Pioneering Reuters Editor to Teach Data Journalism Course at JMSC in May

Irene Jay Liu

Irene Jay Liu, Thomson Reuters news editor for data

The Internet is producing an abundance of information at an ever increasing rate, creating a demand for journalists who are able to combine the traditional skills of investigating, verifying, and reporting with the ability to understand and process large amounts of data quickly.

These new skills will be taught at the JMSC in May by Irene Jay Liu, Thomson Reuters‘s news editor for data.

The 12-day course will cover how to use computer tools to search through public documents for hidden information that is newsworthy. It will also teach how to present the results clearly and compellingly for a general audience.

Liu said she hopes to impress upon her students the importance of adding value to stories in ways that bloggers and amateur on-line reporters cannot.

With the advent of the Internet, she said, “everyone is committing acts of journalism” on a daily basis. However, journalists need to focus on the quality of their content, she said. “The techniques of data journalism provide the ability to add additional levels of insight to a subject” while still maintaining high standards of accuracy and integrity.

The course will be offered between May 7 and May 30 and is open to the public. Course details can be found on the JMSC Public Courses webpage. Registration is open until April 30 on a first-come-first-serve basis. Click here to register.

Liu, who holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University, led the development of Reuters’ Connected China, a groundbreaking news website that uses interactive graphics to illustrate the changing relationships among China’s governing elite.

She said Connected China is an example of how data journalists are using digital techniques to redefine news, and to create something that has never been seen before. “Most news applications are for one news event and then don’t ever change after they are published. But life isn’t like that,” she said. “News is happening all the time, altering details of what was reported in the past and changing the light we see it in.”

“So we decided to make Connected China a living application. It’s driven by a database that is updated continuously… This is a way we can use data and technology to keep the news living and moving forward and also relevant.”

Nathan Griffiths (MJ, 2011), an interactive producer at the Associated Press in New York who helped create the AP’s interactive election maps during last year’s U.S. presidential election, credited Liu’s data course with giving him a new perspective on how to use knowledge he already had.

“Irene’s class really helped me see how all these tools, many of which, like Excel, I’d been installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting for years, could be used for journalism,” Griffiths said. “It was actually kind of inspiring to realize that many of the technical skills I’d learned over the years could be used for more than fixing a broken file server or crashed computer.”

“I don’t really think of data journalism as a field of journalism as much as a series of tools and techniques you will need to learn to use if you want to be a reporter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of stories you want to cover, these days there’s going to be some kind of data on the subject, and probably more than you realize.”

Liu said news organizations are looking for journalists with data skills. “Everyone wants data. Everyone needs data. Everyone who is a journalist should understand data and has to learn how to do it. If you want a job in journalism, all you have to do is put the word data somewhere in your job title – and you will be employed.”

More information on upcoming courses the JMSC is offering to the public may be found here.