Data Journalism Toolkit
There are times when the only tools a journalist needs to tell a compelling story are a pen, a pad, and a little determination. However, when it comes to telling stories with data, it’s usually better to have a somewhat more robust toolkit at your disposal. Here, we’ve compiled a diverse collection of powerful tools that will help you acquire, analyze, visualize, map, and otherwise make use of the actual data behind your next data journalism project. You’ll also find helpful resources for developing the specialized knowledge and skills that you’ll need to take advantage of those tools.
Tools for Data Acquisition and Analysis
- DocumentCloud. This open-source software platform allows users to easily extract, analyze, and search the text contained in not just one but multiple documents, allowing journalists and other researchers to treat documents more like data.
- OpenRefine. A powerful tool for working with messy data sets, this open-source desktop application facilitates easy data cleanup and provides versatile functionality for converting data into different formats.
- SQL. Learning even the basics of this common database query language is a great way to improve your data skills, as it can be used with many of the most popular database management tools—including Microsoft Access, MySQL, Oracle, and many others.
- CSVKit. This suite of command-line tools is incredibly useful for converting to and working with CSV, one of the most common file formats for storing data.
- R. This programming language and a free programming environment is useful for manipulating data, performing calculations, and creating graphical displays.
- Overview. Purpose-built for use by investigative journalists, this document mining application is a visualization and analysis tool that allows users to work with millions of pages of documents at once.
Tools for Visualization
- Tableau Public. This free platform is great for creating and sharing data visualizations online, enabling users to create interactive graphs, maps, and live dashboards in minutes—no coding required.
- Vizydrop. Create charts and visualizations for your data using this simple and powerful data visualization platform, which easily extracts data from across multiple sources and automates much of the chart creation process.
- Inkscape. Particularly useful for diagramming and flowcharting, this free and open-source vector graphics editor offers a rich set of features for both artistic illustrations and more technical visualization projects.
Tools for Mapping
- Carto. With a free 12-month subscription tier, this location intelligence platform offers helpful tools for visualizing data in a way that not only illustrates where things happen, but also provides insights on why they happen there.
- Mapbox. This mapping and location cloud platform is geared towards those with a developer background, but with the right skillset, it can give you valuable tools for designing custom maps.
- UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility. Based in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, this organization offers training and resources to help journalists make use of a wide array of integrated mapping technologies.
- QGIS. This free and open source Geographic Information System allows users to create, edit, visualize, analyze, and publish geospatial information on both desktop and mobile devices.
- 10 tools for the data journalist tool belt. Written by AP Editor Troy Thibodeaux, this helpful guide provides an overview of some of the most essential tools that can go into a data journalist’s toolbelt.
- Stack Overflow. This widely-used question-and-answer site offers helpful tips for programmers at every level, from beginners to professionals.
- Code Academy. This free learning platform delivers detailed lessons on a variety of programming skills and languages.
- GeoJournalism. For those looking to learn more about data visualization specifically for geographic data, this online learning platform offers a wide array of helpful resources and training materials geared toward journalists, designers, and developers.