Yes, I know about the Malofiej awards and the Society for News Design. Yes, I know that there are many many designers out there that really care about the data and use their skills to communicate effectively, sometimes with awesome results.
Sacrificing data on the altar of Beauty
But for many many more, data is an annoying relative that can/should happily be sacrificed on the altar of Beauty (I am being gentle). The end result? Self-serving charts for the designer’s portfolio management. Beautiful (sometimes) but clueless, like the blonde in a joke.
When printed, those charts become role models, standards against which your charts are measured. That’s why Charley Kyd tries to convince us that his Excel reports have that “magazine-quality” that probably makes a difference.
When you forget about the data, the chart becomes the message.
[Update: Eager Eyes discusses the differences between "artistic" and "pragmatic" visualizations. Let's say that too often the designer chooses the "artistic" where the context asks for the "pragmatic".]