I’ve maintained a keen interest in data journalism since 2010 when – in preparing for my PhD – I began subscribing to the Financial Times and the Economist, two of the best sources of data-driven news. I’ve been paying my dues ever since. The Economist’s back-of-the-book Graphic Detail section is one of the first things I read weekly.
I ramped up my active engagement in the field by taking a CIJ summer course in July 2019, taught by Jonathan Stoneman, which led me into the wonderful world of R programming and data science. Further inspiration has been provided by the brilliant David Robinson and his Tidy Tuesday screencasts. These range from everything from searching for patterns in Taylor Swift and Beyoncé lyrics to studying US beer production.
Though I remain an aspiring rather than fully-fledged R coder, I have integrated aspects of data journalism into my teaching – specifically around research methods in feature writing – and use my skills to both scrutinise local crime and housing data. I maintain a manually-compiled spreadsheet of crime data from my area which runs from July 2017 to the most recently available month. UK police allows API interaction with its full database but those dealing in downloads are limited by the fact that the data comes in discrete monthly chunks and only goes back three years. Data from beyond this time horizon is available but is fiddly to extract. Click below to download the file I use.