The Scope of Our Study

For this report, we collected and analyzed information on 113 journalism schools, roughly one-quarter of the nation’s journalism programs, and gathered 63 syllabi for courses on topics spanning data-driven journalism, computational journalism, data visualization, and other methods. We combined that with a series of in-depth interviews with more than 50 professors and professional journalists (many of whom are adjuncts), and we spoke with ten students or recent graduates. We also attended nine classes and participated in three massive open online courses (MOOCs).

For years, anecdotal evidence has indicated that U.S. journalism schools have fallen behind in data instruction, or rather, started from behind and have not caught up with the field as it has been practiced in newsrooms. A key tenet of this field is that using data to report and tell stories can result in a more powerful story. As LaFleur described it in her IRE article: “understand the data, interview the data, report the data.” That is the process we tried to follow for this report.

We first collected the course offerings of 113 programs accredited (fully or provisionally) by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Accreditation is a voluntary process for journalism schools. We used the ACEJMC programs simply because they represented a significant portion of journalism schools and their curriculum requirements include two that fit in with the concept of providing data journalism instruction: “apply basic numerical and statistical concepts” and “apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world.”

We scraped what we could from the journalism program websites and hand-entered the remainder. To verify the data, we then emailed or called programs that had listed either no classes in data journalism or very few classes. This yielded changes in our numbers for several programs where the online course descriptions were not accurate. In soliciting this feedback, we also heard from 11 schools where the department is revamping its curriculum and considering adding data journalism. Sixteen schools did not respond to multiple emails or phone calls. We then revisited every program website for all 113 programs and double-checked the data.1

We also collected information on multimedia offerings of each program so that we could compare multimedia course offerings with data journalism course offerings.

1. It should be noted that information on a degree program’s website does not necessarily reflect the present state of their curriculum. We reached out to professors and administrative staff in order to confirm our data, but this was not always possible.

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