Your 101 Courses. Learn the fundamental skills and techniques to be a better multimedia reporter.

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Your Starter Guide to Data Journalism

A big part of StateImpact’s editorial mission is to be data-driven — to focus on asking for, acquiring, cleaning up and presenting numbers and information in ways to best educate our readers. We’re lucky to have Matt Stiles coordinate our data effort and teach us what he means when he talks about being a data journalist. Here’s his first webinar with the group — Data 101.

What is “Data Journalism”?

  • The use of electronic records to find, support and explain stories.
  • Basic social science methods
  • Less “he said”, “she said”
  • Visualization not always required

Find The Right Tool

  • Story type: online, radio – both?
  • What’s the need: Data queries, visualization, maps, text analysis?
  • Data structure: Should it be cleaned, reorganized, normalized before you begin any analysis?

Basic Data Journalism Tools

  • Spreadsheets: Excel, Calc
  • Databases: Access, MySQL, Base
  • Mapping: ArcGIS, QGIS
  • Statistics: SPSS, SAS, R
  • Online: Google, “Hidden” Web

Online Journalism Tools

  • Data Analysis: Fusion Tables, MS Web Apps, Google Docs
  • Visualization: Many Eyes, Tableau Public, Google Charts, Highcharts
  • Mapping: OpenHeatMap, Tableau, Fusion Tables, GeoCommons, QGIS
  • Text: DocumentCloud, Wordle, xpdf

Finding Inspirations

Becky’s Camera of Choice


What a lovely Canon G-12, Kate.

We’re lucky to have our multimedia queen, Becky Lettenberger, guide us through the fast-changing world of cameras and other tech gear we’ll use to make beautiful images and tell stories in non-traditional ways.

Becky is also the one who recommended that the stations purchase Canon G 12 cameras for your use. Now, an actual princess gives the cameras her royal endorsement.

See? We have excellent taste.

Now, for more guidance on using your camera and what each button means, look no farther than our webinar from last week.

Photo 101

Our multimedia trainer-in-chief Becky explains the buttons and parts of the StateImpact Canons that you need to know, and Elise discusses the best sizes and proportions you should use to display those photos on your site.

Data Reporting Resources You Can Use

Few journalists are programmers or graphic designers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t dabble in data journalism online. Here are some free, easy tools that you, our StateImpact reporters, will be using to tell stories.


IBM Many Eyes: A site with multiple visualization tools, including interactive bubble charts, line graphs and tree maps. It’s also among the best (free) places to experiment with text visualization. It has weaknesses, though. Users can’t style graphics to match their own CSS, and the embeds require a Java browser plugin. Still, it’s a neat tool.

Google Charts API: A tool that allows you to create and embed multiple, customizable chart styles without branding or clutter. The API also has multiple libraries for programmers to create charts dynamically from data. Here’s an example.

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Page Design Webinar

Here’s a recording of Wednesday’s page design webinar, in which we examined four before and after examples from across the Argo Network. (The recording weighs in at roughly one hour and five minutes, so it may take a moment for the content to load. If you have trouble accessing the recording, let us know.)

The webinar video is available here.

For those of you that missed it, The presentation was divided into three parts:

  • In part 1, we walked through 4 before and after examples from across the Argo network discussing the rationale behind the changes I made.
  • In part 2, I recreated a post from scratch, and highlighted some of the techniques we discussed in part 1. (cropping, creating asides, using sub-headings)
  • Part 3 was a Q&A in which we discussed any formatting and design challenges that weren’t covered in the presentation.