Nate Silver: 'There Should Be a Pulitzer Category' for Infographics

Megan Garber
January 8, 2013
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This afternoon, Nate Silver -- blogger, pundit, hero of nerds everywhere -- did a reddit AMA. You should read the whole thing, because it's really good, and because it's not terribly long, but here, for the time-strapped, is one of the more notable moments of the session. It came during a discussion of the mechanics of Silver's infographics -- when redditor jwhardcastle issued a request:

Please also include information about your presentation tools (e.g. how do you create the graphics you use on your site, the charts and tables, etc.)

Silver obliged:

Most of the one-off charts are just done in Excel. It isn't that hard to make Excel charts look unExcellish if you take a few minutes and get away from the awful default settings. For anything more advanced, like the stuff that appears in the right-hand column at 538, I'm relying on the help of the NYT's awesome team of interactive journalists.

To which redditor pwnosuarus (with an assist from bengarvey) replied:

Those graphics designers do make some cool shit

To which Silver replied:

Yes, definitely. The New York Times guys really are the very best at the world at this. Part of that is because they really are journalists in addition to being programmers and/or graphic artists: the goal is to communicate complex information clearly and accurately, and not just to make something cool or pretty. There should be a Pulitzer category for this stuff.

To which I reply: YES, PLEASE. A Pulitzer for explanatory journalism, of course, already exists -- but a logical extension of it would certainly be a Pulitzer for visually explanatory journalism. Journalism that, just as Silver says, does the important work of communicating complexity clearly and accurately -- something that makes information itself emotionally resonant. Something that is, in all likelihood, native to the web. Something like the Times's own "Snow Fall" -- or, indeed, like the work Silver himself does on a semi-daily basis.

Speaking of that work -- work that has made Silver, over the past few years, a well-known figure -- here's his response to the question "What's been the strangest experience you've had due to your sudden fame?":

When I was in Mexico last week, I got recognized at the top of the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, which I'm pretty sure really is a sign of the Apocalypse.

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