Data Visualization Practices at the New York Times

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Amanda Cox of the New York Times' graphics department recently gave a great presentation to the New Media Days conference in Copenhagen and described how the Times uses data visualizations to reveal patterns, provide context, describe relationships, and even create a sense of wonder about the world.

In the video, Amanda demonstrates several of the Times' best interactive visualizations over the past couple of years. The visualizations span all departments: breaking news (for example, the destruction of the Haiti earthquake), news analysis (the spread of the BP oil spill), politics (the US 2010 election), entertainment (Netflix rental habits), and even sports. One visualization I hadn't seen before, but was very cool, showed the distribution of Mariano Rivera's pitches by animating 2000 pitches — all at once. Amanda also revealed that the best interactive graphics are competitive with the most significant news stories, in terms of traffic to the Times website.

It's likely that several of the graphics presented in the video used R at some point in their construction. As you might recall, Amanda used R to create the Michael Jackson infographic we featured on the blog last year. And in the article “R is Hot“, Amanda said of R: “R makes it easy to read data, generate lines and points, and place them where you want them. It’s very flexible and super quick. When you’ve only got two or three hours until deadline, R can be brilliant.”

I hadn't seen several of the visualizations in the video, but I did learn that I can keep informed of new ones by following @nytgraphics on Twitter. Follow the link below to watch the presentation and see Amanda demonstrate some of the best ones.

New Media Days: Amanda Cox

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