Special Series: Teaching Data Journalism

    by Kathleen Bartzen Culver
    July 7, 2014
    Learning to find, clean, analyze and visualize data is critical in journalism education today. (Public domain image from DARPA)

    I rarely have to sell my students on what I’m teaching them. They’ve worked hard to get accepted into a highly competitive major, and they’re here because they want to learn. But that all changes when we get to my week on data. The grumbles and eyerolls abound. I feel like I can read some of the minds. “I majored in journalism because I hate math.”

    Lately I’ve taken to preemptive strikes. I post a query on Facebook or Twitter, asking my alumni to tell my current students how important data have become in media industries. I capture their responses and stream them across the screen as the students wander into class. They’re convincing:

    • “I wouldn’t hire anyone who doesn’t have at least novice experience in data-driven content creation/analysis.”
    • “Numbers and research are a starting point for tons of stories. It’s much better to be the person who knows Excel than the person who does not.”
    • “I can’t believe they don’t see the value in data literacy. Given the amount of data out there and how much others can manipulate it, reporters will have to be able to be fluent so they can identify the reality from the BS.”
    • “Data drives solid, original reporting. Be a driver, not a passenger.”

    The truth is that data is arguably the single most important trend in media work today. We encounter it in stories simple and complex, in analytics of where and how our audiences access content, and in understanding the communities in which we do our work.


    The students in our journalism programs need to develop skills in finding, cleaning, analyzing and visualizing data. Some programs are far ahead of others. In my own department, we cover numeracy and Excel in an introductory course but are just now developing a more intensive advanced look at computational thinking, analysis and visualization.

    This EdShift special series is designed to help all of us move forward with data across the curriculum.

    Series Posts

    How J-Schools Are Tackling Demand for Data Journalism Skills, by Katherine Krueger


    Take an Interviewing Approach to Find Stories in Data, by Derek Willis

    6 Questions for the Tow Center’s Alex Howard on Data Journalism by Meagan Doll

    7 Ways to Incorporate Data Journalism into Your Classes, by Mike Reilley

    Remix: Put Data Journalism into Every Entry-Level J-School Class, by Kathleen Bartzen Culver

    Past Coverage

    Tow Center Showcase Puts Data Journalism in the Spotlight, by Lauren E. Mack

    Big Data for Social Justice: Stackedup.org, by Meredith Broussard

    Columbia’s Lede Program Aims to Go Beyond the Data Hype, by Cathy O’Neil

    How to Create a Successful Online Course — Without Muppets, by Steve Doig

    Assignment Remix: Tackling Data Requests in Classes, by Meredith Broussard

    Young Journalists Can Dream Big with AP-Google Scholarship, by Emily Eggleston

    Twitter Chat

    Read the Storify from our #EdShift chat on teaching data journalism.

    Tagged: analytics data data journalism excel

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