Home The Data Journalist Tool Belt

The Data Journalist Tool Belt

Troy Thibodeaux is the Editor for Newsroom Innovation at the Associated Press and has written a terrific post on resources for data journalists. Now, you probably aren’t a journalist, but you should pay attention anyway, since there are plenty of things you can do to manipulate data in interesting ways for your management and others who are far less technical than yourself. Take a look at that piece, and connect that with what Jason Hiner at TechRepublic wrote last month and you will see a potential job opportunity.

The deal is that IT folks are going to have to adjust and become better skilled at manipulating data, in ways that non-IT folks can understand. We all need to become better at this.

I grew up professionally during the go-go period of the 1980s, back when we put PCs everywhere. It was fun roaming the corporate halls and elevators, installing 1-2-3 and dBase. “But that revolution is over. The technologies are deployed. The users are trained. The data centers are built,” writes Hiner. Now it is time for developers to take over. “The demand for developers is increasing because everyone wants an app now – from Target to Allstate to Joe’s Garage down the street.” He correctly observes that many of the best developers moonlight for others, because demand is so high. “Developers are about to step into the spotlight. This is going to be their decade.”

So what can you do if you can’t or don’t want to write code? Look at some of Thibodeaux’ tools and see if you can bridge the gap between full-fledged programming and data analysis. In many cases, that is really all what your users want anyway: the ability normalize a data base so that duplicates are removed, or produce a spreadsheet that can be manipulated easily by a manager to test various hypotheses, or create a map that shows a particular trend. We have written before about data visualization tools, and this is just the natural extension of this trend.

As a case in point I offer up my own sister, who works for a school district and knows SQL. She didn’t get a technical degree (she majored in college in anthropology), and she learned the database commands because she needed them to get her job done and produce reports for her managers.

So take a closer look at these tools in the Poynter post and suggest your own favorites. It could be a great career move.

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