Check out neat, free ways to analyze and “visualize” data sets using Many Eyes, a program that creates ways to show relationships among numbers, to compare values of figures, and track rises and falls over time. It also has some neat mapping tools, as well as text visualization (think word clouds, although this is just one of many things it can do). The great thing about Many Eyes is that you can use pre-loaded data sets to practice building different types of graphics (this is a dream come true for reporters and editors). You also easily can upload your own data sets (for us, that could include enrollment data, budget data, voter turnout, and more) to work with.
Such visualizations and graphics can provide context for stories and provide a different way for the reader to understand the world around them. Here are some examples – I hope you’ll try this out on your own and let us know what you discover.