Recap: Stories through data and graphics, in Singapore

Every day, some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created, according to IBM. This is equivalent to some 115 billion 16 GB iPads full of information. With so much data at their disposal, journalists are given the formidable task of conveying this wealth of information to the public. One effective way is to spot and tell stories through data visualization and infographics.

In a recent workshop held at Google, and organized by AAJA-Asia (Singapore), Jane Pong, a graphics journalist from Reuters, explained how a data team—comprising a data analyst, a graphic designer, a reporter, and a news editor—works together to produce a report. It takes either a data set or simply a question to begin the process of putting together a data-driven report, she said.

IMG_1114Jane shared a dazzling array of infographic work, which ranged from manned space missions, rain patterns and plane crashes to breast cancer figures and a time-series graph of ages of Oscar winners over the years, all of them beautifully designed.

A list of useful analytic and design tools for creating these graphics include:

  • Excel and Google Docs
  • OpenRefine
  • R’s ggplot2 package
  • Tableau
  • Many Eyes
  • Raw
  • The good old pen and paper

For those who wanted to dive deeper into data journalism, Jane suggested the following authors: Edward Tufte, Alberto Cairo, Colin Ware, Stephen Few and Andy Kirk.

IMG_1124The second speaker of the workshop, Google’s communications manager Sana Rahman, guided the attendees through various tools on the popular search engine to help them uncover interesting trends and conceive original story ideas.

She demonstrated advanced search commands that included:

  • Searching by custom range of dates, file type, website, and specific search terms within web-based documents;
  • Filtering the search results by domain and language
  • Conducting an image search to determine the authenticity of a photo
  • Finding images that are not licensed

Rahman used interesting examples to demonstrate Google Trends’ capabilities. By comparing popularity of search terms and analyzing them across different regions over time, this powerful tool allows for a deeper understanding of trends, and sometimes spotting trends before they happen.

For more on Google’s media tools, please refer to