Project description

THE SENATE TODAY – 6/10/2018
The most ambitious project of my work in 2018 was mapping the power struggle in the New York State Senate. The 63-seat state chamber was controlled by Republicans with a one-person majority and that one person was a Democrat who chose to vote with Republicans (colored yellow).

If I created a map based on the election districts, the large number of tiny Democrat districts (colored blue) in New York City would blur together and larger Republican districts (colored red) would misrepresent the balance of power.

Our political reporters advocated for a map of the seating layout of the Senate chamber, but I argued that the seating map was meaningless to the average reader of a local newspaper like ours, and the seating map did not represent the geographic location of each member.

So I followed the example of the national tile maps that have been created to balance the visual weight of districts that vary in geographic size. It required making a map from scratch: plotting the districts by hand with small squares of paper on a conference room table and translating that into the tool I used to design the interactive.

The result, lovingly nicknamed the Crazy Giraffe, is a state-wide tile map that that accurately illustrates the power struggle.

THE OPIOID SURVEY – 24/06/2018
Our newspaper initiated a large, community-based effort to educate people about the opioid crisis and bring together stakeholders that could do something about it. The Times Union commissioned Siena College Research Institute to conduct a survey of the general population and stakeholders about their beliefs about opioids. My assignment was to visualize the responses of more than 100 survey questions. It was challenging to say the least.

I created an interactive grouped by major topics with step-by-step navigation. Each page shows the results from one question and allows the user to look at how different people (grouped by political leaning, age, education level, gender, race…) answered the questions.

About a dozen educators, political operators and contractors were indicted on corruption charges in a scandal called The Buffalo Billion. They were accused of rigging bids for $1 billion in state money. Most of the people arrested were not public figures and were not well known by our readers. I created this baseball card style interactive to inform readers about who they were, what they were charged with and the status of their cases. It was very accessible to the average reader.

This infographic timeline captures the dogged reporting of our newspaper’s journalists, who day-by-day, week-by-week, uncovered details about a limousine accident that killed 20 people. It was a stretch SUV limousine that had been cut in half and made longer. Our reporters discovered that it had never been correctly certified and had failed multiple inspections. The chronology was difficult to follow in the narrative of the story, so this timeline summarized it.

The Associated Press compiled an outstanding database of imports and exports to all of the nation’s ports and how Trump’s tariffs would affect each one. My interactive allows users to look up their local port and toggle between imports and exports to see what is affected. I don’t think most people have any idea of what is coming through their local ports so this made the information accessible to the average reader.

Albany is home to a historic women-only race. My interactive captures 40 years of winners, winning times, prize money and the size of the field.

JULY 4th TRAFFIC – 29/06/2018
I used historic tollbooth data to show the most congested travel times during the July 4th weekend. In my research for this project, I discovered an early birds create their own mini-traffic jam at the start of the day.

This is a a straight-forward but clean interactive that allows local readers to explore the spread of tick-born diseases in New York state.

In the link section on the contest application, I provided links to where the interactives are hosted. Below are links to the stories with the interactives embedded.


What makes this project innovative?

THE SENATE TODAY My tile map of the state senate takes a technique that has been used at the national level but is not often seen at the local level. I explained how to use it on a help page and in a story that introduced the map. On the help page, I show readers the election district map and explain why a district map fails to illustrate the balance of power in the senate chamber. While it takes some imagination to locate and understand the tile map, once you “see” it, it makes sense. Now that I have constructed it, it will be a tool that my newspaper uses to map votes and other senate activity. THE OPIOID SURVEY Survey data is notoriously hard to illustrate, but I found a way to clearly visualize it with tools to explore it more deeply. The interactive is usable by the average person. I think it is a format that can be used for future survey projects. THE CORRUPTION SCORECARD The scorecard appears whimsical but it actually performed a needed task: it introduced the central characters of a major scandal to people who know little about them. It did it in an entertaining and interactive way. With all of my projects, I strive to clearly convey the information in an inviting and easy-to-use style.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

I think our low traffic numbers reflect my lack of understanding and experience on how to promote data visualizations on our website and social media. There also may be an obstacle to reaching our readers who either are not accustomed to exploring data visualizations or misidentify them as an ad or third-party widget. THE SENATE TODAY 7,636 unique visitors. The average time on page for the main story was 1:18, but the story that explained the new map had an average time on page of 4:45. A follow-up story after the Senate election had an average time on page of 3:42. CORRUPTION SCORECARD Unique pageviews 7,602 Average time on page 0:00:36 LIMO TIMELINE 41,439 unique pageviews Average time on page 0:01:30 HOW WILL TRUMP TARIFF’S AFFECT MY PORT? 9,485 unique pageviews Average time on page 0:01:26 FREIHOFER’S RUN FOR WOMEN 108 unique pageviews 17 seconds average time on page. JULY 4TH TRAVEL 1,274 unique pageviews, Average time on page 0:1:24 TICK-BORN DISEASE IN NEW YORK 832 unique pageviews Average time on page 0:04:46

Source and methodology

THE SENATE TODAY Data about the Senate candidates were compiled by Times Union reporter David Lombardo from the New York State Board of Elections. Election results for the Partisan Value Index Calculations were pulled from Daily Kos. The information was checked and double checked by myself and David and political reporters. OPIOID SURVEY The data were based on results from a survey conducted by the Siena College Research Institute. I obtained the data directly from Siena. And double checked the data in the final interactive. CORRUPTION SCORECARD The information was compiled by reporters and editors involved in the coverage of the scandal: Casey Seiler, Rob Gavin, Larry Rulison and Brendan Lyons. The information was put into a Google sheet and updated as needed. LIMO TIMELINE The information in the timeline was discovered through intense reporting by Brendan Lyons and Larry Rulison, who both proofed the timeline. HOW WILL TRUMP TARIFF’S AFFECT MY PORT? The Associated Press data teamgathered, cleaned and analyzed the port data and shared it with AP members that belong to the AP’s data distribution initiative. The data come from the U.S. Trade Online database operated by the Census. I spot checked the interactive’s data with the files shared by the AP. FREIHOFER’S RUN FOR WOMEN The data were provided by the race organizers. JULY 4TH TRAFFIC The data source was the New York Thruway E-ZPass/Cash Hourly Usage by Plaza: Beginning 2006. I doubled checked data in the final graphic with the Thruway data on its website. TICK-BORN DISEASES IN NEW YORK The data were compiled by Times Union reporter Brian Nearing from annual communicable disease reports from the New York State Department of Health. I checked data from the final interactive with the original annual reports.

Technologies Used

All of the following interactives were created using Microsoft Power BI. I used Excel to download the data and do some organizing, but most of my data cleaning and all of the visualization was in Power BI. THE SENATE TODAY OPIOID SURVEY CORRUPTION SCORECARD HOW WILL TRUMP TARIFF’S AFFECT MY PORT? JULY 4TH TRAVEL TICK-BORN DISEASE IN NEW YORK The following interactive was created using Tableau. I received the data in Excel files and emails. I organized and cleaned it in Excel and used Tableau to create the final FREIHOFER'S RUN FOR WOMEN interactive. FREIHOFER’S RUN FOR WOMEN I used Infogram to create the LIMO TIMELINE.

Project members

I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my supervisor, Trudi Schaffer, executive producer of


Additional links


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