The 8 books that you need to succeed as a data journalist in 2017

As a student books are a staple of the course, but in researching data journalism there are several books that have been highlighted to me as ‘must-reads’. Today, I want to share them with you…

I bought some books this week. Well, 9 to be exact.

Having spent the last month looking at data journalism it’s clear that the area is much bigger than I could have expected. To that end, I put a simple request out on the journalist sub-Reddit asking people what books they think any data journalist in 2017 should have.

While the full list contained over 56 titles (I’ll come back to them later) I had a look at reviews on Amazon and after flicking over them in my local Waterstones, I picked these 8.

Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions

This book is not a how to do data journalism guide, but instead, provides an in-depth analysis of the ethical challenges that you may face when producing online content.

The highlights for a data journalist? Looking at how you get sources, the credibility of articles, transparency among others.

To put it in perspective, as a data journalist this book also helps you tackle the legal issues that you may face when getting data. How can you make sure the data source is accurate? How can you make sure the data is presented as unbiased?

Data Journalism

This book is a great introduction to data journalism, though that’s not to say if you’re experienced in the field you won’t find this book useful.

It covers everything from basic to more advanced techniques that the industry is using whilst also asking questions such as just what is data journalism and how can it be used?

Bar far the best thing in this book is the instructive tutorial videos offering readers a deep, yet simple to understand insight into some of data journalism’s most common programs including Google Fusion Tables and ArcMap.

The Data Journalism Handbook: How Journalists Can Use Data to Improve the News

Just buy this book. No, but seriously this book is the Bible of data journalism as shown by the fact that over 78% of people who responded to my request suggested this book. The most overwhelming support for any book on this list.

Yes, it covers the basics. Just what is data journalism, why you should care about it whilst highlighting some key examples it also gives examples of data journalism in the real world, looking at ABC, BBC and the Guardian.

For those new to data journalism, the third chapter which has case-studies (Eurozone meltdown, WikiLeaks, Care Home Crisis, London Riots, e.t.c) which explain how they produced the stories. It’s a great way to see how you can yourself produce insightful data from the most simple stories.

The book then goes on to explain how you can get data, more importantly how to understand what it is showing and the most important element, how to present it in a non-alien language to the general public.

Excel 2016 Bible

It does what it says on the tin. This book is 1152 pages of Microsoft Excel goodness and is in my case, one of the most used books in this list.

There’s not much to say. The book teaches you (In great depth) more formulas than you would ever need, pivot tables and data analysis skills among countless others.

Even if you’re a seasoned veteran with Excel, this books list of functions is great as we’ve all gotten confused at some point over which function is best for our needs.

Media Law: Text, Cases and Materials

Another example of a data journalism book that’s not a data journalism book.

This book is great at covering any legal issues you may have when it comes to producing data related stories. From the protection of sources, to what defines public interest and how to prevent liable. A great feature of this book is the case studies that feature within it, all of which provide a great reference at some stage to stories you might be working on.

HTML & CSS: Design and Build Web Sites

This book was one of the first books I ever got when I started my career as a data journalist, so it’s no surprise why it got recommended by so many data journalists.

Coding is an important skill that any data journalist should have and at its core, this book gives you some basic HTML and CSS guidance. Yes, it does not go into JavaScript or Python (if you want that, there are books for it) but what this book does is give you a great and easy to understand starter view for the two most common coding.

Infographica: The World as You Have Never Seen it Before

Having data is great, but unless you can present it in a manner which is easy to consume by your readers (whatever the device they are on) then your story won’t work.

This book provides a great insight into innovative graphics design and teaches you that you don’t have to be an illustrator to provide simple or even complex yet effective visuals to tell the story of your data.

Data Visualisation with R: 100 Examples

If you’ve ever been interested in coding using R, then this book is for you. It covers at its core the fundamentals of the coding language but, walks you through the more advanced elements of it.

You will learn how to produce: Lorenz curves, box plots, scatter plots, time series, radial polygons, Gantt charts, heat maps, bump charts and a range more.

If like me, you need hands-on guidance the examples (which use real data) are shown with a step-by-step walkthrough teaching you everything that you need to know.