Resources for learning and doing data journalism
- Using Excel to do Precision Journalism by Steve Doig: Here you can learn the “basic spreadsheet knowledge” we talked about – sorting, filtering and basic calculations – in about one to two hours. If you’re interested, Doig goes on to cover formulas and tables, which are slightly more advanced.
- Google Sheets support from Google: If you don’t have Excel, you can do the same functions with Google’s free online version, Google Sheets, once you make a Google account.
- Numbers in the Newsroom by Sarah Cohen: This book, which can also be purchased as an ebook, addresses all the data scenarios a beginning reporter might face, and walks the reader the math needed to complete them.
- Data Journalism 101: Self-guided training by Michael Berens: This three-hour webinar walks you through basics of data reporting like filing records requests and finding stories.
- The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism by Alex Howard: If you’re interested in the development of data journalism as a profession, this paper does an excellently thorough job of explaining its history, good practices and further learning resources.
- Hacks/Hackers: Hacks/Hackers is a global organization with almost 100 individual chapters around the world. Each chapter does its own events, but their goal is to bridge the gap between journalism and technology.
- NICAR list serv: You can email all the members of the NICAR email list for help or advice on a data project or other tech-related journalism issue. It has almost 2,000 members and is one of the most active journalism list servs out there.
- Civic hacking groups, like Code for America: Code for America is a national group with local chapters that try to liberate data for use by the public. These chapters and other “civic hacking” groups are often knowledgeable and eager to help with a data project or to acquire data for use by journalists.
- Alumni (former staffers): Derek Willis, at ProPublica, suggested getting in touch with former staffers at your newsroom who have moved on to other outlets. They are often happy to help with training or advice for free.
- Local budgets:“Numbers in the Newsroom” (above) has a chapter on finding stories in a municipal budget, which can usually be downloaded from your local government’s website. Cohen suggests checking the budget’s math, or comparing the planned spending to actual spending.
- NICAR data library: For a small fee, NICAR will provide a national data set that has been cleaned and organized by journalists. These cheap, clean, national data sets allows you to localize a story, such as finding local businesses in a database of workplace accidents.
- The U.S. census: The Census is well-liked among data journalists for having some of the most well-organized and well-explained data to come from the government. Navigating the website can be difficult at first, because there are so many layers of data, but it lets you contact experts who are singularly helpful.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Like the Census, the BLS has above-average presentation and explanation of its data, and a lot of it. These numbers include unemployment statistics, industry data and other financial information.
- FBI UCR statistics: UCR statistics are the only nationally-collected numbers on crimes like murder and burglary. However, using this data can be precarious: because each police agency reports crimes individually, the resulting could be incomplete, erroneous or nonconformant with other agencies.
- FEC disclosures: Campaign finance, including political donations and advertising dollars, can always be localized, and is a readymade news story when election time rolls around. The website offers raw data or walkthroughs in the form of presentations and graphics.