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Data journalism, Data visualisation

A data journalism workflow

First published on Guardian Data

Data journalism workflow, by Mark McCormick

Data journalism workflow, by Mark McCormick

Before a dataset results in a data journalism story, there’s a whole process of sifting and finessing and generally sorting the data out. The split is roughly 70% tidying up the data, 30% doing the fun stuff of visualising and presenting it. So, how do we get through that 70%?

Guardian graphic artist Mark McCormick has helped us visualise that process. So, yes, this is a graphic about how we produce data that often results in, er, graphics. A data visualisation about data visualisations, if you will.

You can get a pdf of this here
Each of these steps could be a piece in itself – and over the next few weeks, we will break them down. But, in short, it goes something like this:

• We locate the data or receive it from a variety of sources, from breaking news stories, government data, journalists’ research and so on

• We then start looking at what we can do with the data – do we need to mash it up with another dataset? How can we show changes over time?

• Those spreadsheets often have to be seriously tidied up – all those extraneous columns and weirdly merged cells really don’t help. And that’s assuming it’s not a PDF, the worst format for data known to humankind

• Now we’re getting there. Next up we can actually start to perform the calculations that will tell us if there’s a story or not – and then sanity check them to see if it just sounds wrong

• At the end of that process is the output – will it be a story or a graphic or a visualisation, and what tools will we use?

You can get a pdf of this here. What have we missed – or how do you do it?

More data

Data journalism and data visualisations from the Guardian

About Simon Rogers

Data journalist, writer, speaker. Author of 'Facts are Sacred', from Faber & Faber and a range of infographics for children books from Candlewick. Edited and launched the Guardian Datablog. Now works for Google in California as Data Editor and is Director of the Sigma awards for data journalism.


7 thoughts on “A data journalism workflow

  1. Simon, very interesting, but this also implies that the workflow necessarily starts with obtaining data and then deriving the story from there? How about being interested in a given area and then start looking for and/or generating data to be able to explore it?

    Posted by Ricardo Pietrobon | January 12, 2014, 5:56 am
  2. Tks Simon, I am from http://www.opendata.tw/ and this figure help me a lot to explain the data journalism workflow.
    I just make a chinese (Taiwan) translation and paste it here : https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=546047748767602
    Actually I use this to promote our own data journalism camp which will be hold at 25/26 of this month.

    Posted by whisky | May 10, 2013, 5:41 pm


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About me

Data journalist, writer, speaker. Author of 'Facts are Sacred', published by Faber & Faber and a new range of infographics for children books from Candlewick. Data editor at Google, California. Formerly at Twitter, San Francisco. Created the Guardian Datablog. All opinions on this site are mine, not my employers'. Read more >>

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