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: infogr.am, 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

 

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Mu Lin

Blogger at MulinBlog
Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin blogs about digital journalism education and offers free digital journalism courses at MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc).
The following courses are scheduled for 2015, with additional courses under development:
Audio Slideshow Storytelling (January, July)
Introduction to Social Media Marketing (February, August)
Writing for the Web (March, September)
Google Mapping for Communicators (April, October)
Introduction to Data Visualization (May, November)
Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics (June, December)
Follow me

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin blogs about digital journalism education and offers free digital journalism courses at MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc). The following courses are scheduled for 2015, with additional courses under development: Audio Slideshow Storytelling (January, July) Introduction to Social Media Marketing (February, August) Writing for the Web (March, September) Google Mapping for Communicators (April, October) Introduction to Data Visualization (May, November) Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics (June, December)
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