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Columbia Missourian

Online graphic helps inform the reader

By Tom Warhover
February 8, 2008 | 2:59 p.m. CST
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Dear Reader:

More than 68 percent of Democratic voters in the neighborhoods around the Missourian’s building at Eighth and Elm streets chose Barack Obama on Tuesday. John McCain was the easy winner on the GOP side.

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Don’t care about precinct 1B? Well, what about your neighbors? I’m willing to bet that most of you are at least curious about how the people around you voted.

A story about this was online Wednesday morning. It still is. It’s a numbers story; you write your own narrative to go with it.

For years, the Columbia Missourian has run charts of precinct-by-precinct vote totals. They allowed the elections wonks to pore over the numbers, and the rest of us to pick and choose according to our interests.

It was just three or four years ago that I was celebrating the fact that those charts were published the day after an election — previously it had been two or three days before all the information could be received, coded, checked and published. The charts would eat up to a page or more of precious space.

Spin forward. Way forward. This week’s interactive graphic was extraordinary. Every precinct in the city and the county and every county in the state could be found with total votes and percentages for each candidate. Click the mouse and story after story could emerge.

I couldn’t find a single source anywhere in the state for more detailed information — certainly not for my city and my county.

Here’s the back story: Graphics reporters and editors pulled an all-nighter to pull it off. They were at it when I left for the night Tuesday, and still struggling when I arrived the next morning. The graphic was posted by 8 a.m.

Reader, I’ve written you often about why the newspaper does what it does, and I’ve tried not to brag. The intent of the letter isn’t promotional; it’s explanatory. But I have to say I couldn’t be more proud of this interactive graphic. It shows the potential of using new technology to make it easier for citizens to understand their communities. Putting information in your hands, after all, is what a newspaper is all about.

OK, so now that you know how Mr. Romney or Mrs. Clinton fared in your neck of the woods, and now that our graphics editors have caught up on a little sleep, it’s time to think about how to make the next one better.

After all, the next election is just two months away.

If you want to see how your neighbors voted, click here.

Tom