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JOUR 307 Data Journalism

Fall 2017
T-Th 2 - 3:15 p.m.
ANDN 27

Instructor: Matt Waite
Email: mwaite3@unl.edu
Twitter: @mattwaite
Phones: (402) 802-5202 cell, (402) 472-5840 office
Office: 244 Andersen

Course description:

Every day, more of our lives is being stored in a database somewhere. With that explosion of data, journalists now more than ever need the skills to analyze and understand data to then produce the stories hidden in the information. In this class, we’ll use brainpower and software to look at raw data -- not summarized and already reported information -- to do investigative reporting. We’re going to get our hands dirty with code, data, basic stats and the thinking that goes with it. And we're going to do journalism. So buckle up and hold on.

Prerequisites:

JOUR202. JOUR302/304 or 370 is strongly encouraged.

Course goals:

  • Understand the basics of data and data journalism, including the history of the practice
  • Master the use of data in journalistic storytelling
  • Master basic data analysis for storytelling
  • Use public records laws and understand your rights as a citizen and a journalist
  • Master the use of analysis libraries and the tools of transparency for data journalism.

Required Materials:

  • A functioning laptop computer that you must bring with you to class every time and ~800 MB of free hard drive space.
  • The administrative privileges to install software on your computer.
  • The Data Journalism Handbook Free!
  • A copy of Numbers in the Newsroom. $10.
  • A copy of Data Literacy: A Users's Guide by David Herzog. Available in the bookstore.
  • Online materials and class handouts, as needed.
  • A sense of humor.

Grading:

The grading will be based on the stories you produce, the work you put into them and your participation in class.

The bulk of the graded work in this class is as follows:

Assignment Percentage of your grade
Three enterprise stories 40%
Analysis notebooks 20%
Data negotiation 20%
Assignments 20%

Enterprise stories: You will be required to pitch and execute three data journalism stories on your own during the semester. The stories must include original analysis of data you have obtained, a graphic or visualization of that data and a story worth publishing on NewsNetNebraska (or elsewhere if possible). Each story will be line edited and produced for online at an appointed time outside of class.

Data negotiation: During the semester, you will identify a database held by a government agency that you need for a story and go get it. You are negotiating for public data as a journalist, you may not promise to not use the records. Downloading data from the Internet does not fulfill the requirements of this exercise. You will be assigned a deadline for your dataset, and on your deadline day, you will give a 5-min. lightning talk about your experience along with a written report. We will discuss details in class.

Analysis notebooks: Throughout your analysis of data, you need to keep a running diary of what you have done -- what actions you took, commands you ran, thinking behind what you are doing. Yes, it will seem odd, but think of it like writing future you a note explaining how to do this again.

Notes on attendance:

Yes, we all get sick. Yes, things happen. I don’t want you to be sick in my class any more than you want to be sick. You’ve got no fewer than four ways to get ahold of me, including my cell number. If you are going to miss class, tell me before class. We’ll work it out. But you have to tell me before class for me to help you.

This said: this class builds each class onto the next one. Miss a class and you are behind. We’re going to be covering a lot of new material in this class. Miss one at your own peril.

Policies

Here's the short version.

You cheat, you fail, no exceptions.

If I’m doing something that’s keeping you from learning, tell me. Tell the Dean. Tell someone, because that’s not cool. I won’t tolerate it from myself and you shouldn’t either.

Now the longer versions.

ACEJMC Competencies

After this class, you should be able to:

  • Understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press for the country in which the institution that invites ACEJMC is located, as well as receive instruction in and understand the range of systems of freedom of expression around the world, including the right to dissent, to monitor and criticize power, and to assemble and petition for redress of grievances;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of gender, race ethnicity, sexual orientation and, as appropriate, other forms of diversity in domestic society in relation to mass communications;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity;
  • Think critically, creatively and independently;
  • Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work;
  • Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve;
  • Critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness;
  • Apply basic numerical and statistical concepts;
  • Apply tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work.

Academic integrity:

Every student must adhere to the policy on academic integrity set forth in the UNL Student Code of Conduct as outlined in the UNL Bulletin. Students who plagiarize may receive a failing grade on an assignment or for an entire course and may be reported to the Student Judicial Review Board. The work a student submits in a class must be the student's own work and must be work completed for that particular class and assignment. Students wishing to build on an old project or work on a similar project in two classes must discuss this with both professors. Academic dishonesty includes:

  • handing in another's work or part of another's work as your own.
  • turning in one of your old papers (including something you wrote in high school) for a current class.
  • turning in the same or similar paper for two different classes,
  • using notes or other study aids or otherwise obtaining another's answers for a quiz or an examination.

Anything and everything you include in your papers that comes from another source must be attributed with proper citation. That includes ideas and opinions. Plagiarism consists of using phrases, sentences or paragraphs from any source and republishing them without alteration or attribution. The sources include, but are not limited to, books, magazines, newspapers, television or radio reports, Web sites and other students’ papers.

Students with disabilities:

Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for a confidential discussion of their individual needs for academic accommodation. It is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to provide flexible and individualized accommodation to students with documented disabilities that may affect their ability to fully participate in course activities or meet course requirements. To receive accommodation services, students must be registered with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, 132 Canfield Administration, 472-3787 voice or TTY.

Diversity:

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications values diversity, in the broadest sense of the word – gender, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, income, religion, education, geographic, physical and mental ability or disability, sexual orientation. We recognize that understanding and incorporating diversity in the curriculum enables us to prepare our students for careers as professional communicators in a global society. As communicators, we understand that journalism, advertising and other forms of strategic communication must reflect society in order to be effective and reliable. We fail as journalists if we are not accurate in our written, spoken and visual reports; including diverse voices and perspectives improves our accuracy and truthfulness. In advertising, we cannot succeed if we do not understand the value of or know how to create advertising that reflects a diverse society and, thus, appeals to broader audiences.

Class Schedule:

A word of warning: This class is pretty fluid. I will move things up and back, depending on how well you’re getting things. If things change, I will update the syllabus on Canvas and I will update you.

Aug. 22, 2017

In class:

  • Introductions
  • Syllabus
  • What is data journalism?

Homework:

  • Read: Chapter 1 of the Data Journalism Handbook
  • Read: Read Meyer Chapter 1 (on Canvas under Course Documents) and realize it was (re)written in 2002.
  • Read: Herzog Chapter 1.
  • Read: The Myth of the Machine by Michael Berens in Nerds and Words on Canvas. If you have time, read a few others (like Steve Doig) and realize that document was written in 1999.

There will be a reading quiz. Alert me immediately if the bookstore doesn't have Herzog.

Aug. 24, 2017

In class:

  • Public Records: Your rights as a citizen and a journalist.
  • The public records request assignment.
  • More examples of data stories; how to start looking for them.

Lecture slides

Homework:

Aug. 29, 2017

In class:

  • Records quest pitches
  • The foundations of analysis: The general questions you ask.
  • Summary statistics, central tendency, and more.

Lecture slides

Homework:

  • Read: Herzog Chapter 8
  • Read: Numbers in the Newsroom, Chapters 1 and 2.

Aug. 31, 2017

In class:

  • Math quiz
  • Basic Spreadsheets: rows, columns, cells, importing, sorting, filtering
  • Applied analysis basics: calculating the formula for percent change

Lecture slides:

Homework:

  • Using tax data from the Nebraska Department of Revenue, calculate the following:
  • The change in Federal Adjusted Gross Income between 2000 and 2013 for every county in Nebraska.
  • The average the number of exemptions per return in 2000 and 2013 for every county in Nebraska.
  • The change in average Nebraska Net Taxable Income per return between 2000 and 2013 for every county in Nebraska.
  • In narrative form, explain what you did. How did you arrive at the answers you got? What steps did you have to take?

Sept. 5, 2017

In class:

  • Basic Spreadsheets II - mean, median, min, max, ranking

Lecture slides

Homework:

In the next class, be prepared to answer this question: If you had to explain how you got the answers to this and the previous assignment to an editor, how comfortable are you that you could do that? Could that editor follow your explanation and get the same answers? How confident of that are you?

Sept. 7, 2017

In class:

  • Does anyone see the problem here?
  • Reliability, replicability, transparency.
  • Changing how we approach data journalism

Homework:

Sept. 12, 2017

In class:

  • Analysis notebooks and data in Python
  • Explaining your steps and thinking
  • General care and maintenance
  • Basic python concepts: Variables, operators, lists, functions

Homework:

  • Complete the basic python assignment

Sept. 14, 2017

In class:

  • Working in the environment
  • An in-class example of working with a dataset
  • Means, medians and sorting in Agate

Lecture Jupyter Notebook

Homework:

Sept. 19, 2017

In class:

  • More working in Jupyter: Group by and aggregates in Agate

Homework:

  • More working with NU salaries: Group by, counting, averages and medians by job titles.

Sept. 21, 2017

In class:

  • Row-wise vs column-wise calculations in Agate
  • Percent change calculations.

Homework:

Sept. 26, 2017

In class:

  • Story pitches
  • Intro to joins

Homework:

  • Complete the join assignment

Sept. 28, 2017

In class:

  • Sanity checks and data smells
  • Basic sanity checks: Descriptives

Homework:

  • Complete the descriptives assignment TBA

Oct. 3, 2017

In class:

  • Data smells in Agate

Homework:

Oct. 5, 2017

In class:

  • Intro to data cleaning
  • Into to Open Refine

Homework:

Oct. 10, 2017

In class:

  • Realizing Phil Meyer's dream of open and replicable journalism.
  • Examples
  • Intro to GitHub

Homework:

Oct. 12, 2017

In class:

  • Line edits for first assignment. No class meeting

Homework

  • Prepare a pitch for your next story. We will pitch them in class on Tuesday.

Oct. 17, 2017

FALL BREAK

Oct. 19, 2017

In class:

  • Story pitches
  • Intro to data visualization as a reporting tool
  • Data visualization in Jupyter

Homework:

  • Basic data visualization assignment TBD.

Oct. 24, 2017

In class:

  • More data viz in Jupyter

Homework:

  • Data visualization assignment TBD.

Oct. 26, 2017

In class:

  • Working with PDFs -- Comet Docs

Homework:

  • Cleaning PDF assignment TBD.

Oct. 31, 2017

In class:

  • Working with PDFs -- Tabula

Homework:

  • Cleaning PDF assignment TBD.

Nov. 2, 2017

In class:

  • Writing with numbers
  • Truth and epistemic justification

Lecture slides

Homework:

None

Nov. 7, 2017

In class:

  • Review

Homework:

None. Line edits next class.

Nov. 9, 2017

In class:

  • Line edits for second story. No class meeting.

Homework:

  • Prepare pitch for your final story. Pitches in class on Tuesday.

Nov. 14, 2017

In class:

  • Story Pitches
  • Pivot Tables

Homework:

  • Pivot tables assignment TBD

Nov. 16, 2017

In class:

  • Basic statistics

Homework:

  • Significance testing assignment TBD

Nov. 21, 2017

In class:

  • More basic statistics

Homework:

  • Regression assignment TBD

Nov. 23, 2017

THANKSGIVING BREAK

Nov. 28, 2017

In class:

  • Scatterplots

Homework:

Prepare your open records request lightning talk and paper.

Nov. 30, 2017

In class:

The Open Records Quest Lightning Talks;

Homework:

Final stories are due at the end of the day Friday. Extensions will be grated on a case by case basis.

Dec. 5, 2017

In class:

  • The future of data journalism;
  • How to get a job with what you've learned;

Dec. 7, 2017

In class:

Line edits, sign up for a time, no class meeting.