How GN: Sources of information

Graphics are only as good as the quality of information contained in them -- both the "visual" information and the "words". Over half the cost of a graphic is the research and the time taken to obtain the information.

Sources are given in brief on each graphic, but the source of particular data can be supplied on request.

This page is part of a series of information pages for proofers:

  • Recording information and information sources is essential:
    1. For the proofer: To check the data in a graphic against the original: To check that suitable sources have been used; to check that contentious data has been validated against at least two suitable sources.
    2. For the GN team for future graphics
    3. For our subscribers: To check the data, for further reading, or to write their own stories to go with graphics.
    4. For interactive graphics: These graphics may need more words and information than a traditional print graphic.
  • Validation: To validate data the tradition is to require two independent sources of data. On the web it is difficult to know what information is independent. If in doubt, specify the sources used so that a reader can make their own assessment.
  • Corruption: Remember that information deteriorates as it passes from person to person -- traditionally this is referred to as "Chinese Whispers". It is therefore important to use a source as near to the primary source as possible, i.e. "primary" data. Wikipedia can be very helpful starting point but should always be checked against other sources. Don’t rely on information in newspapers or news websites as this can be derivative and unreliable, particularly with a moving news story.
  • Primary sources: Even from primary sources the information may not be consistent. For example, if two people see a traffic accident, what they recall may differ. This is because people rationalise in order to remember events so what a person "sees" depends on that person’s preconceptions. In addition, on repetition what they "remember" as having seen can change according to what questions they are asked. Sometimes people can be prompted to recall events that never actually happened.
  • Originality: The artwork we produce must be "original". More than one source of reference should always be used and if not "artistic creativity" must be added. Particular care should be used when using "drawn" reference as artists are very good at recognising their own work. For example,GN drew a cow with distinctive black and white patches. This same cow re-appeared in two other agency graphics repeatedly over a ten year period to their embarrassment and our irritation!
If in doubt about a source -- use the “blush test”! If you were asked for the source of your data, would you embarrassed? If you would, then it’s not good enough. Don’t take short cuts with data. Don’t think editors and readers won’t notice because they will, even if they don’t specifically ask or challenge.

21 days to go until NEW GRAPHIC NEWS - a new website for a new era.

28 years ago — April 2, 1991 — the original Graphic News launched using a precursor to today’s websites that used email technology. These enabled infographics to be delivered electronically around the world over telephone lines. What was possible was very limited - It took 10 minutes for a 100K file to download.

Since then delivery speeds and website technology have moved on. The new website will offer the best online experience possible now, adding many new features (and offering new opportunities for the future), but still enabling existing users to select and download infographics and enjoy the distinct brand of visual journalism that is Graphic News.

Over the coming days I will give further information. Please contact me if you have any questions. Fiona Roberts, froberts @