Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

Why Data Journalists Learn Python

1 min read

Melissa Lewis is a data reporter for Reveal, a Python teacher, the organizer of PyLadies Portland and the Portland chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.

Melissa is here to share her work as a data journalist who uses Python. By the end of our conversation you’ll understand:

  • What is data journalism?
  • Why are Python and SQL great languages for data journalism?
  • What skills does a data journalist need?
  • Who is doing some of the best data journalism these days?

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Q&A with Data Journalist, Melissa Lewis 

1. What is data journalism?

Data journalism means using data to tell stories. For example, that could mean using infographics like in Emily Eng’s work at The Seattle Times, or it could mean presenting raw datasets to increase transparency or support a thesis, as in The Texas Tribune’s government salaries explorer.

2. What skills does a data journalist need and why are those important?

A data journalist often has a journalism background but also relies on a strong set of skills for parsing data using coding languages like Python, SQL or R. 

3. How could I get started doing some “tiny data journalism” in my local area? Maybe I don’t want to become a data journalist, but I’m curious to see what data is available. 

Ask for records! People think of this as a journalism thing, but records serve the public. They are your right!

Mentioned in this episode:

  1. NICAR
  2. Ida B. Wells as a data journalist
  3. Portland homeless accounted for majority of police arrests in 2017, analysis finds
  4. Melissa Lewis –The Metaphor of Semaphore: Explaining the Internet – DonutJS February 2018
  5. The Portland Police Bureau use of force report where 96/221 people on which force was used were “transient”
  6. Tableau graphics
  7. Census and federal funding
  8. Eyeo Festival, annual data visualization conference
  9. Amanda Cox’s talk “Visualizing Uncertainty
  10. Commute story with margin of error
  11. The Queen podcast, for which author interviewed other authors like David Grann, who wrote Killers of the Flower Moon, and James Forman Jr.
  12. “Racially charged”
  13. AP Stylebook section on data journalism
  14. Methodology for ProPublica’s investigation into racial disparities in bankruptcy filings and outcomes
  15. Methodology for Kept Out, Reveal’s investigation into modern day redlining
  16. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science
  17. PyLadies
  18. Matt Davis’ Twitter profile
  19. Jessica McKellar’s How the Internet Works talk at PyCon 2013
  20. Jupyter
  21. Center for Open Science
  22. Periscopic
  23. Think Python 2e 
  24. Regexextract google sheets
  25., tool to compose and learn regular expressions
  26. Navicat
  27. Numbers in the Newsroom
  28. Khan Academy Statistics
  29. Precision Journalism
  30. Hack Oregon


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Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.