Introducing My Students to Data Journalism

I just attended the 2013 ACP National College Journalism Convention in San Francisco this past weekend.  Seven students joined me, and we’re all a-buzz with new ideas for The Skyline View newsroom.  I’m especially convinced that it’s time to get ourselves a mobile app.  While our website may be built with responsive design, it’s time to think mobile first.  One of our tech-savvy staffers suggested Andromo, which only serves Android devices, so we are also considering ICampusTimes, a vendor at the convention, though its prices are higher. Whatever we decide, I was reminded by Iowa State’s Charlie Weaver in his Let’s Get Mobile workshop, we need to Do. It. Now.

As inspired as we all were, one thing the convention lacked, in my opinion, was an emphasis on datavisualization.  Perhaps I was aware of this because I was tracking NICAR13 on Twitter at the same time.  All I know is that students (and advisers) need much more training on this.

And get it (at least a bit), they will.  My Journalism 121 are starting the unit on data reporting.  First, I’m aiming to convince them that learning this stuff is necessary, as I’ve done in the past.  In fact, it may just get them a job.

We’re not going big on this. After all, it’s an introduction, and realistically, serious training would take a heck of a lot longer than two weeks.  But, I want them to at least get some exposure and some practice.  The plan is to familiarize them with Excel through a series of exercises.  Then, in the past, they’ve written stories based on their analysis of college crime statistics. This semester, though, I’m loving Jake Batsell’s coffee prices assignment, which also brings in mapping, something we did a couple of assignments back.

If any of them really geeks out on this unit, I’ve got a list of resources for them to continue their training.  This list is fraction of what’s out there:




About Nancy Kaplan-Biegel

I am the journalism program coordinator at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, as well as the adviser to The Skyline View.

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