Denise Malan Helps Students Dive Into Data

By Zac Carlson
Denise Malan gave Texas State University students and faculty an in-depth look at data journalism Friday.

Malan, the director of data services at IRE, spent two hours teaching attendees how to use Microsoft Excel to find and make sense of raw data. Malan stressed the importance of data journalism in the news industry.

Denise Malan closed out Mass Comm Week

“Everyone in the newsroom should know Excel,” Malan said.

Attendees worked with real data that detailed items such as a city budget, murder rates in United States cities, and Major League Baseball salaries. Malan taught them how to manipulate the data to find such things as percentage differences in revenue and how to create samples based on population data.

The data used came from sources such as a city’s record and, in the case of the murder statistics, from the FBI working in conjunction with city officials.

The lecture prompted discussions on potentials stories and interpretations. Melanie, a Texas State student wondered what might cause high murder rates in specific cities.

“Maybe there is a correlation with states and their gun restrictions,” Melanie said.

Malan went over basic technical aspects to Excel such as how to use the Pivot Table and the Sort tool.

 “Sorting is a really simple thing you can get a lot of information from,” Malan said.

She gave industry names for things such as the variable cursors in Excel; big fat white plus sign and small black plus sign. Also covered were formulas for adding, subtracting and generating percentages with the data data.

Malan stressed the importance of saving a copy of the original data in case of mistakes. One student incorrectly sorted the murder statistics.

“Albuquerque’s going have a lot of murders,” said Texas State student Glenn.

The course was attended by mostly Junior and Senior students as well as professors Kym Fox and Beth Clark. A few attending had seen Malan speak earlier in the week during her “How to Be a Data Star” session. This was the final event for Texas State’s Mass Comm Week.

 Zac Carlson is a Journalism major and a web editor at the KTSW 89.9. You can find some of his editing work here.

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