Assignment for Tuesday 2/2

1) Find at least one dataset that interests you and come up with three story ideas based on that dataset. Your pitches don’t have to be long (2-3 sentences will do) but they should clearly articulate how you would use the data in the service of telling a story.

2) Publish a post here at in which you name, describe and provide a link to the dataset(s). Below that, write each pitch in a standalone paragraph. If you have trouble logging in or resetting password, let me know.

3) Data sets are everywhere, as are data hubs, which are collections of data sets. But to start, you might check out or or Reddit’s dataset subreddit. (Here’s a list of tons more places to look.) If you poke around, you’ll find data sets dedicated to all sorts of things: baseball statues in North America, executed offenders in the state of Texas since 1982, public toilets in the UK, cup stacking tournament records, and shopping carts found in rivers.

4) We have our first oral presentations on Tuesday. Please be at class on time. Thanks!

Assignment for Thursday 1/28

1) For Thursday, create a new Google Sheet, call it “[your first name] – Sleep” and then label cells B1-H1 with the days of the week (starting with Tuesday in B1 and ending with Monday in H1). In cell A2, write “hours”. Then, in B2-H2, write the number of hours and minutes you slept, starting with Tuesday 1/19 and ending with Monday 1/25. It’s ok if you don’t remember exactly how long you slept each night. Just estimate as best you can. Once you’re done, share with me at

2) For your oral presentations, I expect the following:
  • An informal oral presentation that totals 5-10 minutes
  • Using the room projector/desktop, a walkthrough of the service/tool and/or a demonstration of its use
  • A description of what the service does and why it may or may not be worth using
  • Some case studies or examples of others using the service/tool
  • Logistical details of using the service/tool (download? platform? browser based? app? free? fee? subscription?)
  • Barriers to entry?
  • Pros and cons of using
  • Optional: A powerpoint or some other visual presentation to help you structure your thoughts. 

Assignment for Tuesday 1/26

1) We’ve read a little about the promise of data journalism. Read Nate Silver’s What the Fox Knows for a little more. Now read some general critiques of data journalism: This is Why Data Journalism is Failing + The Emptiness of Data Journalism + The Data Journalism That Wasn’t. What do you make of all this? Leave a comment on this post with some thoughts by Monday 1/25 at 3 p.m. Then respond to two classsmates’ comments before class starts at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

2) Complete this getting-to-know-Google-Sheets tutorial and read this getting-started guide to Google Sheets. Start a Sheet and share with me at

Assignment for Thursday 1/21

1) Read Mary Jo Webster’s “What is a data state of mind?”

2) Think of a story you’ve written (or read) for which you (or the reporter) could have quantified or measured something to help strengthen the reporting and/or better tell the story.

3) Write a brief summary of the story (who wrote it? for whom? when?) and then describe how the quantification/measuring could have helped. Include a link.

Assignment for Tuesday 1/19

1) Read Paul Bradshaw’s intro to and part 2 of The Data Journalism Handbook. Then, read Paul’s short piece on the inverted pyramid of data journalism. In the comments of this post, write in your  own words a 1- to 2-sentence definition of data journalism.

2) Look for an email from WordPress inviting you to be a user of

3) If you weren’t in class on Thursday and didn’t fill out this student questionnaire, please do that asap.

4) Also, please remember to let me know if you’re taking this class as a depth writing or media capstone credit. (Some of you may not be taking it as either. Let me know in that case, too.)