A Day in the Life of a Data Journalist

November 16, 2012 Paul M. Davis

Britain’s aid mapped. Illustration: Paul Scruton for the Guardian

The Guardian is one of the most aggressive and forward-thinking news organizations to embrace data journalism in recent years. It has assembled a top-flight data science team, created a slew of impressive visualized news packages, and released the eBook Facts are Sacred: The Power of Data, one of the foundational texts for the emerging field. At the 2012 Strata conference, Kathryn Hurley, Developer Programs Engineer at Google, spoke about what she learned during a week spent with the Guardian‘s Datablog team. Datablog editor Simon Rogers explained to Hurley what it is that a data journalist does, which will sound familiar to anyone who’s spent time in a newsroom. Hurley writes:

Before explaining what a data journalist does, Simon likes to explain what a journalist does:

•Investigates a story
•Researches the facts
•Writes and reports the story
•Engages with the public
•Reveals and exposes the truth

Now how about a data journalist? What does a data journalist do?

•Investigates a story
•Researches the facts
•Writes and reports the story
•Engages with the public
•Reveals and exposes the truth

You’re not missing anything: these lists are identical! The difference lies in the methods and tools that a data journalist uses in their day to day activity.

The data journalism workflow Rogers outlined for Hurley may look familiar to data science practitioners of all stripes, only accelerated given the demands of breaking stories and the competitive news cycle. The tools of the Datablog team are relatively simple and readily-accessible — Google Fusion Tables, CartoDB, and Tableau, to name a few — allowing it to focus on the important tasks: getting the data, telling the story, and sharing the data.

Want to learn how to think like a data journalist? Find out more at the Guardian‘s Datablog.

About the Author

Biography

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