Why I delve for data

by Gregory Korte on February 23, 2010

Michelle Minkoff, a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, has been doing a series of profiles of some of the smartest database reporters and newsroom developers around: People like Matt Waite, Chase Davis, David Donald, Maurice Tamman and Mary Jo Webster. She calls them “data delvers.”

How the heck she came up with my name, I’ll never know.

Anyway, she does a decent job of summarizing my crusade for greater data literacy in the newsroom:

While not everyone needs to be a specialist, Korte said, “Everybody should know Excel or a spreadsheet, and how it’s organized, how to do counting, totaling and averaging.”

“Don’t be afraid of data,” said Korte.  To him, that means being willing to use data sets, but also approaching the numbers as you woud any source.  “Think about the data that is available, talk to the people who have it, think about what information you want.”

Using programming for analysis and web scraping is a great way to take your skills further, he said.  “The value of programming is that it can speed up the more repetitive tasks that you were doing manually, and it allows you to do what others cannot.”

“Most reporters see a new database, and it’s just too tempting– they’re only doing the story because it’s low-hanging fruit, begging to be analyzed.  The issue in news is to find the right data.”

We should all be data delvers.

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