Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

The First 100 Days (Good Mag)

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

[Editor's note: President Elect Barack Obama has a lot riding on his shoulders these days. The economy has tanked and multiple wars drag on yet "hope" is high. How have other presidents faired in their first 100 days to deal with the problems they faced and in enacting the initiatives they championed on the campaign trail. This graphic from Good magazine's politics section shows us just that, tracking the 12 past presidents since 1933. Indicators include their popular vote, economic issues, social issues, foreign conflicts, diplomacy, first moments, red-phone moments, top secret issues, and energy issues. Thanks Patterson and Kristin!]

Republished from Good magazine. 

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people,” Franklin D. Roosevelt told supporters in 1932 while accepting the presidential nomination. When he took office, he spent his first 100 days enacting a dizzying number of reforms designed to stablize an economically depressed nation. Since then, a president’s first 100 days have been an indicator of what he is able to accomplish. In January 2009, the clock starts again.

View larger.

Building the Data Desk: Lessons From the L.A. Times (Knight Digital Media Center)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

[Editor's note: Great article on how data, including GIS, maps, and Google mashups can be leveraged in news media environments from a veteran of the LA Times. Thanks Aly! (and bon voyage)]

Republished from Knight Digital Media Center (OJR). By Eric Ulken on Nov. 21, 2008.

In early 2007, when the Los Angeles Times launched its Homicide Report blog — an effort to chronicle every homicide in Los Angeles County — it was clear that there were important geographic and demographic dimensions to the information that a blog format wouldn’t fully capture. What we needed was a ChicagoCrime.org-style map that would let users focus on areas of interest to them, with filters that would enable them to “play” with the data and explore trends and patterns for themselves. Problem was, the web staff (of which I was a part) lacked the tools and the expertise to build such a thing, so the blog launched without a map. (Sound familar?)

It took several months to secure the tech resources and a couple more months to create wireframes and spec out requirements for what would become the Homicide Map, with the help of a couple of talented developers and a project manager on part-time loan from the website’s IT department. We were fortunate, of course: We actually had access to this kind of expertise, and since then we’ve hired a couple of dedicated editorial developers. I’m aware that others might not have it so good.

Last week, Robert Niles argued that news organizations should be in the business of creating “killer apps”. Put another way, there is a need to develop tools that hew to the content rather than the other way around. But creating the functionality Robert describes takes a closer connection between news thinking and tech thinking than is possible within news organizations’ traditional structures and skill sets.

In this post, I’ll try to squeeze some wisdom out of the lessons we learned in the process of assembling the Times’ Data Desk, a cross-functional team of journalists responsible for collecting, analyzing and presenting data online and in print. (Note: I left the Times earlier this month to work on some independent projects. I am writing this piece with the blessing of my former bosses there.)

Here, then, are 10 pieces of advice for those of you building or looking to build a data team in your newsroom:

  1. Find the believers: You’ll likely discover enthusiasts and experts in places you didn’t expect. In our case, teaming up with the Times’ computer-assisted reporting staff, led by Doug Smith, was a no-brainer. Doug was publishing data to the web before the website had anybody devoted to interactive projects. But besides Doug’s group, we found eager partners on the paper’s graphics staff, where, for example, GIS expert Tom Lauder had already been playing with Flash and web-based mapping tools for a while. A number of reporters were collecting data for their stories and wondering what else could be done with it. We also found people on the tech side with a good news sense who intuitively understood what we were trying to do.
  2. Get buy-in from above: For small projects, you might be able to collaborate informally with your fellow believers, but for big initiatives, you need the commitment of top editors who control the newsroom departments whose resources you’ll draw on. At the Times, a series of meetings among senior editors to chart a strategic vision for the paper gave us an opportunity to float the data desk idea. This led to plans to devote some reporting resources to gathering data and to move members of the data team into a shared space near the editorial library (see #8).
  3. Set some priorities: Your group may come from a variety of departments, but if their priorities are in alignment, disparate reporting structures might not be such a big issue. We engaged in “priority alignment” by inviting stakeholders from all the relevant departments (and their bosses) to a series of meetings with the goal of drafting a data strategy memo and setting some project priorities. (We arrived at these projects democratically by taping a big list on the wall and letting people vote by checkmark; ideas with the most checks made the cut.) Priorities will change, of course, but having some concrete goals to guide you will help.
  4. Go off the reservation: No matter how good your IT department is, their priorities are unlikely to be in sync with yours. They’re thinking big-picture product roadmaps with lots of moving pieces. Good luck fitting your database of dog names (oh yes, we did one of those) into their pipeline. Early on, database producer Ben Welsh set up a Django box at projects.latimes.com, where many of the Times’ interactive projects live. There are other great solutions besides Django, including Ruby on Rails (the framework that powers the Times’ articles and topics pages and many of the great data projects produced by The New York Times) and PHP (an inline scripting language so simple even I managed to learn it). Some people (including the L.A. Times, occasionally) are using Caspio to create and host data apps, sans programming. I am not a fan, for reasons Derek Willis sums up much better than I could, but if you have no other options, it’s better than sitting on your hands.
  5. Templatize: Don’t build it unless you can reuse it. The goal of all this is to be able to roll out projects rapidly (see #6), so you need templates, code snippets, Flash components, widgets, etc., that you can get at, customize and turn around quickly. Interactive graphics producer Sean Connelley was able to use the same county-level California map umpteen times as the basis for various election visualizations in Flash.
  6. Do breaking news: Your priority list may be full of long-term projects like school profiles and test scores, but often it’s the quick-turnaround stuff that has the biggest immediate effect. This is where a close relationship with your newsgathering staff is crucial. At the Times, assistant metro editor Megan Garvey has been overseeing the metro staff’s contributions to data projects for a few months now. When a Metrolink commuter train collided with a freight train on Sept. 12, Megan began mobilizing reporters to collect key information on the victims while Ben adapted an earlier Django project (templatizing in action!) to create a database of fatalities, complete with reader comments. Metro staffers updated the database via Django’s easy-to-use admin interface. (We’ve also used Google Spreadsheets for drama-free collaborative data entry.) … Update 11/29/2008: I was remiss in not pointing out Ben’s earlier post on this topic.
  7. Develop new skills: Disclaimer: I know neither Django nor Flash, so I’m kind of a hypocrite here. I’m a lucky hypocrite, though, because I got to work with guys who dream in ActionScript and Python. If you don’t have access to a Sean or a Ben — and I realize few newsrooms have the budget to hire tech gurus right now — then train and nurture your enthusiasts. IRE runs occasional Django boot camps, and there are a number of good online tutorials, including Jeff Croft’s explanation of Django for non-programmers. Here’s a nice primer on data visualization with Flash.
  8. Cohabitate (but marriage is optional): This may be less of an issue in smaller newsrooms, but in large organizations, collaboration can suffer when teams are split among several floors (or cities). The constituent parts of the Times’ Data Desk — print and web graphics, the computer-assisted reporting team and the interactive projects team — have only been in the same place for a couple months, but the benefits to innovation and efficiency are already clear. For one thing, being in brainstorming distance of all the people you might want to bounce ideas off of is ideal, especially in breaking news situations. Also, once we had everybody in the same place, our onetime goal of unifying the reporting structure became less important. The interactive folks still report to latimes.com managing editor Daniel Gaines, and the computer-assisted reporting people continue to report to metro editor David Lauter. The graphics folks still report to their respective bosses. Yes, there are the occasional communication breakdowns and mixed messages. But there is broad agreement on the major priorities and regular conversation on needs and goals.
  9. Integrate: Don’t let your projects dangle out there with a big ugly search box as their only point of entry. Weave them into the fabric of your site. We were inspired by the efforts of a number of newspapers — in particular the Indianapolis Star and its Gannett siblings — to make data projects a central goal of their newsgathering operations. But we wanted to do more than publish data for data’s sake. We wanted it to have context and depth, and we didn’t want to relegate data projects to a “Data Central“-type page, something Matt Waite (of Politifact fame) memorably dubbed the “data ghetto.” (I would link to Waite’s thoughtful post, but his site unfortunately reports that it “took a dirt nap recently.”) I should note that the Times recently did fashion a data projects index of its own, but only as a secondary way in. The most important routes into data projects are still through related Times content and search engines.
  10. Give back: Understand that database and visualization projects demand substantial resources at a time when they’re in very short supply. Not everyone in your newsroom will see the benefit. Make clear the value your work brings to the organization by looking for ways to pipe the best parts (interesting slices of data, say, or novel visualizations) into your print or broadcast product. For example, some of the election visualizations the data team produced were adapted for print use, and another was used on the air by a partner TV station.

When I shared this post with Meredith Artley, latimes.com’s executive editor and my former boss, she pointed to the formation about a year ago of the interactive projects team within the web staff (Ben, Sean and me; Meredith dubbed us the “cool kids,” a name that stuck):

“For me, the big step was creating the cool kids team — actually forming a unit with a mandate to experiment and collaborate with everyone in the building with the sole intention of creating innovative, interactive projects.”

And maybe that should have been my first piece of advice: Before you can build a data team, you need one or more techie-journalists dedicated full-time to executing online the great ideas they’ll dream up.

What else did I miss? If you’ve been through this process (or are going through it, or are about to), I hope you’ll take a minute to share your insights.

2008 Election Maps (kottke.org)

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

[Republished from kottke.org. Click on the media outlet name below the map image to go to the final map results presentations. The Washington Post entry is 75% the way down the page. The Onion map at the very bottom is quite amusing.]

Most media outlets covering the 2008 US Presidential Election used the familar red/blue map to track the progress of the race as results from the polls rolled in Tueday evening. Here are several of those maps, in some ways as similar to each other as they are varied. If you run across more maps, send ‘em my way. (Note: Most of these aren’t the final maps…I wanted to get screenshots before the sites started moving things around too much.)

Update 11/5 @ 11am: I added 10 new maps to the bottom, including a DIY map drawn on a dry erase board.

NY Times

New York Times – Nice big clean map, the consensus best map of the 2008 election.

CNN

CNN

Fox News

Fox News – Fox is never subtle.

538

FiveThirtyEight.com – These guys are all about the data. No fancying up the maps.

(more…)

Vote! Map of Newspaper Endorsements in the 2008 US Presidential Election (InfoChimps)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

[Editor's note: This interactive map and blog post from InfoChimps shows how most newspapers across the US have endorsed Obama for president over McCain. The accompanying blog post discusses how notions of "red" and "blue" states has problems and might better be conceptualized as urban & rural.

Republished from InfoChimps where they have full table listing of each newspaper, their endorcement, and circulation stats. Thanks Lynda!]

View interactive version at InfoChimps!

Screenshots: map – big · med · sm | bar graph

See also: our «Red/Blue split vs. Rural/Urban split» graph

Apart from the unsurprising evidence that (choose one: [[Obama is the overwhelming choice]] -OR- [[there is overwhelming liberal media bias]]), I’m struck by the mismatch between papers’ endorsements and their “Red State” vs “Blue State” alignment.

  • I think the amount of red in the blue states is a market effect. If you’re the Boston Herald, there’s no percentage in agreeing with the Boston Globe; similarly The Daily News vs New York Post, SF Examiner vs SF Chronicle &c. (One reason the Tribune endorsement, even accounting for hometown bias, is so striking.) I don’t mean that one or the other alignment is wrong, or chosen cynically — simply that in a market supporting multiple papers, readers and journalists are efficiently sorted into two separate camps.
  • The amount of blue in the red states highlights how foolishly incomplete the “Red State/Blue State” model is for anything but electoral college returns. The largest part of the Red/Blue split is Rural/Urban. Consider the electoral cartogram for the last election. Almost every city is blue, even in the south and mountain, while almost all rural areal is red, even in California and Massachusetts. The urban exceptions on the cartogram — chiefly Dallas, Houston and Boise — stand noticeably alone on the endorsement map as having red unpaired with blue. (in this election even the Houston Chronicle is endorsing Obama, but they are quite traditionally Republican.)

This seems to speak of why so many on the right feel there’s a MSM bias. Roughly 50% of the country lives in a top-50 metro area (metros of over a million people: like Salt Lake City or Raleigh, NC and on up), 50% live outside (in rural areas, or in cities like Fresno, CA and Allentown/Bethlehem, PA or smaller). But our major newspapers are located almost exclusively in urban areas.

Thus, surprisingly, the major right-leaning papers are located in parts of the country we consider highly leftish: the largest urban areas are both «the most liberal» and «the most likely to support a sizeable conservative target audience».

Go Vote!

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

This nifty tool from govote.org lets you type in your home address and then will show you a map with your polling place and it’s address. Thanks Jo!

The same site also has a cell phone version: For mobile polling info, text pp with your address, and zip code, to 69866 or click SMS reminder on a map to send info to your phone.

TimeSpace: Election map-based news viewer (The Washington Post)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

[Editor's note: I made it back from China just in time to vote this morning at my neighborhood polling place. Coming home to the USA, I am reminded how lucky I am to live in a free, election-driven democracy. Use it or loose it. Please vote today!]

Explore the election with this new tool from The Washington Post.

Interact with original here at washingtonpost.com.

TimeSpace Beta is a map and timeline that allows users to navigate through hundreds of photos, video, articles, tweets, posts and audio related to the national election from around the country. Use the timeline to find out exactly what, when and where a story took place. Click the ? icon in the upper right for help.

Some item locations are approximate. | Sources: AP, Reuters, Newsweek, Twitter, and The Washington Post | TimeSpace Beta verson 0.3 | Feedback and known bugs/issues | Credits: Dan Berko, Chris Buddie, Jesse Foltz and Steven King

Campaign Donors: FundRace 2008 (Huffington Post)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

[Editor's note: This mashup from Eyebeam and the Huffington Post maps campaign contributions for the 2008 presidential race down to the house level. Find out who your neighbors are giving $ to! All descriptions below from the Huffington Post site. There is a time lag between when a contribution is made, reported, and published on this site.]


View interactive version at Huffington Post.com . . .

Welcome to FundRace 2008.

Want to know if a celebrity is playing both sides of the fence? Whether that new guy you’re seeing is actually a Republican or just dresses like one? If your boss maxed out at that fundraiser or got comped? Whether your neighbor’s political involvement stops at that hideous lawn sign?

FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can see if your favorite celebrity is putting their money where their mouth is.

FundRace gives you the technology to do what politicians and journalists have been doing for years: find out where the money’s coming from, see who it’s going to, and solve the mystery of why that crazy ex-roommate of yours is now the Ambassador to Turks and Caicos.

The Ad Wars (NY Times)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

[Editor's note: Graduated circles are automatically sized in Flash interactive from The New York Times. I believe the circle locations are auto plotted, too, but already transformed to projected XY coordinates, not from Lat-Longs. I like the National and Cable graduated symbols in the Gulf of Mexico.]

About $300 million has been spent from April 3 to Oct. 13, 2008 to broadcast over 200 ads, according to statistics compiled by Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising expenditures.

View original interactive version at NYTimes.com . . .

Source: Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of TNS Media Intelligence

7-Eleven’s Obama – McCain “Vote with Your Cup” Map

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I pass by a 7-Eleven on my commute and have wondered about the “Every Cup Counts” 7-Election ad for their coffee. Apparently you can choose a blue Obama cup or a red McCain cup to fill your morning Joe (no, not the plumber mentioned 21 times tonight in the last debate, but the liquid caffeine variety). So far Barack has a 18 point lead over McCain winning all but 3 of the listed states. A little bit different than many more “authoritative” polls but still fun :) Thanks to Jo and Geoff for passing the results of this “election” on to me. They saw it on Arjewtino.com. Thanks to Aly for the Joe statistic.

View the interactive with full “results” as mouseOvers in the Flash movie.

The Vanishing Republican Voter (NY Times)

Monday, September 8th, 2008
[Editor's note: Following the general election? This NY Times Magazine article by David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again”, is an informative read with a geographical focus. Thanks Jo!]

[Related content: I published two maps (here and here) in the Washington Post last year showing voter trends and election results in Northern Virginia where the author, David Frum, takes examples. One of the maps uses a hybrid choropleth and point symbolization to solve the problem of small but dense and large but sparse enumeration units found in maps with both urban and rural areas. This technique helps prevent geography from overpowering overall trends in the data.]

I LIVE IN WASHINGTON, in a neighborhood that is home to lawyers, political consultants, television personalities and the chief executive of the TIAA-CREF pension fund. Not exactly an abode of the superrich, but the kind of neighborhood where almost nobody does her own yardwork or vacuums his own floor. Children’s birthday parties feature rented moon bounces or hired magicians. The local grocery stores offer elegant precooked dinners of salmon, duck and artichoke ravioli.
  

Sophia Martineck

Four miles to the southeast there stretches a different Washington. More than one-third of the people live in poverty. Close to half the young children are overweight. Fewer than half the adults work. The rate of violent crime is more than 10 times that of the leafy streets of my neighborhood.

Measured by money income, Washington qualifies as one the most unequal cities in the United States. Yet these two very different halves of a single city do share at least one thing. They vote the same way: Democratic. And in this, we are not alone. As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim.

My fellow conservatives and Republicans have tended not to worry very much about the widening of income inequalities. As long as there exists equality of opportunity — as long as everybody’s income is rising — who cares if some people get rich faster than others? Societies that try too hard to enforce equality deny important freedoms and inhibit wealth-creating enterprise. Individuals who worry overmuch about inequality can succumb to life-distorting envy and resentment.

All true! But something else is true, too: As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican. The trends we have dismissed are ending by devouring us.

THE TREND TO INEQUALITY is not new, and it is not confined to the United States. It has manifested itself just about everywhere in the developed world since the late 1970s, and for the same two reasons.

The first reason is the revolution in family life. Not so long ago, most households were home to two adults, one who worked and one who did not. Today fewer than half of America’s households are headed by married couples, and married women usually work. So America and other advanced countries have become increasingly divided between families earning two incomes and those getting by on one at most.

The family revolution coincided with another: a great shift from a national to a planetary division of labor. Inequality within nations is rising in large part because inequality is declining among nations. A generation ago, even a poor American was still better off than most people in China. Today the lifestyles of middle-class Chinese increasingly approximate those of middle-class Americans, while the lifestyles of upper and lower America increasingly diverge. Less-skilled Americans now face hundreds of millions of new wage competitors, while highly skilled Americans can sell their services in a worldwide market.

As long as all Americans were becoming better off, few cared that some Americans were becoming better off than others. But since 2000, something has changed. Incomes at the middle have ceased to rise. The mood of the country has soured. Conservatives who disregard the mood of unease may forfeit their power to defend the more open and productive American economy they did so much to build.

STEP ACROSS THE COUNTY line between Washington and suburban Fairfax County, Va., and you see the forfeiting process at work.

A third of a century ago, Fairfax had only recently evolved from farm country to bedroom community. Some rich families clustered in the village of McLean, where Robert Kennedy had his Hickory Hill estate. Otherwise, Fairfax housed middle-class families looking for inexpensive housing and excellent schools. These middle-class families voted Republican, leading the Old Dominion’s political transition away from its reactionary segregationist past to a modern business-oriented conservatism.

Continue reading at NY Times . . .