Research chat: Sarah Cohen of the New York Times on the state of data journalism and what reporters need to know
JR: For a cub reporter — not necessarily a data journalist, but someone who can at least speak your language — what’s the basic set of tools and competencies she should have when she shows up at Sarah’s desk?
Sarah Cohen: If they are concentrating on street reporting and writing, I would like them to have a pretty good familiarity with public records and how to find and request them for data purposes. Most reporters, even if they have some experience with public records, have really never tried to negotiate for databases and they don’t realize how different it is. So we end up, too many times, having to go in behind somebody and re-request records because they weren’t efficiently requested in the first place. The second thing I would like them to have is some imagination about what is possible, and at the same time an idea about what the limits are. One of my team members has a little statue on his desk that he calls the “data unicorn.” There is this idea that there is this “data unicorn” out there that you can just shake and it will come out with your answers. It’s also critical that reporters be at least conversant with a spreadsheet. You’ll find people losing patience with you if you need an “expert” to sort a list or to do the most basic calculations.
(Source: elizabethrkoh, via lifeandcode)