The Speech, In Graphics

Last night, I watched President Obama's speech on MSNBC. Flipping through the channels, I noticed that every network — on broadcast and cable — had the same feed. That said, MSNBC introduced something I saw on CNN during the campaign: a graphic at the bottom of the screen that looks like an EKG reading. Two continuous lines, going up and down. As I learned later, the network had convened a group of 40 voters. During the speech, they used a device to indicate their approval or disapproval of what the president said. In real time.

I'm not sure what I learned from watching those lines last night, but it got me thinking about how graphics can change our understanding and impressions of a speech. This morning, for instance, The New York Times had a cool graphic (that I can't locate anymore, unfortunately), which compared the rhetoric in President Obama's speech to other addresses by Presidents Reagan, Carter, and Roosevelt. Sort of like what we tried to do in our first hour today, but with a more numbers-centric slant.

Along those lines, I found a cool site, thanks to James Fallows, a correspondent for The Atlantic. He posted a link to Speech Wars. You can type in a word, say "war," and see how many times it appeared in each president's state of the union addresses. Graphically. It's cool. Give it a try. And if you can find that graphic from The New York Times, send us the link!

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