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Tom Meagher


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Diving into data with SPJ

Today, I had a chance to speak at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 1 Spring conference, held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Debbie Galant of the NJ News Commons and I talked about the projects that came out of our Hack Jersey hackathon. Then I laid out a map for building data skills in the newsroom.

For those who attended (and those who didn’t), here are links to some of the tools we discussed and tutorials to start to learn them.

The slides:

We started by sharing examples of data-driven news applications on the web:

So how do you do this kind of work (or get to Carnegie Hall)? Practice. Practice. Practice.

A brief detour on the history of data journalism included a data piece in the first issue of the Manchester Guardian in 1821 and the cover of the program for IRE’s first computer-assisted reporting conference in 1993. And now, to today…

The disciplines of data reporting

1. Collection

2. Cleaning

3. Analysis

  • Excel is going to be your favorite tool ever. There are a number of good tutorials on basic Excel and more advanced Pivot Tables listed here, as well as a link to a great, free online course introducing databases.
  • And don’t forget the formula for percent change = (new-old)/old
  • Only for a few more days, you can get 50-percent off of all Excel e-books from O’Reilly here:

4. Visualization

5. Interaction

Support groups

What are your favorite data techniques, tools and tutorials? Please share them with me. I’d love to check them out.