Public Editor

Two accurate graphics that became misleading when stacked

How can two completely accurate graphics, clearly presented by themselves, become confusing? It all has to do with how they’re laid out in the physical design.

A story about Kansas City’s average commute times ran in print on Jan. 27. It included multiple graphics that I found easy to read and interpret.

However, the way they were arranged in the paper may have been confusing.

The charts showing average commute when driving alone was printed directly above another showing average times when taking public transportation. They both used the same format and colors, and concerned the same cities.

But the scales were different. On top, the longest bar stands for 31.9 minutes. Below, the same size and color stand for 62 minutes.

Examined separately, each makes sense. But looking at them together, they could easily confuse readers, like one who reached out to the reporter who wrote the story.