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Friday, October 25, 2013

Mass Comm Week wraps with final look at data journalism

Mass Comm Week concluded Friday afternoon with Denise Malan’s fourth and final presentation on data journalism: “Diving Into Data.”

Malan, director of data services for INN/IRE, discussed the basic functions of Microsoft Excel during her presentation, such as incorporating formulas, sorting, filtering and the use of pivot tables. She sought to highlight Excel’s simplicity and importance in journalism as a powerful reporting tool for those unfamiliar with the process.

“I’m showing that (Excel) isn’t scary,” Malan said. “You can learn this. You just have to take it step by step.”

Malan used a hands-on approach in her sessions to give students a better understanding of Excel and practice using data-analysis techniques.

Malan’s first session Wednesday night involved teaching advanced data journalism techniques, such as importing basic text files into Excel for data use, to an audience of approximately 40 students. Her Friday audience consisted of a more modest group, approximately 10, allowing Malan to interact with students directly throughout her tutorial.

“It’s a lot easier to help people when you’re by yourself and it’s a smaller group,” she said.  “With larger groups, you’ll most likely have others with you to go around and help.”

Zac Carlson, journalism junior, attended Malan’s session with a “vague understanding” on data journalism, hoping to learn more. 

A transfer student from Lone Star College CyFair in Cypress, Carlson enjoyed the benefits Texas State's Mass Comm Week brought to students.

“(Mass Comm Week) is more specialized,” Carlson said. “As opposed to my classes, which I consider to be broad, people can learn more about jobs in Mass Comm Week.”

Bringing Mass Comm Week to a close, Malan expressed her hopes that teaching basic skill sets in data analysis will help student journalists with their reporting. She emphasized that such knowledge simplifies the fact-finding process, as well as making number-based facts easier to interpret.

You can follow Malan on Twitter @DeniseMalan

Glen Ryan Tadych is a mass communication-journalism senior at Texas State University.  Contact him at gr.tadych@gmail.com

1 comment:

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