Data Journalism Critique

Bloomberg Politics presents us with a graphic about the new administrations federal budget proposal for 2018. Being that the information comes form the White House Office of Management and Budget, we trust the increase and decrease of funding is accurate.

The graphic presentation of colorful circles is effective in that they call the public’s attention and we immediately understand the colorful extremes like Defense and HHS will be facing rocketing changes. Not to mention the axis showing the financial cuts and investments and the change percentages. The take away message is loud and clear, there is a new proposal for federal funding that if approved, as many as 80 programs will be facing cuts, cuts that will transfer to investments largely in military and defense. The message is to show the new administration’s priority. It also encourages exploration by describing what each of the program with a declining budget on its horizon does. With that said, we are able to find programs that we are interested in, or that relate to us, which further engages us not only to look for more information regarding that program but to be pendant of its future. It is informative, it conveys a message and it asks of us to know more about it.

The source comparison reveals how the new proposal funding defers from 2016, the last year the Obama administration was in power. It not only shows the economic changes but the percentage changes, which provides the public with more context. For example, when we see the size of the circle of EPA or other programs that are little circles and happen to be near the line, we might get the impression they are not being as affected as other agencies. We might even be reassured the cut is not as significant since it is only being cut by approximately 3 million dollars, compared to nearly 10 million dollars cut education is receiving. However, when we study the percentage we see that it is 30% than the previous administration. We also see that the biggest investment will be in defense and economically is huge but it is increasing by 10%. Our eyes go to the biggest, most colorful circle and we pay more attention to the extremes (the ones in the bottom and the top) but to truly understand data we nee dot go beyond the graphic. In this case we would have to grab each program or the once that awaken each persons interest to find out the amount they were receiving before and after the proposed plan. Also, how they are to deal with the same responsibilities with less budget, how many people or institutions are going to be affected by the cuts and benefited from the new investments, will some programs close, among other questions. I think it does provide an accurate comparison since it specifies the previous administration’s last year in power, and they focus the proposed changes to that year. The numbers come from a source which is trusted to have all this data without manipulation and the percentage comparison along with how much will it decrease economically helps envision the magnitude of the effect.

I think it gets a message through. It compared it to the previous administration; we see many agencies that will undergo cuts and the few that will receive major investments. Maybe they could add another graphic to see how much did the programs received and how much would they be receiving now. But data journalists like Bloomberg Politics, hand us the numbers that push us to do further research so we can better interpret and understand the data in front of us.


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