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Election Data Storytelling on US News Networks: Could They Do Better?

A critique of the 2020 election night data storytelling

A side by side comparison of screen graphics from 1968 and 2020. Guess what? They’re both tables of numbers.
Screen shot from CNN’s screen graphics showing Orange County
Orange County as seen by CNN, 8pm on Nov 3
  1. How many votes are counted?
  2. What is the difference from 2016?
A remake of the CNN screen with bar charts and slope charts for Orange County
A reimagined screen for CNN
  1. I added a vote count progress bar (note: there was one in the original and other networks did make progress bars relatively prominent).
  2. The candidate’s vote numbers, instead of a text box, are shown as bars. You see the difference in length instantaneously.
  3. A slope chart on the rights shows the swing from 2016.
Steve Kornacki on MSNBC using annotations to enhance his story
Steve Kornacki on MSNBC using annotations to enhance his story
A good line chart from NBC, improved by labels alongside the lines
A screenshot from NBC with a terrible 3d donut chart
Side-by-side comparing the original 3d donut with an easier to read bar chart
Which is easier and faster to read? The donut or the bars?
Side-by-side from 1968 and 2020: basically the same thing… Tables of numbers!
  • How can I present the information so that those questions can be answered as easily as possible?

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Andy Cotgreave

Data visualisation expert. Technical Evangelist at @Tableau. Loves the history of #dataviz, too: http://100yrsofbrinton.tumblr.com/ Opinions are my own!