The Problem With Data Journalism: Numbers Only Tell Half the Story

Data is great. If it comes with context. Without that, its piffle. No matter how well it has been visualized.

Case in point is this data story published by The Indian Express last week.  It talks about MPs with criminal charges against them. Besides listing parties with MPs facing criminal charges, Top five states with MPs facing criminal charges and Top parties with MPs facing criminal Charges, it shows top MPs with criminal charges against them. It paints a very ominous picture of these MPs.

M B Rajesh

What’s wrong with this? Everything.

These politicians may have criminal cases against them. But it is not all black and white. Politicians often go to protests, get involved in local tussles and rally against the ruling party.

Sometimes they are slapped with criminal cases. That doesn’t make them criminals. They could be dirty. But the fact remains that these are charges.  And data, because it looks pretty and comes with gravitas, glosses over that.

With the general elections round the corner, we are seeing many interesting data journalism projects. When you see/ make some of these beautiful visualizations, don’t forget your pinch of salt.

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