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July 18, 2023

Take your data reporting and mapping skills to the next level with new online course from Knight Center’s Journalism Courses

Are you a journalist frustrated by data that needs to be updated and mapped on a routine basis? Want to make the process easier?

Learn how to take advantage of free online tools to automate data reporting and mapping processes during the next online course from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas’ Journalism Courses program. The training program will be conducted by data journalism veteran John Keefe, who currently works for The New York Times and previously worked for CNN and Quartz.

Advanced Data Journalism BOC

“Advanced data journalism: Powerful data reporting and mapping tools” runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 17, 2023, and registration is now open! Check out a course syllabus, plus detailed instructions on how to sign up today.

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“We’re going to look at how you can use these services, including Github Actions and Amazon Web Services, and actually set up these systems to do the automation for you and make it super easy to keep the maps you make updated throughout the year or even longer,” said Keefe.

Data that works well with this process changes on a regular basis, like numbers on COVID-19, economic inflation, unemployment or weather, the instructor explained.

During the four-week course, students will gain hands-on data journalism experience with real-world datasets, including one of their own. Each week focuses on a different module.

  • Introduction Module reviews maps Keefe has helped to create at CNN and The New York Times. It will also serve as an introduction to the services and data used in the class, such as Github Codespaces. And, you’ll look at example data and get tips on how to find your own dataset.
  • Module 1 focuses on building shape maps, or choropleth maps, in Datawrapper and getting them ready for publication.
  • Module 2 teaches how to use a Makefile to fetch and prepare your data.
  • Module 3 shows how to use Amazon Web Services to host data files that power your maps and interactives.
  • Module 4 finally shows how to upload data and update maps using Github Actions. Keefe also shows how to make a bot that will alert you when online data changes.

“Students of this course should have a sense of why data is beneficial for storytelling and a basic familiarity with spreadsheets, but here is an important detail: No coding experience is required,” said professor Rosental Alves, the Knight Center’s founder and director. “We are delighted to have John Keefe back. He is one of the best experts in the field in the United States and has already taught four online courses at the Knight Center, always receiving stellar evaluations from journalists who took his classes.”

This training is meant to accommodate the needs of people who are very busy. Participants can complete the course at their own pace, but there are recommended weekly deadlines so they don’t fall behind during the four-week course period. Keefe will teach the course using video instruction, presentations, readings and handouts/exercises, discussion forums and quizzes. He’ll also hold live office hours with students at various points throughout the four-week course. Recordings of these office hours will be available for students who can’t attend in real time.

To participate in the course, students should have a computer with an internet connection and a web browser. Mobile devices are not recommended. Students need access to the free features of the following services: Github, Datawrapper and Amazon Web Services.

“We can learn with these services and we can start to understand how to use them,” Keefe said. “These are real tools used by real journalists every day.”

He admits some people find them to be daunting, but said he’ll show students of this course how to set up the systems and use them long after the course.

“We’re going to get you through the hardest part, which is getting it going, and we’re going to do it together,” Keefe said. “And then after the class, that will still be set up for you and you will be able to use it to do things like automate your work, learn coding if you want to, post files on the internet.”

This is a big online course (BOC), so lessons will be more advanced and just a few hundred students will take the course instead of thousands as in the massive open online courses (MOOCs) the Knight Center offers for free. This means there will be more interaction between students and the instructor, but participants have to pay a fee.

This BOC costs US $95, including full access to the course and a certificate of completion for students who fulfill course requirements. No formal academic credit is associated with the certificate.

Keefe — who has taught previous Knight Center courses focused on building bots, machine-learning, data journalism and mapping — is the weather data editor at The New York Times, where he leads a team that builds interactive features to cover day-to-day and extreme weather. Previously, he was a multimedia/graphics editor at the storied news organization and helped build interactives for the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Times’s coverage of the latter was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. Prior to joining The Times, Keefe worked at CNN as a senior data and visuals editor on the breaking news and climate teams. He was also an investigations editor at Quartz, where he created and led the Quartz AI Studio and led the Quartz Bot Studio.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a leading data journalist and engaging instructor. Spots will fill quickly, so join Keefe and the Knight Center today!