Modernizing Data Journalism

Journalism is experiencing a huge shift from traditional investigative processes with the implementation of data analysis and Big Data.

Modernizing Data Journalism
Katie Metz // Adriana Lacy Consulting

Journalism is experiencing a huge shift from traditional investigative processes with the implementation of data analysis and Big Data. As the adage goes, numbers don’t lie, and big data offers valuable insights into numerous fields and subjects that only serve to increase a journalist’s reliability and the confidence of their audience.

 Including data-generated content, like charts and graphs presented in an esculent format, increases an audience’s confidence in what they are seeing or reading. Content is more compelling when the journalist can guide their audience to trends and patterns that inform the conclusion. 

Data in journalism is not a fad. Journalists are forced to diversify their skills and mindset to include data analysis, and data extraction, then create visuals that tell a fact-driven story. What tools are available to help journalists bring the data to life? 

When creating visuals, a few tools are recommended. Looker Studio, Tableau, and Flourish are fabulous for turning data into engaging visuals. 

Looker Studio has some fantastic YouTube videos for beginners. Google also provides a free Quick Start Guide. Here, you will learn how to create reports, charts, how to connect to your data, etc. By clicking on Learn Looker Studio you have access to some tutorials and an online community of other data-hungry users. Take advantage of these available resources.

Tableau offers a plethora of tools and services, including Free Training videos. If the videos aren’t effective for you, there is also self-paced e-learning and instructor-led learning available. They also have an online community, user groups, and Tableau conferences. 

Flourish offers stunning visuals to engage your audience. You can customize themes to brand your creations with your logo while creating stimulating graphics and stories. Take a look at several examples while considering their services. 

This Data Journalism Syllabus will teach you how to tell a story with the procured data by teaching you how to read it. Accessing the data is one thing, but knowing how to use it is the thing.  This course offers links to several resources, along with impressive student objectives. You will “…learn the basics of cleaning, analyzing, and interpreting information…” 

Mecodify is particularly useful for identifying trends on X, formerly Twitter. Not requiring any coding or technical expertise, it can compare current events with the amount of chatter on a given subject. It can count hashtags concerning a given event, then create graphics representing this data. You can complete some tutorials, and even watch a few demos by using ‘’  as your username and password.  

In an effort to keep open access to OpenScience available to everyone, Zenodo was created. It is used by journalists to look up various types of data. 

The Data Journalism Handbook is another free tool of excellent value. Here you will learn more about how data can be used in journalism, including case studies on how to gather the data. 

Once you are comfortable with how to use and gather data, DocumentCloud will help you download and extract the data for further analysis. You can also analyze several documents at once for keywords or phrases to more quickly extract what is pertinent and disregard what is not. 

For cleaning up your data, OpenRefine is highly regarded. This open-source software also allows you to convert your data into different formats. It’s easy to use and is versatile. 

For Mapping, Carto is a reliable and helpful tool, mapping where things are happening along with insights into the possible why they are happening. Carto promises to have all the capabilities of at least four other software tools, leaving you with one tool to rule them all. 

Ogis, is also free and an open-source tool in case Carto isn’t your speed. Ogis allows you to create, edit and publish your findings on both a desktop and mobile device. 

Coding and the ability to code are necessary to extract as much value from data as possible. Code Academy has you covered by offering free lessons in a variety of programming languages. Learning to code can be intimidating but with patience and persistence, along with the best tools, you can learn what you need to take Data Journalism to new heights. 

As you learn how to write code, StackOverflow is a great place to ask questions and get reliable answers. From beginners to experts, all levels of skill are welcome here. 

The following two are “must haves” for all data journalists, in my opinion. CSV Kit is a suite of tools created by journalists for journalists. SQL is an essential tool when you are querying large amounts of data. Considered a relational database program, SQL will query the exact data you wish to extract. Here is an Introduction to SQL to get you started. 

When a beginner, Data Journalism feels intimidating, and rightfully so. It is a new subset of skills journalists must learn to produce the content audiences will soon come to expect. 

Keeping things in perspective should prevent any panic attacks or inclinations to make a career change. We have provided you with a list of tools that perform different tasks with your data. Don’t expect or even attempt to learn them all at once. Doing so would set you up for failure or burn-out. Instead, pick one or two of the tools listed and learn as much as you can about them. How are they used, and how do you capitalize on the functionalities most relevant to your objectives? 

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