Data literacy has quickly become one of the most important skills for journalists to acquire due to the vast accumulations of data now collected by everyone from the government to Candy Crush. Many career journos did not enter the field with the analytical skills necessary to break down the fundamentals of a balance sheet or to sift through Census statistics with accuracy, but newsrooms, broadcast studios and companies everywhere are now looking for ways to incorporate data reporting into their work.
Because journalists are beholden to standards for their reporting, they are the ideal role to ensure accuracy when it comes to using data. Some legacy news organizations have embedded data science professionals within their ranks, but many others, strapped with already stretched budgets, rely on the journalist herself to deliver accurate results by her own means.
What are some of the best ways to add data journalism as a skill set to your portfolio? We’ve collected some options here, including educational programs and free outsourcing. You can also always hope for one of those embedded data scientists to appear in your newsroom.
Graduates from today’s leading collegiate programs in journalism have the option to pursue advanced training that includes courses on data collection and application.
- Columbia University, for example, recently developed a dual Master’s degree program in journalism and computer science to train and develop a new generation of tech savvy information specialists and designers. For the aforementioned career journalists and other professionals interested in in-depth statistical reporting and analysis, many of these universities offer continuing education programs to the public.
- New York University administers a recurring Research and Fact-Checking course that delves into open source statistical data collection.
- Pratt Institute recently introduced a certificate program in Geographic Information Systems and Design (GIS), which provides cumulative coursework in the implementation of statistical data into digital mapping systems. GIS provides the knowledge necessary for the creation of everything from interactive infographics to geolocation applications.
Online Courses and Conferences
If you can’t put your job on hold to return to one of these programs, there are online courses, conferences and trainings that can help bridge the gap.
- Poynter’s NewsU program offers everything from on-site training to webinars with courses like “Understanding and Interpreting Polls” and “Data Journalism and Mobile-Ready Visualizations with Silk.co: A Digital Tools Tutorial“
- Organizations such as the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) are available for journalists to outsource the conversion of their statistical research findings. NICAR, in addition to converting outsourced data, conducts ongoing training seminars for professionals seeking deeper knowledge in the field of data science. The #NICAR15 tweets are almost enough for a full education!
Online Tools: Visualizations, Pre-screened Data
Finally, there are also online tools available in the current market for journalists to look up pre-existing statistical data related to their research subject at hand, and to create visualizations of said information with a few swipes or keyboard strokes.
Kumu: Kumu is a digital cartography program that allows users to create simplified geographic information system (GIS) maps. These visualizations can embed complex data that is linked to outside source material.
Data Driven Journalism: This website provides links to a number of tools and resources that are essential to digital data conversion. DDJ offers a free in-depth course for journalists who want to take their data knowledge to the next level.
Find the Best: Find the Best provides journalists with sets of data and tools to create visualizations on them. They even provide special support and services to news organizations. Take a look at this article they did on Business Insider.
Tableau: This data visualization software platform partners with newsrooms to provide free access to their set of tools, and they’ll send out a trained account manager to help bring your team up to speed. See some of the cool work they produce here:
Still too busy for any of the above options? Just take a quick look through this presentation from the Washinton Post’s Investigative Database Editor, Steven Rich, and call it a day.
As a data and analytics provider, we here at Parse.ly know how difficult it is to prepare and present the right data to the people that need to see it. As tedious as statistical analysis and digital information gathering may sound to some, these programs and resources can make the task of external data collection fun and accessible, making an initial foray into data collection reporting quite enjoyable.
There are many other tools and resources out there, let us know what we missed in the comments!
Feature image from flickr.