See the gap

Here’s an impressive  -and depressing – interactive graphic that shows the extent of the racial and gender inequalities at the top levels of American media.  The project was commissioned by Stratch and includes some impressive research into the leadership history of big-name publications. Do give it a read and spend a few minutes clicking around.


Gender tracking software in the wild

Hat tip to Dan Kennedy and Tory Starr for passing along this story about a (very brave) journalist named Adrienne LaFrance who submitted a year’s worth of her work for review by Open Gender Tracker. The results weren’t surprising: Men outnumbered women as sources.

But LaFrance’s must-read discussion of why these these trends persist is an example of why projects like Open Gender Tracker are so important. I wrote about gender-tracking software earlier this month for Poynter, and it’s awesome to see how journalists like LaFrance are putting it to use.

Google Fusion, revisited

During last week’s tech camp, we touched briefly on the way data is shaping how stories are told online. Today, we’ll explore that concept more deeply through Google Fusion Tables.

To use utterly unscientific terms, Fusion Tables are souped-up spreadsheets that superimpose — or fuse — information onto Google’s expansive mapping system. The finished products can be saved, shared and embedded on websites. Fusion also allows users to create simple charts, timelines and other data visualizations. Our focus, however, will be on building interactive maps. (Read this for a few reasons why mapping is important to modern digital storytelling.)

Once you learn the basics of Fusion, it’s possible to create a fairly sophisticated project in less than 30 minutes. Still, the process can be a little intimidating at first. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you along, and here are the three things you need for a successful project:

1.) A goal. What do you hope to achieve? What do you want to help readers understand? What do you know? What do you ned to know? Will this be a stand-alone map or part of a broader package?

2.) Valid data that can be manipulated using geography. The simplest example is a list of addresses, like in this table I made showing a few visits to New Hampshire by possible 2016 presidential candidates. Here’s another example that shows the location of stalled construction in New York City.

(A note about validity: Data shouldn’t be treated any differently than other kinds of information we handle as journalists. In other words, verify, contextualize and cite properly.)

3.) Shape files. These are necessary only for projects in which you want to show highlighted geographic areas, as opposed to pins. They contain boundary information for common geographic areas like states, provinces, countries and counties. To see what I mean, check out this project by the Guardian. The pins were dropped using basic address information, while the colored patches relied on shape files for geographic areas. (We’ll cover where to find the shape files and how to make them different colors during camp.)

Finally, here’s the tutorial we’ll be using together on Monday. It’s far less complicated than it looks. Promise!

(Google) Fusion cuisine

If you’re coming to today’s Tech Camp — and you should — here are few links that we’ll reference during our second Google Fusion workshop:

1.) A list of U.S. state foods from Wikipedia. (I’ll show you how to import this into Fusion during the workshop.)

2.) A file containing information on the boundaries of the U.S. states. (I found this through Google’s Tabels search interface, which you can see here.)

3.) Obesity rates by state.

4.) A list of state capitals.

Our goal will be to create the following: A map that uses different shades of a color to show obesity rates and illustrates official state foods; a timeline that shows when each official food was adopted; a chart or other type of visualization that tells us something else about this information.

If you missed last week’s overview of Fusion, here’s everything you need to know.

Garbage in, garbage out

This week’s Summer Tech Camp session was focused on Google Fusion Tables, and I had planned to post detailed instructions and other information today. Those plans are on hold for the moment, though, because I’ve been mysteriously locked out of Fusion.

Oh, technology.

In the meantime, here’s a story from that explores some of the challenges of finding solid electronic information. Just like in any other kind of journalism, your final Fusion project will only be as good as its data. No amount of fancy styling can make up for inaccuracies.

Careful journalists, however, can find a wealth of useful data though this Google interface.

Not surprising, but still depressing

Here’s something to file under “discouraging:” A collection of charts from Media Matters showing that cable news is overwhelmingly white and male.

Of the networks surveyed, MSNBC was the most likely to feature female guests during the month of April — but they were still outnumbered by men two-to-one. MSNBC was also the most racially diverse, which isn’t saying much considering that 73 percent of its guests were white.

The results are even more depressing when viewed in the context of national demographics:

While white men enjoyed representation on cable that was nearly double that of their representation in the U.S. population, white women, who represent 32 percent of the population, were only 21 percent of guests on cable. Non-white women fared even worse. While they make up 19 percent of the population, they were only 8 percent of all guests on cable. Non-white men were also underrepresented; only 13 percent of guests on cable were non-white men while they make up 18 percent of the population.

Also interesting: The gender balance didn’t shift much when the host was female. This differs from a study by the 4th Estate Project that found female reporters working for National Public Radio were more likely to interview female sources.

Vizzies I have loved

Matt Carroll, the Boston Globe’s data guru,  gave one of my classes a tutorial on Google Fusion last week. It was pretty awesome.

Carroll called data visualization an “exploding field” with a shortage of qualified  journalists. (Hear that, student journos? If you want a job you should learn a bit about data or at least spreadsheets.) I had hoped to post a vizzy of my own, but I’ve been bogged down in other projects these last few days. Instead, here’s a roundup of some impressive data visualizations I’ve seen lately:

Drone warfare graphic from The Guardian's website.
In this interactive graphic, The Guardian breaks down drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. Photo/

The Guardian’s Datablog is always amazing, but this animated, interactive look at drone warfare in Pakistan is in a class by itself. The designers used data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to illustrate the demographics of the more than 3,000 people killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. The information is complex, but the design remains simple. A quick look shows how strikes became more frequent — and more deadly — after President Obama took office in 2009. Closer inspection reveals details about each attack.

Like the drone project, this graphic from the Associated Press is structured around a timeline. It uses colored circles the cost in terms of money and life of wars throughout American history. The AP published it today to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War. It’s simple, timely and contextualizes historic events.

ProPublica is packed with vizzies, including a few sophisticated enough to be reporting tools in their own right. One of my current favorites is this graph of where members of Congress stand on gun regulation. It’s a calm, clear look at an emotional topic. At first, I found all the little pictures distracting, but I came to appreciate them after playing with the graphic for a few minutes.

TIME’s list of top Twitter users is basically a boys’ club

On Twitter, science and politics are topics best left to men. At least that’s the message TIME is sending with its list of “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013.” The annual roundup of top tweeters is overwhelmingly male, with women dominating just four of the 14 categories.

Female Twitter users are especially scarce in areas of the list devoted to science and politics, but they outnumber men when it comes to traditionally “pink” topics like fashion and food. The genders were evenly represented in a category devoted to activists. In all, the list included 71 men and 46 women, plus a couple dozen institutional accounts.* Here’s a full breakdown:


Does all this really matter? Probably not, but inclusion on a list like this creates buzz and a certain amount of pop-culture legitimacy. The fact that vast swaths of TIME’s selection are so male heavy is weird, especially when you consider that 60 percent of Twitter users are female.

TIME editors admit the list is “not comprehensive” and invite Twitter users to weigh in with their own favorites using the hashtag #Twitter140. But I can’t help wondering if they could have pushed a little harder to highlight women who meet the criteria of standing “out for their humor, knowledge and personality.”

There’s no dearth of smart women offering pithy political tweets. This crew, for instance, or any of the fine journalists suggested by Carrie Dann of NBC News:

As for science, I’ll bet this spunky social media user has some ideas.

(*A note on my methodology: I broke TIME’s list into three categories: male, female and other. The first two groups are self explanatory. I applied the “other” label to non-gendered accounts, most of which represented institutions. Careful readers will notice that 141 accounts appear on the graphs. That’s because one of TIME’s picks included two names, one male and one female.)