Printing graphs, bars and pie charts have benefits and drawbacks from both a journalist’s perspective and the audiences that read them.
Of course we know that printing statistics are designed to show and compare changes to a particular area of journalism and it takes a special gift to get them right.
Statistics provide a quick way to visualize special topics and offer a way for uninformed audiences to relate to the article. Statistics are a great way to persuade audiences and to support arguments and emphasize main points of issues. These are a few of the benefits to printing statistics but there are also drawbacks.
For the journalists compiling statistical visuals, the time and cost to prepare them can be quite high. Often the technical aspects are too complex for targeted audiences. The journalist must decide what is pertinent and what is frivolous and to include only enough information on a graph to make his point, otherwise the journalist risks loss of audience due to them “tuning out” of an informative article. A pie chart with too many slices can sometimes confuse instead of clarify.
An example of a bad graph and a good graph:
Why is this a bad graph? The value for November is not correctly plotted. It is the same as October.
This shows accuracy in plotting and gives a more realistic, unbiased graph.
It is important from a reader’s standpoint, that they learn the value of informative charting vs misleading charting in order to make informed decisions concerning news. There is a lot of good stuff out there, but there is also a lot of crap.