Teaching journalists to do data
I struggle with how to teach data reporting. I want to give the students an introduction to how to do it, and how to make it work online (conceptually, for the audience, I mean), but I only have four weeks. I want to make sure what I give them has a practical application, but I can’t load them down with a gigantic project.
Ideally, I would like them to analyze some meaningful data and then explain it to an audience. I would also like to have them present the data visually online, using simple tools.
All of our journalism students get some Excel training in a course called Applied Fact Finding (it’s our public records how-to class). This would be a second step, aimed at getting them to do both some analysis and some formatting for presentation.
One aspect is making sure they understand charts such as these, from The New York Times in July 2008, explaining the financial crisis. Yeah, the one that is spiraling out of control right now. The Times actually published some very scary visuals three months ago.
Another aspect is maps, like the always-updated electoral votes map at The New York Times.
In the comments on my post yesterday, Jude Mathurine wrote:
… computer assisted research, reporting and analysis for contextual online journalism as a foundation prior to writing and editing. Also, how about: Manage metadata for search and social promotion. Storytelling using UGC and mashups like polls, geomaps, charts, galleries and timelines …
Angela Grant wrote:
… understand when stories can be enhanced with online database applications and interactive graphics like maps and timelines …
And Brendan Watson wrote:
I would add basic research methods. In the Internet age, journalists have access to reams of data, both for reporting and analyzing the impact of their reporting. They should be able to make sense of this data, or at least understand how others make sense of this data.
All of them are right, but I’m still struggling with how to turn this into an assignment that students, working in groups of three, can effectively learn from.
Categories: data, reporting, teaching, training