We could not have done this without the assistance of Maxwell Foxman and Joscelyn Jurich, two Ph.D. students at Columbia. Max and Joscelyn traveled far and wide, scoured the Web, and checked innumerable facts in order for this report to even come close to depicting the state of data journalism education. Their thoughtful memos, perceptive comments—and yes, meticulous spreadsheets—were vital contributions to this research.
Many of the insights in this report should be credited to our advisory committee: Sarah Cohen, Meredith Broussard, Steve Doig, Michelle Minkoff, Shazna Nessa, Jeremy Singer-Vine, Jonathan Stray, Matt Waite, and Derek Willis. Our committee met twice, first to launch the project and frame its mission, then seven months later to review our findings and help us to refine our conclusions.
A number of journalists and journalism teachers also offered in-depth interviews on their experience, the state of the field, and their vision for the future, and for that we thank them for sharing their time and their insights: Jonathon Berlin, Rahul Bhargava, David Boardman, R. B. Brenner, Matt Carroll, Ira Chinoy, Brian Creech, Catherine D’Ignazio, Nick Diakopoulos, David Donald, Jaimi Dowdell, Deen Freelon, David Herzog, Mark Horvit, Brant Houston, Mike Jenner, Dan Keating, Jennifer LaFleur, Darnell Little, Kathy Matheson, Tom McGinty, Philip Meyer, George Miller, T. Christian Miller, Maggie Mulvihill, Jonah Newman, Ben Poston, Kevin Quealy, Mike Reilley, Simon Rogers, Cindy Royal, Judd Slivka, Margot Susca, Ben Welsh, Aaron Williams, and Zach Wise.
Special thanks go out to those who invited us into their classrooms to watch how they teach. Catherine D’Ignazio of Emerson College offered our very first observation and also introduced us to her colleagues at the MIT Media Lab who are tackling similar questions about teaching data. Zach Wise and Larry Birnbaum invited us to observe their team-taught class at Northwestern. Amanda Hickman hosted us twice for her class at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Meredith Broussard and George Miller each allowed us to observe their classes at Temple University. Likewise, Dan Keating graciously hosted an in-class observation at the University of Maryland.
We would also like to thank the students who spoke to us about their experience learning to use data in their reporting: Matt Bernardini, Simeng Dai, George Dumontier, Alex Duner, Jasmine Han, John Hilliard, Austin Huguelet, Ashley Jones, Anne Li, Mary Ryan, and Nicole Zhu. We wish them fruitful careers as they shape this field of practice.
Through the course of this bi-coastal research project, the Columbia and Stanford communities have provided an unimaginable level of support and inspiration. Mark Hansen, the East Coast director of the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, has articulated a remarkable vision for the union of journalism and computation, as well as a model for bicoastal collaboration. Susan McGregor shared her deep understanding of journalism, pedagogy, and digital security at crucial stages of this project, in addition to hosting us in her classroom twice. Giannina Segnini, James Madison Visiting Professor on First Amendment Issue at the Columbia School of Journalism, offered her considerable expertise in the use of data for global investigative reporting. Those from Stanford who provided critical input and support include Hearst Professional in Residence Dan Nguyen, Peninsula Press Managing Editor Vignesh Ramachandran and Geri Migielicz, the Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism, who is co-teaching a virtual reality class in the winter of 2015.
Steve Coll expressed an elegant and convincing case for data journalism’s place in contemporary practice—from which we borrowed unabashedly and at length. This report was substantially improved by Jay Hamilton, Sarah Cohen, Jonathan Stray, Jonathan Soma, and Chris Anderson, who read our first draft and offered remarkably useful feedback. We thank Marcia Kramer for the thought and care with which she edited this report.
We are indebted to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for funding this research. Knight’s commitment to both the future of journalism education and to innovation in journalistic practice dovetailed in this project, and we hope that it is a worthy contribution to Knight’s greater mission.
Finally, we thank the person who conceived of this project, recruited our team, and served as a sagely advisor at every step: Sheila Coronel, director of Columbia’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. Sheila recognized not only the urgency of developing a data curriculum based on an empirical study of the field, but also the value of sharing the results with other journalism educators. What could easily have been just a research study, or else just a curriculum development project, was envisioned by Sheila as something that could be greater than the sum of its parts.