Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Graphs and Charts USA TODAY style

Sometimes we who work with data feel that there's an unbridgable gulf between Joe Sixpack and the wonderful world of data we live in. Anytime I begin to get frustrated at the lack of statistical literacy among the world at large or the difficulty in conveying important indicator trends to the community that desperately needs this information, I turn to USA TODAY.

This newspaper consistently uses data, charts, and graphs to tell stories to its readers. Most newspapers do. USA TODAY does it better than most.

Some of the examples you're familiar with. Their daily snapshot graph usually conveys information in an interesting way. Here's how they describe wetlands destruction in a way that tells the story. Go through their snapshot collection to see the last 20 graphs -- all different, all interesting, all conveying information in a clear, nonthreatening fashion.

Of course we recognize the data they use on their markets, sports, and weather pages -- every newspaper is full of data on stocks, scores, and temperatures (though the weather map on USATODAY is a really good one.) But the front page usually has 3-5 graphs or charts on it, and I can seldom pick up a paper without finding graphs in every section -- including the Life section, where I've found charts covering the most amazing things (I think one tracking length of relationships of a particularly celebrity amused me the most.)

How you experimented in making USA TODAY-style graphs with your indicators project -- using the chart itself as a way to convey information and tell the story, doing something more than generating bars or lines on Excel? Have you drawn the length of a cigarette to indicate smoking, the size of a house to show homeownership, the pages of a book to show literacy? Do you have examples to share?

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