Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Journalist's Resource details quick and easy way to create an agriculture graphic for media use

Graphics are a useful tool to enhance a story. Journalist's Resource has put together a simple step-by-step procedure on how to design a time-series graph, using Chartbuilder and readily-available U.S. Department of Agriculture information on to quickly and easily build a graph on organic farming.

"We went to and searched for 'organic crop,'” John Wihbey writes for Journalist's Resource. "That brought us to a USDA landing page with lots of related datasets. We then hit 'download' on Table 3, which had the acreage estimates, and got an Excel spreadsheet with a bunch of rows and columns relating to all manner of organic certified crops and the extent of their acreage." (Graphic created by Journalist's Resource using and Chartbuilder)
"The first order of business was to look at the data and observe the trends," Wihbey writes. "We’re not doing data science here, and we’re only looking for illustrative data to provide some context around the rise of organic produce. It’s the kind of chart that could plausibly accompany a daily story—nothing too fancy."

"To get this data into the proper format to make it a time series, however—to clean it up—we had to flip or 'transpose' it, so that the date range was descending in the first column (the vertical field)," Wihbey writes. "We highlighted the row of data in the original and copied it. We then opened up a new sheet (tab at the bottom of the Excel file) and hit 'Paste Special' and clicked 'Transpose.'"

"We then had the basic form of the data we needed," he writes. "We just cut and pasted the cleaned-up data from Excel into the designated field in Chartbuilder and then adjusted the colors and put proper sourcing labels in the 'Chart Options' field. We adjusted the Y (vertical) axis a bit so the units represented were sufficiently fine that they provided useful information. You can then simply hit 'Create Image of the Chart' in the Export field and plug the chart right into your article/website." (Read more)

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