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Where data journalism jobs are and what skills they demand

By Chris Persaud

Journalism job ads for programmers emphasize making web pages, apps and graphics more than researching, reporting and writing.

This is what I found after analyzing 82 such job listings posted to DataJournalismJobs.com, which I made in July. Data journalism includes reporters who use databases to uncover huge stories – like racial discrimination in home loans in Atlanta. It also includes programmers who make stunning infographics based on data.

Hiring editors who want skilled coders post openings to DataJournalismJobs.com. I wrote a Python script to count all words in the Skills column, then I grouped together similar skills into categories. (Example: I grouped “PostgreSQL”, “MySQL” and “SQL” into “SQL”).

The chart below shows the most common skills mentioned in DataJournalismJobs.com listings. Mouseover or tap each bar for more details.


Most popular skills listed on DataJournalismJobs.com

The most in-demand skills for data journalism postings have little to do with gathering and reporting information, as expected of a traditional reporter. Instead, the most popular skills involve displaying information.

Jobs that demand people in the website-making languages of Javascript, CSS and HTML – which account for 87 mentions – reflect this. As do ads demanding knowledge in Python, Ruby and mapping.

Reuters in January posted this opening for a Data Visualization Developer, listing HTML, CSS, Javascript, QGIS, Python and/or Ruby as preferred skills for applicants.

Reuters is looking for a seasoned front-end web developer to work with the graphics team building news-driven data visualizations.

Here’s an October post from Bloomberg for a Data Journalist skilled in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Bloomberg is seeking a talented and motivated data journalist to create graphics and illustrations for a new operation that provides a morning news summary to users of the Bloomberg Terminal.

Both example posts emphasize design – making interactive graphics. Many ads on DataJournalismJobs.com describe jobs for designers or programmers who can design. Few posts describe jobs where new hires dig for information to help break a story.

But those jobs do exist. It helps to find an ad where preferred skills include SQL, Microsoft Excel or R.

Like this one from the Los Angeles Times posted in October for a summer 2016 internship, which asks for applicants skilled in SQL and R, among other programming languages.

The Data Desk is a team of reporters and computer programmers that works with journalists in The Times newsroom to collect, organize, analyze and present large amounts of information. In short, we use data to find and tell stories.

Or this opening from Reuters seeking a data reporter, posted in September. It asks for applicants skilled in Excel, SQL and R.

We want a data ninja who can hunt and slay data, resulting in stories that uncover business secrets, drive markets and challenge titans of industry. You must enjoy collaboration and have a sixth-sense for finding stories that matter. Our data reporters do not merely serve up data; they work with other reporters and editors to conceive stories and shape our reporting.

Where to find data journalism jobs

I also analyzed job locations for 75 postings that had valid locations. Valid locations exclude listings where the stated location is something like “Remote”, “various” or blank. Check the chart below. Tap or mouseover the donut chart for more details.


Locations of jobs posted to DataJournalismJobs.com

Two of America’s most world-renowned cities hold 40 percent of openings posted on DataJournalismJobs.com.

New York City account for 21 positions posted to my site since its launch. Washington, D.C. accounts for nine jobs. Together, that’s 30 out of 75.

Seems like programmers who want a job in data journalism – whether in design, development or reporting – may end up in one of those cities working for a national news company. Companies from those cities who have posted to my site include The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian US, ProPublica, Reuters and Bloomberg.

Programmers who accept data journalism jobs elsewhere will likely work for local news companies. For example, three openings in Austin, Texas – one of the best cities for tech jobs – came from the Austin-American Statesman and the Texas Tribune.

Anyone who wants to apply for data journalist positions can check DataJournalismJobs.com, Data Journalism Jobs on Silk.co, Open News and News Nerd Jobs.

Quesionts? Comments? Insults? Work offers? Email christopher.mark.persaud@gmail.com. I'm also on Twitter