Introduction and Summary of Curricular Recommendations

The preceding chapters offer a picture of the state of education in data and computational journalism in the United States, as well as an argument for the necessity and even urgency of journalism schools committing to teach these subjects. What follows in this chapter are model curricula and guidelines that we hope will facilitate this transition. We intend these models to be flexible; we hope that this information can be applied across schools despite variation in term length, academic units, and time to degree.

This chapter is divided into five sections. The first is a model for an introductory class in data and computation that we recommend as a requirement for all journalism students. The second section offers ways of integrating data and computational instruction into core classes and certain electives. The last three sections present full model curricula for a range of degrees. The first of those three is a track or concentration in data and computational journalism. It is flexible in order to be generally applicable at the undergraduate or graduate level. The other two are models for advanced graduate work. The first presumes a student with some reporting experience or a journalism degree in hand who wishes to develop expertise-driven reporting skills — that is, to write about complicated subjects from a position of deep understanding. The final model is for a research-driven, lab-based graduate degree in emerging media and technological innovation.

Above all, we recommend that all programs have a required foundational course in data journalism, teaching basic principles of data analysis for the purpose of finding stories while cultivating a sense of the general techniques and possibilities of data-driven reporting. The premise of this course is that all reporters must be prepared to use data in their work and to recognize when this approach is needed.

Considering that many journalism programs are designed to cover a dizzying range of material in a short period of time, some of our readers might be wondering where to find room for a required class in data journalism. Schools that have an existing class on basic numeracy for journalists could rework the class to include a greater emphasis on data-driven reporting methods. Another opening might lie in multimedia classes, many of which were introduced only in the past decade. Compared with data journalism, which frames a mindset for gathering and presenting information, multimedia instruction often centers on teaching tools with uncertain shelf lives. It might be time to consider retiring the audio slideshow from required coursework to make room for data skills.

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