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‘Demo not memo’ helped Seattle Times reporter get editors behind graphics

Sanjay Bhatt, who reports on the economy for The Seattle Times, didn’t want to just do a standard ranking of executive compensation. He wanted to put together a visualization focusing on the connection between executive pay and corporate performance.

To get his editor Rami Grunbaum to buy-in, Sanjay says he chose to “demo, not memo” with a prototype of his plan. Clearly, his editor liked the idea.Executive Pay Seattle Times

After much work, he created a package that allows users to see the data by industry, and compare one-year versus three-year compensation data. The visualization also shows clusters of companies that gave their CEOs raises despite lackluster corporate performance.

He says his challenges included ensuring he had the correct data from Bloomberg and Equilar, which provides executive compensation data.  He also had to seek advice from consultants about his methodology. “Some consultants argue this is a blunt way of gauging CEO performance, but it’s also being applied across all the companies,” he says.

Then he had to resolve the technical challenges of importing data into Tableau and designing the user interaction. With more time, he says he would have added more filters so users could highlight companies on based other criteria. He also would have added CEO photos to the pop-ups that appear when users hover over the interactive graphic’s dots.

“There was a lot of reporting that went into this visualization, and I hope it sparked some conversations,” Sanjay says. “Is there a strong link between pay and performance? You look at the visualization and decide for yourself.”


In Featured, Manufacturing | Large companies.

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