Quotes from 'Graphics Lies, Misleading Visuals'

The following quotes are taken from Cairo’s article “Graphics Lies, Misleading Visuals”

  • “Professional codes of conduct implicitly differentiate between truth and truth-telling. In many circumstances, truth may be unattainable, fuzzy, or even unknowable, but that does not spare us of our obligation of being truthful. Someone who intends to communicate a message may not know all information needed or— more importantly for my argumentation—may not possess the skills to represent it correctly. But, if she strives to do her best, she will be acting ethically.”
    - p. 104

  • “It is true that many news organizations are not up to their own foundational ideals nowadays, but journalists, scientists, and information designers, people who I would propose to call evidence-driven communicators, are still the main line of defense against increasingly pervasive spin and bias in democratic societies:

    ’“Journalism is literally being rolled over by propaganda,” said Nichols, who is a contributing writer for The Progressive and the associate editor of Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wis. Eighty-six percent of all news stories that were printed or aired by Baltimore media in 2008 originated from what Nichols called “higher authorities,” such as public relations firms or corporate press releases. That study, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, shows that traditional journalism has been reduced to “stenography.” - John Nichols’

    The scarcity of honest communicators is not the only problem. Many journalists and designers are not prepared to identify sophisticated propaganda. This is a point made in the last few years in books like (Goldacre 2009) and (Patterson 2013), and in numerous media criticism Web sites, although it is hardly a new discussion topic (Paulos 1988). On average, journalists and information designers are not seriously trained in the scientific method, research techniques, and data. And even those few who do use data regularly—computer-assisted reporters, particularly those outside of the USA and the UK—usually apply just techniques based on simple descriptive statistics (Defleur 1997).”
    - p. 111

  • “Back in 1997, Jack Fuller, publisher of The Chicago Tribune, wrote: ‘We cannot accept the kind of ignorance of basic statistics that so often leads to preposterous reporting of scientific claims.’ Those words belong to a chapter titled ‘The challenge of complexity’ (Fuller 1997), and they inspired Thomas E. Patterson to claim: ‘Journalists cannot meet democracy’s needs unless they become “knowledge professionals” who have “mastery not only of technique but also of content” (Patterson 2013).

    Patterson proposes to develop a new kind of journalism education. He calls it ‘knowledge-based journalism.’ It combines deep subject-area expertise with a good understanding of how to acquire and evaluate information (research methods). I believe that the second component of Patterson’s proposal—being able to gain knowledge in a systematic manner—is more important than the first one. Therefore, to conclude this essay, I’d like to argue that information design and visual journalism programs should incorporate the following items to their curricula, as a complement to the skills and principles they have traditionally taught:

    1. A discussion on cognitive biases, which could be based on books such as (Chabris and Simons 2010; Kahneman 2011; Kurzban 2011).
    2. An introduction to science as a method for inquiry; this would include lessons on how to read and interpret scientific claims.
    3. As an extension of the previous point, an introduction to statistics which does not focus just on the mathematical minutiae— as fascinating as those can be— but on the conceptual side. It could be inspired by recent books such as Vickers (2009) and Wheelan (2012), and portions from older ones, such as Jaeger (1990, Weinberg and Shumaker 1974).
    4. Foundations of computer programming.
    5. Principles of cartography.
    6. Visual perception and cognition applied to the design of information graphics. This part could be based on Few (2012), Kosslyn (2006), McEachren (2004, Ware (2012), etc.”
      - p. 114