Loving the roll-outs of presidential campaign finance interactive data sites with great visualizations by the Washington Post and the New York Times this week. A former CU student, Jason Bartz, helped create the Post graphic, while Derek Willis is on the New York Times team.
Derek has a great blog post on the role data now plays in campaigns, something that many journalists lag behind on. Good magazine featured a story about this in the recent data issue.
A few observations about this:
- Journalists need to learn to work with and analyze data using a variety of tools, not just spreadsheets but GIS software and database software. Google is making some of this far easier than it used to be with Fusion Tables (and especially its mapping software). But we as educators aren’t blending enough of this into our teaching. And i don’t mean simply individual classes on data analysis - those would be great too - but we need to blend data into every professional class we teach.
- Journalists who learn to program are vastly employable. Jason pretty much taught himself data analysis and coding while at Scripps Howard News Service. Now he’s helping create Django apps at the Post. For those students who attended the Ruby session at Hacks/Hackers Colorado Saturday, you got a taste of this - there’s plenty more where that came from. But you’ll probably have to go to more sessions like that one, join user groups and spend a lot of time working it out yourself. Not sure that’s the way it should be, but it’ll be at least two years before my unit’s curriculum could possibly change to accommodate this. Nor do i sense more than a handful of my students are interested. Would love to be proven wrong there.
- There aren’t enough women in this field - there’s only one woman mentioned in the credits for the Post site, none for the Times site. We need more young women like Michelle Minkoff and Heather Billings in this data-driven sphere.