Sunday, 25 March 2012

Top 5 essential skills for a data journalist

New York Times’ Aron Pilhofer answer to that question on the NICAR-L mailing list:

My top five (in order of importance):

  1. Know that the most important part of data journalism is… journalism. Reporting. In other words, you know how to report a story, you understand how to treat data as a source. You know how to pick up a phone, and not just assume that everything you get in data form (especially government data) is complete and accurate.
  2. You have at least basic data skills — meaning, you know your way around a spreadsheet. You can figure out for yourself how to import data, and do something with it. You also understand the basics of data analysis: rates, ratios, sums, averages, medians, and how to use them.
  3. You have command of more advanced data analysis skills, such as GIS, basic statistics, advanced SQL, etc. You also may know some basic programming techniques (using the language of your choice… Python, Perl, Ruby. ILENE.. shoot, even .NET) to scrape the web, get and clean data.
  4. You can apply your basic programming techniques to the creation of data-driven news applications using off-the-shelf tools like Google maps, MapBox, Fusion Tables, etc. At this point, you are not running servers, or serving database-driven apps. But you are creatively using what is available to you to add to your reporting online. This is probably where you need to get on the Javascript train.
  5. You have some skills with a web framework (Django, Rails, Grails) in order to enhance your reporting online through data-driven applications that you create from scratch and host.