Data Storytelling for Palestinian Rights: Visualizing Palestine’s Editorial Criteria

Visualizing Palestine
4 min readFeb 13, 2020

How does the Visualizing Palestine team decide what to work on?

Visualizing Palestine’s community of Members makes it possible for us to tell data-led stories highlighting Palestinian human rights.

One of the most common questions the Visualizing Palestine team receives is “how do you choose what visuals to create?” To answer this question, we’ve compiled some reflections on how we find and prioritize data and topics.

There are thousands of stories to tell about Palestinian human rights, and each story can be told in a multitude of different ways. Visualizing Palestine has the resources and team power to develop a limited set of data stories each year (some 12 to 20, depending on their scope and requirements), and we aim to carefully select topics that are relevant, insightful, and have the potential to make an impact.

One of the challenges in planning our editorial strategy is striking the right balance between setting projects in advance and leaving space to respond to emerging topics and partnerships as they become relevant. Data storytelling is not a practice well-suited to speed, so it’s necessary to plan ahead. This may be perceived as a drawback, but it is also the strength of what we contribute to the broader movement: creativity and non-extractive collaborations thrive with a more measured pace of production. Our role is to ask: what topics will be important one year from now? Where are there currently gaps in resources that we can fill? What important information can we amplify? What tools are we uniquely suited to provide because of our particular set of skills?

Generating Story Ideas

In eight years of work, the following practices have helped us develop our “nose” for a good story:

Personal experience — Personal knowledge and experience matter. Our team includes Palestinians and people of other backgrounds who have deep knowledge and experience of the topics we cover.

Seeking collaboration and input — Sometimes people bring ideas to us for collaboration. Other times, the seed of a collaboration starts with a simple conversation.“So what are you working on these days?” Our wider audience of subscribers and Members also sometimes share input and ideas.

Curiosity and asking questions —We are curious people. We like to ask why things are the way they are. Why is the internet so slow in Palestine? How long does it take to get from Nabi Saleh to Ramallah? What happened to Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948? Often, we are not the only ones asking these questions, and due to the efforts of scholars, activists, and human rights groups, there is reliable data and information to make sense of the world around us and shed light on things hidden from view.

Reading and following relevant sources — We follow other people and groups working on Palestinian rights and we are constantly scanning for inspiration in the form of data, visual material, and stories.

All of these practices ultimately help us build and maintain a constantly-evolving long-list of editorial ideas. We throw links, snippets of inspiration, and notes of conversations into a spreadsheet and revisit it later to assess which ideas still draw our interest and what larger themes may be emerging.

Prioritizing Stories: Editorial Criteria

Our long-list of stories is…well…long. How do we choose what to cover next? This is where our editorial criteria help us to prioritize.

Data—is there adequate data or information available on the topic? Is it reliable data?

Audience — who do we hope to reach, and is this a topic that will resonate with them?

Longevity — will this topic still be relevant and useful weeks or months from now?

Relevance as tool — does this topic meet the needs of educators, advocates, and organizers? How? Is it likely to be used and shared offline?

Newness to VP — have we covered this topic before? Does it fill a gap in our overall collection of resources?

Under-covered — can we bring attention to data or a topic that isn’t yet widely discussed? Will people learn something new?

Collaboration — will this topic allow us to pursue a collaboration with an individual or group making an impact?

Format, scope, skills—what are the technical requirements of the topic? Can we tackle it effectively in one visual? Ten visuals? An interactive? Do we have the resources and skills needed?

Human angle — does this topic cater toward conveying how real people are impacted?

Most topics we prioritize will not meet all of these criteria, but will strongly align with several of them.

Thinking Thematically

Some of our visuals are simpler to create than others, but most of the projects we pursue require significant research, conceptual ideation, and creative development over the course of months. We’ve learned that we can do more with our limited resources by thinking thematically and narratively, rather than treating each visual as a one-off output. When we think “10 topics equals 10 visuals”, we force ourselves to move quickly from one topic to the next, losing out on some of the richness and depth of the process. When we think “3 themes equals 10 or maybe 12 visuals”, we free ourselves to dive more deeply into research and ideation. We are not striving to be a content factory, but to create stories that make an impact.

Share Your Thoughts

Have an idea you think VP should visualize? We’re happy to hear from you and keep it in mind as we plan for the future. You can write to us at data@visualizingimpact.org.

Make sure you catch our next story by subscribing to our free newsletter: https: visualizingpalestine.org/subscribe

--

--

Visualizing Palestine

Visualizing Palestine is a project that creates data-led, visual stories to advance a factual, rights-based narrative of Palestine and Palestinians