5 things aspiring data journalists need to know

So you decided data journalism is something you’d like to spend a couple of next years on. Before you embark on this journey, here’re five things every aspiring data journalist needs to know.

  1. Data journalism means you need to be tech savvy. Which means, you’ll need to work hard, much harder as in “normal” text journalism. Data journalism means you need to at least be aware of all the stages a data project will go through, form acquiring your data and scraping web pages to data visualisation. If you want to call yourself a data journalist, you’ll need to improve your skills on the go and be willing to learn something every day.
  2. Good news is, it’s still about a story. It doesn’t matter how revolutionary a data set you have found might be, as long as you can’t tell the story behind the data and find a particular angle for it, you don’t have a story.
  3. You’ll need to collaborate with others. Data journalism requires a broad set of skills such as storytelling, acquisiton of data and technical analysis, design and visualisation. A person being able to perform all these tasks equally good virtually doesn’t exist. That’s why you’ll most probably need to do some team-work and find people who will help you develop your projects.
  4. You need to practice a lot. Data journalist is the job you most likely will learn on the go since only few journalism courses contain modules on data journalism. That’s why you need to read a lot – for example blogs by Paul Bradshaw or Mirko Lorenz. Have a look at the Data Journalism Handbook. Read books like “Designing Data Visualizations” or “Visualizing Data”. After that, go out and practice. Start by trying out simple tools like DataWrapper and Excel, then learn to use Tableau Public and, finally, get to know D3.
  5. You have great career chances. There’re only few data journalists out there, in contrast to the number of good reporters. If you are into the field, you have great career perspectives.

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