A beginners guide to data journalism

I’m on a mission to learn how to code. Or at least to start with some baby steps.

Learning to code sounds like a big, hairy project. And it is. It’s complicated and requires the discipline to set aside blocks of time several days a week for focused study time.

The Atlantic started a blog war by arguing that journalism schools shouldn’t require reporters to learn code. Steve Buttry’s response nailed it: Journalists should learn and plan for the future. Or as one cable business magnate once told me: Find the news technology, then run to it.

That’s not to say that every journalist needs to be a programmer. But code is and will be an essential tool for journalism in the next 30 years. And code will most certainly grow more — not less — important in the next decade. Journalists who are at least proficient in working with and talking about code will have a competitive advantage.

But how do you go about learning to code? And for professionals, how do you squeeze something extra into your day?

I asked around. Here’s what I learned.

Ivar Vong, my former co-worker and founder of UO Hack,  suggested starting with Codecademy’s class on HTML/CSS. He suggested I spend at least 10 hours a week on their lessons, ideally in 90 minute blocks. After HTML/CSS, learn jQuery. Then Python.

Jennifer LaFleur, senior editor for data journalism at the Center for Investigative Reporting, suggested checking out the Investigative Reporters & Editors’ tipsheets on data journalism. She’s also been kind enough to post her her own links.

Lena Groeger, news app developer at ProPublica,  provides a road map for beginners. Her guide is especially helpful because she recently went from J school grad to news app developer.

For future reference, Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska,  mentioned that Brant Houston’s book will get an update soon.

Here’s what else I learned from Googling around.






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