Eastern time).

    Housing Prisoners Out of State

    You can read the article. It's pretty interesting. In a nutshell, prisons are getting crowded, so states are shipping inmates to out-of-state private prisons. For example, California is sending prisoners all the way to Wheelright, Kentucky.

  • CUNY Raising SAT Math Score Cutoff

    July 28, 2007  |  The Times

    Tired of looking at my New York Times graphics yet? Too bad. Here's another one for my your viewing pleasure.

    CUNY SAT Math Graph

    CUNY schools are planning to raise their SAT math scores to 510 for their top-tier schools and to 500 for the rest. Believe it or not, the current cutoff for all schools is 480. Some say the increase in standards is good for the school to improve reputability. Others argue that the new cutoffs single out a lot of minorities since the high school education system is uneven.

    Currently, lots of students are coming into CUNY schools unprepared to take college-level math courses, and the college ends up teaching remedial courses like pre-algebra. That's just SAD. It's probably more important to focus on improving the high school education system than it is to try to get unqualified students into college.

  • Evaluating New York Subway Report Card

    July 26, 2007  |  Miscellaneous, The Times

    I had a chance to browse through some of my subscribed feeds today, and I saw a post called Noisy Subways by Kaiser over at Junk Charts blog. So I clicked, since it isn't one of those full feeds, and then I saw The New York subway report card. I smiled, because, well, I made that chart just a few days ago!

    Just a disclaimer: The Times chart was just The New York Times version of the original Straphangers report:

    Straphanger Subway Report Card

    Anyways, there was bit of a discussion, which again, I found very amusing. I felt kind of special in a way.

    There were two main points to the post - 1. Noisy data; and 2. Chart is hard to read. I'm very tired right now, so I'll just say a few things.

    Yes, the data is really noisy, but why shouldn't it be? We shouldn't assume that all six variables are positively correlated. It's very possible for a line to be very reliable, but have no seats. One could argue that the lines with more people HAVE to be more reliable, because if something goes wrong, more people are going to get screwed.

    Secondly - sure, the chart is a bit hard to read at a glance, but who's the audience? New Yorkers are the audience, and the first thing that they're going to do is look for their subway line. That's what I did. With the audience in mind, I think the chart serves its purpose.

    Most of the commenters provided decent ideas for alternative graphics. My opinion is that with this kind of data, it's up for grabs. Audience is key though for charts, graphs, plots, maps, etc in a newspaper. Spiders and whiskers won't make sense to many people. You'd be amazed of how many people don't know how to read a scatter plot. The public is getting better though. They'll get there.

    As for the person who left the comment about the gaps in the chart. I'm going to assume that was in haste. Some lines are tied, hence some blanks spaces.

    Welp, that was fun. Yawwwwn. Time for bed.

  • Annual New York Subway Report Card

    July 25, 2007  |  The Times

    subwaygraphicfull

    My second graphic was in The Times Metro section today (Tuesday, July 24, pg B2). It's an annual report card compiled by the Straphangers Campaign for every New York subway line. The No. 1 line was coincidentally ranked best while the C and the W (one of the lines I take) were near the bottom.

  • More About the Style, Less About How

    July 24, 2007  |  The Times

    It's six days in, and I'm starting to get used to Adobe Illustrator. It's one honker of a program, so I'm picking up things as I go along, but on the upside, I'm really glad I went through some of Illustrator lessons to at least familiarize myself with layers, etc.

    I think I'm getting closer to the point where it's less about "How do I do this?" and more about "What am I going to show?" Don't get me wrong. There's A LOT I still don't know how to do, but at least I know enough to figure out a good amount on my own. Just a lot to figure out about The Times graphics style -- font, sizes, color, etc.

    The administrative stuff is the hardest part of all though. While I'm working on a graphic I have to keep all the necessary people updated i.e. the reporter of the story of whom I am making the graphic for. I got scolded today, because a reporter didn't know that her story was put on hold. I didn't know that I was her only contact link. Lesson learned. I'm just going to contact everyone from now on. Better to provide too much information than too little (in this case, at least).

    Once a graphic is completed, I have to print out five copies or so and hand them out to all of the necessary people. Next, update the graphic schedule, and then place it in the active list. It's strange that even though we're all equipped with these super awesome computers that I still have to walk upstairs and hand-deliver copies of a graphic. I guess nothing can replace human contact.

  • My First Graphic in The Times

    July 21, 2007  |  The Times

    Net purchase of U.S. bonds and stocks by foreign investors

    and here it is. Floyd Norris has a weekly editorial called Off the Charts. This week's was titled A Blockbuster Seller Overseas: Stakes in Corporate America. It's about the increase in the amount of money foreign investors are putting into American businesses. Check out the Business section in The New York Times! There's also an online version.

    It was ridiculous how many changes had to be made to my first pass at the graphic. I suck (but I'm getting better, really!). Color, bar width, grid style, font size, axis size, alignment, plus and minus signs, spacing, and area fill.

    While writing statistical reports for class, I think it was easy to get away with so-so graphics. Just plug some data into R, use the plot function, and ta-da. I'll never look at charts and graphs the same way again.

  • New Lessons Every Day

    July 20, 2007  |  Miscellaneous, The Times

    steps1

    Every day I learn a lot, and every day I get better. For most of the day today, I worked on a single graphic (that hopefully runs in the paper). I gave it to the person in charged, and oh man, there was a lot to change. Fonts, labels, fill colors, bar widths, spacing, layer orientation, size... on and on and on. I think it might have been faster for him to make the graphic himself than it was for him to fix mine.

    Sigh. Gotta practice.

    The graphic above is the number of daily steps I've taken since I started wearing a pedometer. Can you tell when I moved to the city and was forced to walk to the subway and work?

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