Data Viz

Recent posts

Google Fusion Maps with Joe Wertz

StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz, mapping wizard, shows us how to create an interactive map using Google Fusion Maps and some raw data in this quick and simple tutorial.

Here is the data that you can use, if you’d like to try this at home.

(Don’t be alarmed! The audio doesn’t kick in until about ten seconds in.)

Creating a Legend

Of special note, around minute 31 (31:00), Joe walks us through creating a legend for your map. To do that (in the new and improved version):

  1. In the map view, click on the little arrow on top of the “Map of…” tab and navigate down to “change map styles.
  2. Whether you are dealing with points or polygons, make sure that your bucket ranges are exactly as you’d like them to appear in your legend.
  3. Click on “automatic legend” (your last option on the list to the left).
  4. Create a title for your legend.
  5. Decide where you’d like your legend to appear (typically in the bottom right-hand corner,  unless your map makes a different corner preferable).
  6. Hit “Save.”

Embedding an Iframe Into Your Site

At minute 32 (32:35), Joe shows us how to embed an iframe with your map and legend right into your site.

  1. Click on Share (in the upper right-hand corner) and publish it to the web. You’ll see your current sharing settings listed towards the top. If it doesn’t say “Public” hit the blue “Change” and select “Public on the web.” Continue reading

Nuts and Bolts: Embed Charts and Tables in WordPress and Core Publisher

After you get your chart or table into Google Drive and formatted the way you’d like to, follow these steps, kindly collected by data viz maven Emilie Ritter Saunders, to get it into your post:

Embedding Charts in WordPress

  1. Make your chart public to the web: Share —-> Change “public on the web”
  2. Publish your table: Click the arrow dropdown (upper right corner of the chart) —-> Select a chart1publish format “Image.”
  3. Copy that “Image” code and paste it into the HTML side of your WordPress editor.

Embedding Tables in WordPress

  1. Make your table public to the web: Share —-> Change “public on the web”
  2. Publish your table: File —-> Publish to the web —-> Click Publish or Republish Now
  3. Copy the URL.
  4. Paste the URL into the spreadsheet function in WordPress, “Google Spreadsheet Key.” Continue reading

Webinar: The Basics of Data Journalism

Data: It’s not just for computer geeks anymore.

There is an awful lot that data can do for you and your stories if you get over the idea that it is something for other, more computer-savvy people and get into the habit of working it into your daily routine. Think of it as simply another–but infinitely more authoritative–source, one that allows you to speak with more authority, see beyond the clutter and the “he said-she said” and find trends and facts that aren’t otherwise available.

The digitization of government records offers great opportunity for reporters to hold public agencies accountable, increase government transparency and inform the public–but only if we know how to ask for, obtain and use it. So don’t be afraid. Be psyched.

In the webinar below, I walk through the basics to get you started. (See below THAT for a mini-recap and a whole bunch of links to the tools and sites mentioned in the video.)

The Basics of Data Journalism (April 11, 2013) from NPR Digital Services on Vimeo.

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2013 NICAR’s Greatest Hits

The annual computer-assisted reporting conference organized by IRE and NICAR is a treasure trove of tips, tools and inspiration. There is always something for just about anyone in the news

Pete Karl II / Flikr

People share notes, experiences and know-how at NICAR and IRE conferences. It's cool like that.

industry–from the old-school newspaperman who won’t send an email to the young, enthusiastic programming geek–and everyone in between.

In fact, if you consider yourself to be very much in between–or maybe even slightly towards the old-school side of things, this post is for you. We’ve sifted through the labyrinth of tipsheets, blog posts and (almost) exhaustive collections of all that was generously shared, referenced or demonstrated at this year’s conference to bring you some of the most useful data-driven reporting tools offerred at this year’s event.

We’ve organized it into seven broad categories:

  1. General CAR Tips & Best Practices from the Pros
  2. Research Tools
  3. Social Media Tools
  4. Data Cleaning
  5. Excel
  6. Inspiration: A Small Collection of some of the Best Data-Driven Stories of 2012 (with a special emphasis on energy, education and economy stories)
  7. Advanced Coursework in Database Analysis, Super Stealth Spy Stuff and Web Scraping

We haven’t tested everything just yet, so if you find any of this particularly useful–or not–please do tell us about it in the comments section or via email.

That said, we hope you’ll find at least some of the collection below as useful and inspiring as we do. Enjoy!

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Don’t Be Afraid Of The New Google Fusion Maps

Have you found yourself creating a map in Google Fusion Tables as of late and suddenly found yourself lost and confused? Did things look different or slightly out of place?

Don’t fret. It’s not you; it’s Google. Really.

A map of deep injection wells in Oklahoma, made recently in the newfangled Google Fusion Maps.

If you would like to go back to your comfort zone, select “back to classic look” from the drop-down Help tab. (Actually, do this no matter what. It is the only way for it to display properly in our pre-built plug-in.) If you need any tips on using that tool, please refer to Matt Stiles’ handy, 20-minute webinar or simply follow the documentation here.

The New Look 

If you don’t wish to use our plug in (and the lovely legend display that comes with it) and are simply uploading your data for your own reporting and background, here are the main differences in the new version, as far as we can tell:

1. The method of switching from map to table view.

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Advanced Google Chart Tools

Did you have fun with the updated Google Chart Tools? Well, that’s only the tip of the iceberg of fun and possibility. Google has created a chart gallery with different kinds of prototypes for you to play with.

I will explain to you how we could use some of those prototypes for better data storytelling. You can also consider this as your first step into the information design world, thinking about grouping and presenting information. Continue reading

Google Charts Gets a Style Update

Here’s How to Take Advantage of It In Your Blogs

Our designer Danny DeBelius has introduced us to a data visualization tool called Google Image Charts. It’s pretty handy when you need some simple charts to help tell your stories. Now, guess what? Google has updated that tool and make the experience even better.

The main difference is that you don’t need to go to a Image Charts Editor page, but you can finish the process in your Google spreadsheet.

Connect to your data in real time

Let me explain this tool by using an example. I have a spreadsheet with data about Idaho legislators compiled by Emilie Ritter Saunders. Now try this: if you go to the spreadsheet, change some numbers in the education worksheet and refresh this post, you will see the numbers also changed here in the image below.

Isn’t it amazing? The updated Google charts tool connect your chart to your data in real time, making it convenient to change numbers or styles or add data to your posts as it becomes available.

Easy to use

This tool is also easy to use. We all have some experience using Excel to produce simple charts and graphics. The rules are similar here: Continue reading

Google Image Charts

Data visualizations in the form of bar, column and line charts can help readers spot important trends in the numbers behind the stories, and Google’s Image Chart Editor makes it relatively easy to produce simple but effective charts for your posts.


  • Only use bar or line charts
  • All axis labels and legend text set at 11px
  • No grids
  • Choose from three widths that correspond to our 12-column grid: 220px (3 columns), 300px (4 columns) or 620px (8 columns)
  • Start with a vertical dimension that will create a golden proportion rectangle by multiplying your chosen width by .618. The vertical dimension should be appropriate to the distribution of the data, so adjust from your golden rectangle as necessary. Continue reading

Using Sortable, Searchable Data Tables in Posts

We’ve updated the content-management system so that it’s easier to add data tables to posts — and to make them searchable and sortable with pagination. Even better: Reporters don’t have to touch any code.

This functionality is possible thanks to a plugin that transfers data from your Google Docs spreadsheets into our database and ultimately into your blog posts. Here’s how it works.

First, you’ll want to format the columns and rows in you’re Google Docs spreadsheet exactly how you’d like them to appear in the browser. For example, if I wanted this display:

Continue reading

Data Workshop Webinar: How to Use Google Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables allows journalists to publish, visualize and analyze large data sets in the browser without expensive software. Learn how this free tool can help you create custom online maps, graphs and timelines, mash-up different data sets and collaborate on data. Our Database Reporting Coordinator Matty Stiles’ webinar on Google Fusion Tables is now available below.


How to use Fusion Tables?

  • Upload data: kml, cvs, xls
  • Upload metadata: table name, description, attribution
  • Share your data
  • Merge with other tables
  • Make a map in minutes

A detailed tutorial post is also available here.