Dear Analyst Episode 16: The New York Times’ data bootcamp

A few months ago, The New York Times’ Digital Transition team headed by Lindsey Cook published a blog post about a data bootcamp they led for their reporters and editors. The New York Times frequently publishes amazing data visualizations, and it’s awesome to see this newsroom pushing their reporters into the world of “data journalism.” In the words of Cook:

We wanted to give our reporters the tools and support necessary to incorporate data into their everyday beat reporting, not just in big and ambitious projects.

In this episode, I review some of the materials (Google Drive link) Cook and her team released in the blog post on skills taught during this bootcamp. The entire bootcamp is done in Google Sheets, and some of the skills they teach include importing data, Pivot Tables, cleaning data, and more.

Telling a Data-Driven Story

What I appreciate most about this bootcamp (based on the materials provided) is the focus on using data to tell a story (plug: I have an online class about this subject). It’s one thing to report on the facts, but another to use the data to support the facts. The bootcamp goes into detail on different method reporters can use to present data in a compelling way to their audience. This Google Doc shows some of the methods you can use to create a data-driven story. The graphic below is also a good “cheat sheet” on methods you can use.

The argument for data journalism is shown in these 5 stories from reporters who started using spreadsheets in their stories. In this episode, I highlight the story from John Ismay, an At War reporter who used spreadsheets for the simple purpose of keeping track of characters and event timelines.

Props to the New York Times for releasing these materials for free to the public so that more newsrooms can train their staff to write more data-driven stories!

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting: