Saturday, 12 July 2008

Sloppy step charts in the media

Major news organizations seem so slick, that it surprises me when they fall down on the simplest of graphical tasks. On 10 July MSNBC ran a story, How to value life? EPA devalues its estimate about the decline in the dollar value of one life used to weigh the cost of pollution prevention (if lives were even static in value, you'd expect them to rise with inflation).  The graph they showed was this one from the AP

I doubt that the value fell at a constant rate during certain periods, but that's what the chart seems to show, even though all graph drawing software has the means to represent the actual situation-- immediate drops on certain dates. Jon Peltier has written about this, in Line Chart vs. Step Chart.

The Wall Street Journal got it right with Clinton's Road to Second Place on 4 June: