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Digiwatchdog » Investigative journalism » On building a data application for a magazine that covers race and poverty

On building a data application for a magazine that covers race and poverty

When we decided to build a data visualization application for the Chicago Reporter, we knew two things from the very beginning: (1) We wanted something with longevity, a lasting purpose that will keep readers coming to the site for months, or years, to come and (2) we wanted it to contribute to the Reporter’s overall mission of covering race and poverty in Chicago.

Our answer was the Disparity Map.

The Disparity Map compares the 77 Chicago community areas in terms of race, poverty, income, housing and education. The map is segmented by community area because this is a common way for the Reporter to analyze data based on sections of the city.

In addition to visually representing this data, the Disparity Map ranks the communities from most to least disadvantaged. It draws from multiple data sets and calculates how they interact. So, if readers select more than one disparity marker, the map will re-rank based on what’s selected. By default, it displays the community areas based on the percentage of people living below the poverty line.

The map is not only a resource for readers, but will have internal use for the reporters at the Reporter who are looking for ways of visualizing their investigations.

Ultimately, the goal is for readers to gain an understanding of the disparities in their own neighborhoods and around the city. Where are the most disadvantaged communities? Who lives in these areas? How much do they earn?

Please, check out the prototype at and let us know what you think.

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