Graphics for the Newsroom Couch Potato


Scared of getting started? We’re here to help.

Julia B. Chan, Digital Editor, Reveal + The Center for Investigative Reporting, @juliachanb

Jaeah Lee, Reporter, Mother Jones, @jaeahjlee

Aaron Williams, Interactive Editor, San Francisco Chronicle, @aboutaaron

What we’ll cover today

  • We’ll *GET PUMPED* discussing a wide range of ways to do interactive graphics.
  • Light weights – out-of-the-box tools we like that are easy to use.
  • Medium weights (we’ll focus mainly on these) – great tools and resources to help you make graphics quickly and efficiently AND allows some room for customization.
  • Heavy weights – this class means heavy development and customization, but don’t worry, we’ve got a tip sheet.
  • Eff the weights, I’m going custom – Want to go for it anyway? We’ll go over some best practices

Let’s get started!

Light weights: These bad boys will get you sweating.

Medium weights: Ready to level up?

Heavy weights: For the daring body builders

  • Landline
  • Leaflet.js
  • d3.js
  • Chart.js
  • Highcharts
  • Mapzen | Example (In story)
  • Vox Autotune (more of a platform)
  • NPR’s daily graphics rig

Going custom: What to consider

  • Tools:
    • Web framework (Django, Ruby on Rails, Express.js)
    • Analysis (R, Pandas)
    • Visualization (d3.js, SVG, pure HTML)
    • Hosting / Deployment: S3, DigitalOcean, Heroku
  • What you need: a programming language (We like Python!)
  • Ask yourself beforehand: Is this tool replicable? Shareable?
  • Hit-by-a-bus policy: Who will maintain it after I’m gone?

Cardio! (Extra credit)

  • SVG Crowbar (for exporting SVG to print)
  • Charted (explore data without creating a chart. By Medium)
  • Learn about data formats like CSV, geojson and JSON
  • to learn popular programming languages (online web classes. Free!)
  • (online web classes. Paid.)
  • Source


  • It’s better to chart (lift) with a team than alone
    • Lonely Coder’s Club slack
    • NICAR-L listserv
    • StackOverflow
    • Google
  • Set manageable goals for yourself
    • Try out smaller tools before taking on the 100+ lbs stuff. Just because your first graphic isn’t amazing doesn’t mean you won’t build something great
  • Don’t take our word for it — try these tools out first and find what works for you
  • Look in the mirror, i.e., test out these tools BEFORE you publish
    • Do they look great on mobile? Do they load quickly? etc etc


Graphics for the Newsroom Couch Potato #ona15graphics - Google Slides