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School of Communication Students Create New Website That Puts a Human Face on Statistical Data in Florida

    • Registered Nurse Alma Knight helps some of Florida's helps uninsured with “Pinky the Health Mobile,” a clinic on wheels that provide healthcare at fairs, schools and low-income areas in South Florida.
    • Registered Nurse Alma Knight helps some of Florida's helps uninsured with “Pinky the Health Mobile,” a clinic on wheels that provide healthcare at fairs, schools and low-income areas in South Florida.

Students from the University of Miami School of Communication have created VisualizingFlorida.org, a new multimedia website that puts a human face on statistical data in Florida.

Among the information featured on the site:

Fact: 3.7 million non-elderly people are poor and uninsured in Florida.
Fact: 16,672 homes in Miami-Dade County are in foreclosure.
Fact: Florida’s unemployment rate of 9% is higher than the national average of 8.2%

“Every day in the news and other media we are presented with numbers, statistics, and facts that affect our lives, yet we don’t really humanize them. VisualizingFlorida.org makes the connection by sharing the stories behind the real people affected by these statistics,” said Rich Beckman, a multimedia journalism professor at UM whose students helped create the site.  “This could be you, your neighbor, or someone in your community. It’s important information to have especially in an election year.”

The site was built for the people of Florida by students from five classes at UM to help cast light on major issues within the state, and includes video reports, photos and information, as well as charts and graphs that look at Florida’s changing demographics and some of the most important issues facing people today.

From stories about healthcare to the housing market, immigration, the economy, and more, Visualizing Florida’s content is based on trends and numbers that decision makers use every day. By visualizing and personalizing this numerical information, the website introduces visitors to the real people behind the numbers so they can interpret what the data actually means.

On VisualizeFlorida.org, visitors meet Alma Knight, a registered nurse who helps the uninsured population of Florida — ranking fifth in the country with 23% of its population uninsured — by taking her skills on the road via “Pinky the Health Mobile” to provide healthcare at fairs, schools and low-income areas in South Florida.

“My goal is to make people aware of their health and teach them simple lifestyle changes so that they can take charge of their health,” Knight said.

Also featured on the site is the Lee Family, who are among the 16,000 families in Miami-Dade County trying to hold on to their home after falling behind on the mortgage. Florida has mortgage rates that are two to five times greater than the national average.  

Also included is the story Felicia Hatcher whose sweet dreams turned into reality when she was pink-slipped from marketing job in 2008 and began her own successful boutique ice cream catering company. Hatcher, now the owner of Feverish Ice Cream, has clients such as Live Nation, Whole Foods, and Bacardi. She adds to the number of female business owners in Miami-Dade Country, which ranks third in all U.S. counties for businesses owned by females.

"Not only are Florida's statistics presented on a human level, through personal video stories, but each student journalist was also given the challenge of turning these numbers into something interesting, compelling and in some cases beautiful, through information graphics,” said Josh Meltzer, a graduate student majoring in multimedia journalism.

Meltzer and classmate Natasha Dorsainvil said being able to work as a team taught them important skills in collaboration and made the end result much more powerful.

“This was a true learning experience that has helped me grow as a web communicator,” said Dorsainvil, a graduate student also majoring in multimedia journalism. “Discovering the many personal stories of people in Florida affected by the economy, the state of healthcare and other issues was really eye-opening.”

*Watch a video from VisualizingFlorida.org here:

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