Introduction to Data Journalism: course syllabus

Medill Northwestern University, 2019, Q1

View project on GitHub

Data journalism is everywhere today across the media, but what is it?

  1. Data journalism is about using numbers to tell the best story possible. It is not about maths, or drawing charts or even writing code. It is about telling stories first and foremost – the maths and the charts and the code are all in service to that
  2. You’re no longer thinking solely about words. Instead this is about the best possible way to tell that story.
  3. The techniques of data journalism change all the time but they are marked out by an abundance of increasingly more accessible tools that allow sophisticated manipulation and analysis of data.

The course will introduce reporters to the practice of data journalism in a busy newsroom, showcasing the importance of telling a story and how tools can help you do it. Students will learn:

  • What is data journalism — and where does it come from?
  • Finding stories in data - how do you do it?
  • How do you find the data - sources, and techniques
  • Cleaning data - how to make the data make sense
  • Scraping data - using the web as a data source
  • Visualising the data: what works and what doesn't
  • Introduction to free dataviz tools
  • Freedom of information requests
  • Mapping
  • Using search data

What do you have to do?

Students would be expected to complete a data-driven journalism project as part of the course, working to discover and use the tools to fit the job — and turning it into a compelling story.

Students will learn how use big datasets, to open up public data and learn when data stories work (and when they don’t). The course is not about learning to code, or design but how to tell a data-driven story.

This course is about participation — students who get involved, take part and throw themselves into it will be the ones to get something out of it. Read the reading list and prepare for each class in advance.

Full syllabus and reading list. As a spreadsheet (subject to change)

• Syllabus and lesson list on Canvas (students only)