Visual Op-Ed columnist

The Poynter Institute has an interesting article up about Charles Blow, The New York Times' first visual Op-Ed columnist. That's right: Blow doesn't write traditional Op-Ed Columns -- he uses visual data such as charts and graphs and diagrams to support his opinions. According to Blow, his inspiration was the original charts and graphs the Times printed on the Op-Ed page:

The Times had used Op charts — which were charts that appeared on the Op Ed page for quite some time. There are still some produced now, by contributors. From the first time I saw it, I thought it was a great idea — that you could loosen up the rigors and the confines of data from the news pages, where you have to be completely objective and answer every possible question in the data. To have a looser interpretation of the data and be able to say, "This data has holes, and that's OK. Here are what the holes are, but there is still value in it, in some ways."

There is a lot of freedom that being able to be subjective allows. I thought that would be fantastic to see how far we could go using data and charts to kind of support editorial decisions and opinion.

I find it a fascinating kind of exercise because there's a certain part of data that is completely objective — the numbers are what they are, if they're true or false. There's a kind of cut and dried sensibility there. And it's an interesting balance in trying to mix that and marry it and not dilute or corrupt the data, but at the same time, use it as a support mechanism. I like trying to strike that balance.

You can see more of Blows' columns here. What great news for visual learners!