Multimedia Critique

http://graphics.latimes.com/california-snowpack-2016/

On March 30, 2016, the LA Times released a multimedia piece in which they follow the progress of the California drought conditions and the improvement brought by heavy rainfall that year. The Times effectively combined text with interactive data visualizations and satellite imagery. The piece included GIF’s combining satellite photos of California’s largest and most consequential reservoirs, including Lake Shasta, Oroville Lake and Lake Folsom, taken at different times over 2015 and 2016. Such images allow readers to more easily grasp the immensity of California’s water projects, the extent of the drought, and its recovery. It displays the progression of snow-pack and water levels very succinctly in a way that non-visual media cannot. The piece’s text contextualizes its images and adds information regarding where water from each reservoir goes.

A handy graph shows statewide snow-pack as a % of normal levels. Two lines follow levels on the same dates in 2015 and 2016. 2015’s Sierra snow levels were the lowest year on record but the graph clearly shows them returning to close to normal. The choice of y-axis was a really smart decision. Instead of using cumulative quantitative data like square miles of snow fall or gallons of water, which would be huge numbers, difficult to contextualize, the reader is able to understand conditions as they relate to normal levels. Numbers, in this case, are not really needed, and including them could be confusing.

It’s a really quick piece and delivers information very but if the LA Times wanted to expand its focus and create a longer multimedia package, then incorporating other mediums like audio from farmers and California residents or videos of persistent environmental problems would be helpful. For the narrow scope of the work, the visuals provided are very effective but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered and neglects to address the human side of the issue

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