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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cheryl E. Phillips
COM 460
Seattle Campus

Special Reporting Topics

Topics vary. Prerequisite: COM 360.

Class description

Data and investigative journalism. In this class, you will learn how to use data to improve the journalism you do. We will cover everything from why having a data mindset is important, how to negotiate for data, analyze data, map data and most importantly, find the story in the data. You will learn how to write a story from data without making it a mind-numbing experience for the reader – and you will explore a variety of techniques for visualizing data to extend the reach of your story.

Among the practical skills you will learn: • Open records: A basic understanding of open records law and how to successfully obtain data from a governmental body. • Data journalism skills: Data cleaning and analysis skills using Google Refine, Excel and MS Access, including understanding and executing queries in SQL (structured query language). • Data visualization and basic mapping with Google Fusion Tables, and Tableau Public Software, as well as an introduction to the basics of JavaScript and a few other tools for illuminating information.

Student learning goals

Master basic data analysis skills for use in journalism and how to find the story in the data.

How to tell the numbers-packed story (narrative techniques).

Master basic data visualization techniques and understand best practices.

Learn how to negotiate for data.

Learn how to background using a data frame of mind.

General method of instruction

Hands-on data analysis and visualization work and classroom discussion.

Recommended preparation

Read as much investigative journalism as you can. Become a student member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (in lieu of a textbook). Knowing some basic data skills, such as MS Excel or Google spreadsheets will help in this class.

Class assignments and grading

Hands-on data analysis and visualization assignments, writing assignments and skills tests.

Participation in classroom discussion, class projects, writing assignments, data analysis assignments and visualization assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Cheryl E. Phillips
Date: 09/25/2013