By Alex Plough October 6, 2014
This is Part II of a series. Find Part I, “The Evolution of Data Journalism: From CAR to fivethirtyeight,” here.
The phrase “data journalism” provokes a range of reactions within the media, anxiety being the main one for new journalism students and those starting their careers.
US high-school seniors going on to study journalism tend to have lower than average SAT scores in mathematics according to data from the US Department of Education. But in era of shrinking newsrooms, editors are looking for journalists who can do more than just report. Today it seems like even entry-level reporter positions require candidates to be able to find, manipulate and analyze data. Demand for news application developers, essentially journalists who can build interactive data visualizations, is currently outstripping supply.
As the field evolves and becomes more mainstream, new reporters who shun numbers and spreadsheets could find themselves left behind in a data-rich world. Alex Howard, a TechRepublic columnist and fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, believes too many journalists are still proud of not being good at math—an attitude that might help to explain why statisticians rather than reporters are launching websites like FiveThirtyEight.
Luckily for students, it has never been easier to pick up new skills thanks to an abundance of online materials. National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) remains a critical resource for data-driven journalism and has fostered a remarkably collaborative online community with its mailing list, training bootcamps and annual conferences.
For any journalism student interested in data, the first thing they should do is subscribe to the NICAR listserv, which gives you access to thousands of experienced data journalists who are happy to answer questions. Attend community Meetups like Hacks/Hackers to network and find out about the latest open source programs being used in the discipline. There is even a free data journalism massive open online course (MOOC), which is part of the same initiative that produced the excellent Data Journalism Handbook, created during a 48-hour workshop at MozFest 2011 in London.
There are several options for those students looking to go beyond spreadsheets and learn how to code. The programming language Python is gaining popularity among first timers thanks to its versatility and intuitive syntax. There are online resources such as Code Academy to help you understand the basics, as well as Meetup groups dedicated to different programming languages.
A list of good journalist datastores to mine is available, here, on simonrogers.net. He tells you what the link is, how up-to-date the data is, and how many datasets are available at 538, Buzzfeed, GuardianData, HuffPostData, LaNacion Data, ProPublica and the Upshot. Additional journalism data stores are available directly at Github, a programming tool used for open source collaboration. Also, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (@gjin) often posts a list of top ten data journalism links (top ten #ddt), as it did this morning.
But journalism schools are also starting to offer tailored courses for budding data journalists. This year Columbia Journalism School launched the Lede Program, a post-bac certification program that offers hands-on training in data and data technologies, taught in the context of journalism, social science and the humanities. As a recent graduate of the first batch of Lede Program students, I found the course an excellent introduction to Python and a great opportunity to apply the concepts of computer science to journalism.
With these skills in ever more demand in the newsroom, time spent learning the art and science of data journalism is a great investment for any new reporter.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 9:05 am. It is filed under industry news, Tools & Resources and tagged with Alex Howard, Code Academy, Columbia Journalism School, data journalism, FiveThirtyEight, Lede Program, NICAR, Python, SAT, Tech Republic, Tow Center for Digital Journalism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Comments are closed.