Visualizing a future President’s promises

As Sri Lanka heads into Presidential elections on 26th January 2010, we can expect both the incumbent Executive and former Army Commander Sarath Fosenka, the two leading candidates, make all manner of promises and statements through media interviews, speeches and their respective manifestos.

It’s tough to make sense of this tsunami of words. It is vital however for public interest journalism to bear witness, document and help citizenry understand the statements and promises made by those aspiring for the highest public office in the country.

Sarath Fonseka's first major speech

Never done before in Sri Lankan journalism, I applied information visualization to analyze the key statements made by Sarath Fonseka to date. The resulting story is now on Groundviews – Visualising key speeches and submissions of Sarath Fonseka.

This is no different to what was done with Obama’s important speech recently, calling for changes in US policy and troop strength levels in Afghanistan.

Will mainstream print media follow suit and use visualizations to help voters understand the key policies and differences between the two leading candidates?

And in a country such as ours, if traditional media were to embrace these new models and tools for journalism (which are free to wit), would election campaigns be more open, accountable and responsive to voter demands? Would it be more difficult for candidates and the President elect to rescind or forget promises and statements? In seeing vital emphases, trends as well as silences through such visualizations, can citizens and journalists themselves ask better questions from candidates about their policies? Finally, how can institutions like the Sri Lankan College of Journalism embrace these new techniques in journalism, so that students passing out are not hostage to an archaic pedagogy and conception of journalism?

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