Are You Better Off Wireframe

Just realized I forgot to load this sketch earlier. Here’s a rough idea of the map outline I wanted to do. Not sure if I need to do three separate maps, or can use one map, but which is able to toggle back and forth to the different data to show the variation by the type of data. (Household income, Unemployment rate and Statewide GDP). I’d like to add some housing or foreclosure data too, as Ezra suggested, but have only found some private data that isn’t very accessible so far. But this is the basic idea.


Just came across this infographic from BusinessWeek on causes of the deficit. Thought it was pretty stunningly bad. Lots of useless art; meanwhile, the data info isn’t presented in a comprehensible way.

Redesign assignments

In this part, I put each data of states on the US map and national data on the top,
because I like the idea of image to characterize each states.
When you click on the map, detail will be shown.


To illustrate the comparison between states in a single sight, I made the sizes of states to
be proportionate to the percentages. Also I put colors according to the number of percentage.
Detailed data of each states are shown when clicked.
I was totally inspired by the election map of New York Times.

(The data on this map are mock.)



Thorne re-visualization of teacher salary data

Text reads:

– Questions this visualization doesn’t answer: What IS the “average worker’s salary”? Who’s the “average worker”? (that info’s buried at the bottom)

– Visualization is just unappealing to look at – why the gray sketches of dated-looking teachers? Also, the size and colors have no correlation to what the numbers are.

– Ideally, I’d want to make it so that when you mouse over the apples, they fill in (with each apple representing $10,000, or maybe 5-10 percent over the average salary) according to how much teachers in each state make. Alternately: Instead of apples, have school supplies – to make the point that more money = more resources.

“Are You Better Off?” Pitch

Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

 Jane Sasseen and Matthew Merlin

Pitch for Data Driven Journalism

October, 2012

 Since Ronald Reagan first posed that question in a debate with then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980, it has become a staple of election year debate. This year has been no exception: Republican contender Mitt Romney has based much of his campaign on the argument that the country remains far worse off than when Barack Obama first took office. Meanwhile, the President and his backers (Bill Clinton, to the most notable effect) have argued that things are in fact much improved, given the depth of the recession that was just starting to take hold in January 2009.

By and large, the candidates are making that argument on a national level, trading statistics for the country as a whole. We plan to take a look at question at a more granular level, going state by state to determine how each has individually fared. After all, the U.S. economy is made up of many smaller economies, with different industries, competitive dynamics, and population dynamics.  Some have unarguably done better than others, and the country as a whole: North Dakota, with an economy in the midst of an oil boom and unemployment down to 3%, is unquestionably better off than it was four years ago – or than much of the rest of the country is today.

We plan to take a state-by-state look at a series of measures to come up with a detailed portrait of how much better or worse off each really is on the eve of the election. We’ll compare the latest stats (September or August 2012) with those from January 2009, where available. (And find the closest relevant annual or quarterly dates for comparison, where monthly stats don’t exist.) Besides North Dakota, which states are doing better? Which are muddling through, and which remain mired in difficulties? And to what extent do the anwers to those questions help explain the political dynamics in each state. Is there any correlation between the states that are worst off, and those where polls show that voters are most willing to vote President Obama out of office?

We will present this in series of maps, with call out for each state’s data. We will do a map of each individual element, as well as a map that contains a pop-up box that combines all the elements into one for an overall look at the situation.  We will have some color coding to show which states are doing better, which worse, and which are about the same.


Our data sources include:

State-by-State Unemployment rates:

–Bureau of Labor Statistics


Median Household Income:

–Census Department


GDP by state

–Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis


Population by state (to calculate GDP on a per-capita basis)

–U.S. Census Department


For the latest state-by-state polls




For expert sources:

1) Michael Mandel

Former Chief economist, BusinessWeek magazine; chief economic strategist for the Progressive Policy Institute


2) Lawrence Katz

Economics professor at Harvard


3) David Johnson

Census Bureau


4) Greg Valliere (for political analysis)

Chief Political Strategist

Potomac Research



Design Assignment by Ezra Eeman.

I liked how National Geographic tried to come up with a different design to show the flux of foreign-exchange high school students. However I missed a clear geographical representation. I tried solve this by keeping the original colored bands but adding a world map.

Somehow I knew that I had seen this idea before. Turns out our good old friend Charles Joseph Minard drew a world map of migration using the same principle.


REVISED Kuriyama/Thorne pitch

Using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data provided by the federal government, we want to assess the openness of the three large and powerful law enforcement/intelligence agencies: the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. How many FOIA requests does each agency get per year? How many does it fulfill, and how many does it reject? How long does it take to respond? Are some agencies more responsive than others?

These agencies all deal in sensitive matters, and they’ve all had their share of controversy in recent years. So we want to see if their accessibility has changed over the course of President Obama’s tenure, maybe as a response to events in the news, and in the administration itself.

As the election approaches and Americans consider the effectiveness of the last four years, this issue is especially timely and vital.

To place our findings in context, we’ll be going after interviews with:
– Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government and lawyer with FOIA/FOIL expertise
– Danielle Ivory, Bloomberg reporter focusing on FOIA issues and government accountability
– Representative from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group advocating greater government transparency