How to teach/learn data journalism: Tools for every journalist; programming for data specialist

The popular data tools are for every digital journalist to learn and use in everyday work, and the “high-end” programming/coding is for people who want to be a “data specialist.” Journalism programs can incorporate basic data tools in a (required) intro digital journalism course, and teach “high-end” data journalism, in an elective course, to students who want to pursue further in this area.

Learning how to use data in storytelling is different from learning how to be a data specialist. Some people have the notion that every journalism student needs to be trained in coding and programming to produce those complex data projects that wow us. I say “no” – the popular, easier-to-learn data tools would suffice for day-to-day data visualization needs; let’s leave coding/programming to those who want to be a “data journalist.”

Data tools for everyday work and for every journalist

Students should learn to use popular digital tools in telling a story, which include use of interactive maps, data visualization, and timeline. Here’s some popular tools:

  • Interactive maps: Google interactive maps, Google Fusion Tables maps
  • Data visualization:, Tabuleau Public, Many Eyes
  • Timeline: dipity

Here are some readings/tutorials/reviews I wrote about these tools:

“High-end” data training for “data specialist”

“High-end” data journalism are those complex data projects that wow us, and they require substantial training in programming as well as knowledge in graphic design – yes, graphic design, for a good look of the project.

For people who want to become a “data specialist,” they should take dedicated courses in advanced data journalism or, if such courses are not offered, relevant CS programming courses. For the design part, they should take a graphic design course – for instance, learn to use Photoshop and Illustrator to work on the images and graphics in the project.

Click on the screenshot below for such a “high-end” interactive data project. This is part of a report by The Washington Post tracking homicides in D.C. between 2000 and 2011.

interactive map


Related posts:

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
This entry was posted in Data journalism, Digital journalism education. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply