Dumb Graphics from Sunday Business Post

20 October, 2015

I think there should be mandatory jail sentences for those who publish bar charts and other graphs that show a misleading position as a result of selecting an incorrect base line or y-axis (usually, but not always, this should be zero).

Here’s a particularly egregious example from a publication that should know better, the Sunday Business Post.  It appeared in its 11th October 2015 edition.  Visually, the current minimum wage appears to be less than 20% of the living wage.  However it is in fact about 75% of it, and setting the y-axis to start at zero would have given the correct visual impression.

File 19-10-2015, 15 13 47 So why didn’t they do this?  Careless journalism, careless editing, lack of numeracy, or a deliberate wish to create a striking image where there was no justification for it?

The Sunday Business Post is in dishonourable company in this practice.  Here are two choice examples from Fox News in the United States, which of course has a political agenda to promote.

        Fox chart

Fox unemployment-rate

Rather than using a nonsensical bar chart, it would have been better had the Sunday Business Post not published it at all, and instead allowed the reader to draw the necessary information from published text.  However that would probably have gone against another apparent Sunday Business Post policy – that of using up lots of space with unnecessary (or unnecessarily large) photos and graphics.  Cheaper than actual journalism, I suppose.

 

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