Journalists attending an APME Newstrain workshop last month were getting a crash course in using spreadsheets to tell stories and reveal information from public records.
The workshop, led by Michael Berens at the Chicago Tribune, reminded me that all journalists should be able to grasp the basics of Excel and similar spreadsheets.
But why should features journalists do the same?
It’s simple. We love to tell stories in different ways, and visualizing data is a way to do that.
I’ve assembled some links to excel basics for journalists. Berens also uses a dataset of Wisconsin hunting accidents — worth the price of admission!
Data journalism with Excel, Ken Blake, Middle Tennessee State University. This primer includes lots of links to YouTube videos on learning the difference between rows, columns, and importing data.
Introduction to Excel. Peter Aldhous helps you with the annoying things like formatting a dataset and making things readable. He even covers calculations and percentages!
Spreadsheet tutorial. Created by the Advanced Media Institute at Berkeley, this is another basics post that takes you through the initial steps of creating a spreadsheet.
Some tips that even novices will understand:
— When you’re starting to mess with a dataset, make a copy, in case you really mess something else and have to begin again.
— A function to create a “pivot table” allows you to organize your data more in plain English. It creates a window in which you can add or subjects data points.
Digital Tool Tuesday: Useful (and offbeat) websites for features reporting
In this edition, some resourceful websites to use in lifestyle reporting, courtesy of The Journalist’s Toolbox, itself a great compilation of what journalists need to navigate reporting in the digital age.
Simply done, this is a timeline of the history of food. Want to know when “The Virginia Housewife” was first published? This timeline has that. Want to find out when the first dedicated baby food was produced; it’s got that, too. Click on the hyperlink and get a lot of well sourced material to mine for any food history story. Bonus: a page that outlines food prices in the past.
A USDA site, this includes great consumer information and personal tools for weight loss and increasing activity. Editors will find the Food-A-Pedia a useful tool to discover nutritional information on any food.
Math for journalists
Math tutorials from the L.A. Times Robert Niles. We like the simple explanation of percent change.
Digital Tool Tuesday Welcome to a new weekly feature of SFJ, in which we share tips about a digital tool to leverage for lifestyle and arts and entertainment coverage. The tool: Storymap
What does it do? Creates clickable map that allows you to tell a story at each point.
What’s cool about it? Embed video and photos at each point, bringing a map to life.
According to JournalismDegree.org, they are among the “151 Twitters Worth A Follow” in its recently released “Best in #Journalism” list.
So the Society for Feature Journalism — @WeAreSFJ — is in good company at spot #106!
Here’s JournalismDegree’s description of our Twitter account: “The Society of Features Journalism helps journalists refine their craft through some of the most innovative posts across the internet. They’re incredibly active in retweeting other notable journalism publications, which only makes their feed stronger.”
JournalismDegree.org describes itself as “a site dedicated to providing timely and relevant information about journalism degrees and programs.”
It decided to put out this list because of Twitter’s effect on journalism.
“These are some of the journalists, bloggers, and news organizations that are pushing the limits of what can be accomplished with Twitter,” the site explains. “Budding journalists and seasoned pros should be following every one of these accounts.”
Thank you! We are honored to have been included on this list and we’ll keep tweeting away.
The Dallas Morning-News is sponsoring a new contest honoring narrative nonfiction writing in a daily U.S. newspaper or a U.S. newspaper website. It’s called the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest. The contest is conducted by the Mayborn Conference.
The prizes are impressive:
- First place winner will receive $5,000 and free registration to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference July 19-21, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas
- Second place winner will receive $2,000
- Third place winner will receive $1,000
Submissions must have been published between Jan. 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012. Deadline to enter is June 1.
The SFJ Foundation is accepting donations to seed the start of its new life.
Perhaps this could be one of your #26actsofkindness, or your way to ensure the future of features journalism. Through our annual conference and the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows Program, SFJ aims to advance and recognize the important role features journalism plays in the media and society. What would we be without our stories?
To make a contribution, send a check payable to SFJ Foundation and mail to SFJ Foundation, 1100 Knight Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
No donation is too small.