Data visualization gives depth to storytelling

Months prior the 2014 Rose Bowl, in which the Oregon Ducks were to take on the Florida State Seminoles, an article came out in The New York Times regarding the disturbing culture at FSU and more specifically, their star player, Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.

In roughly a year prior to the Rose Bowl, Jameis Winston was accused of rape. What made this article so appalling was the investigation into how often football players at major universities like FSU, get away with breaking the law. The NYT then tied these instances at FSU with money made by police officers and the city from the football team. The results are jaw-dropping.

I remember spending nearly an hour thoroughly reading this article in the days before the big game, as it’s relevance started to pick-up. I was more appalled by what was happening with every paragraph, and realized that what made the article so effective was the evidence.

The timeline:

Reporter Walt Bogdanich created a timeline of how long it took for police to gather key evidence. After gathering police reports he used this information to create a visual that allows the reader to see just how negligent officers were and how long the process was drawn out. The investigation was delayed and Winston even played in several games in the mean time.

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Comparing FSU with other same-sized universities:

Through collecting data from the Department of Education, you can find out how many sexual assaults go reported. Then you can narrow it down by the institution size, as to give readers a proper perspective. This graph shows that comparatively, FSU has very few reports — now we just have to find out why.

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Looking into money:

“Officer Angulo has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters. It also paid roughly a quarter of the $602,000 salary of the university president, Eric Barron, who was recently named president of Penn State.”

Money/salary records obtained added an entirely new element to the story, and convince us that there’s corruption. The data shows that police earn bonuses for working football games and the city earns a great deal of money from the entire brand, and from visitors.

Many people reported on these instances and spoke of how awful it was, but no one had the legitimate proof compiled in one place, to prove how awful it really is — until now. The data speaks for itself, and using it in infographics was a brilliant way to get the point across loud and clear.


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