Looks like Fox News is at it again. Check out this chart that was broadcast last Monday.
There are so many things wrong with it that I barely know where to start.
First, the horizontal axis is off. From left to right, we’re supposed to see a passage of time. But the distance between “last year,” “Last week” and “current” are all the same. In order to fix this, the “last week” data point would have to move to the right, just a few pixels to the left of the current figure. Leaving most of the chart an empty space between points 51 weeks apart.
Secondly, the average person will look at this chart and think gas prices have doubled in the past year. In fact, the bottom of this chart isn’t zero — it’s $2.90. You’re really only looking at the very top of what, in theory, would me a much taller chart.
That screencap was posted by MediaMatters, a liberal-oriented watchdog site. That same site compares Fox’s chart to this one, from AAA:
Focus on the green line here. Ignore the others. This AAA chart shows prices charted on the first of each month. The plotting appears to be good here, although the little tick marks at the bottom between October and January seem to be goofy. We’re missing something, somewhere.
Still, this is approximately the same data, charted over approximately the same time span. Was Fox trying to get away with a fast one here?
First of all, AAA offers up a lot of data. Among those offerings is indeed a grouping of the latest national average gas price compared to one month ago and one year ago. It looks to me like Fox bypassed this fever chart and went for the simpler data.
But that’s when things went wrong. Those three numbers are just that: Numbers. Great for a text box or something. But not so great for charting. And certainly not great for a fever chart. If Fox wanted a fever chart, it should have picked up this second set of data from AAA.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Fox News screw up a chart. Back in December, Fox created this chart to show how the job market has completely stagnated under Barack Obama.
The problem there: It was total bullshit. Even the numbers there on the screen prove how poorly that chart was drawn:
I took a swing at replotting that same data, but accurately this time:
Hmm. Much different. Given Fox News’ rather obvious anti-Obama editorial slant, you can’t blame anyone for concluding that the news graphics folks are intentionally trying to make the president look bad.
Or, perhaps, the situation is even simpler than that. Perhaps Fox News just needs to learn how to display data correctly.
While they’re out shopping for a graphics editor, Fox might also want to hire a copy editor. There was a string of laughable errors in December that I featured here in the blog.
Like this one, for example.
Ron Paul surges into second place? With a higher total than any of the other candidates? Not likely. Most likely, someone typed the wrong number for him.
Just a few days before,Â Fox made another, even funnier, error in that same chart.
Yeah. I don’t think that’s Mitt Romney. Looks like some guy from Kenya.
That very same week, Fox also labeled Utah as “Nevada”…
…and Vermont as “New Hampshire.”
These last few examples, you’ll note, are errors. But they don’t necessarily involve any of the typical Fox News axe-grinding.
It bothers me a bit that most of these screencaps come from MediaMatters. But they seem to be the only folks keeping a close eye on Fox News. No one else seems to be documenting this stuff.