At LocalFocus we love working with data, nerding around with Excel and turning boring numbers into awesome graphs and maps. But being a data journalist can also give you a big headache. Messy data, infauxgraphics and tools that don’t do what they are supposed to do. But also those moments of bliss when something does work out as you planned. These are eleven situations every journalist working with data will recognize.
1) Tables in PDF format
Luckily, there are handy tools such as Tabula that help liberate the data.
2) Organizations that send you their data printed. From Excel. On paper!
3) Tools that recognize your numbers as strings
4) #VALUE! #VALUE! #VALUE! #VALUE! #VALUE!
5) Waiting an eternity before your addresses are geocoded
There are handy tools for batch geocoding but as it progresses it will get slower and slower.
6) Excel that messes up your data because of your country settings. These. Are. Decimals! Not. Thousands seperators!
In Holland we use commas for decimals. It´s a constant struggle if you work with both English and Dutch data.
7) Bar charts without a zero axis. We still come across them. Don´t do it, people!
8) “We don´t share the underlying data. We´ve made a fun graph ourselves, can´t you just use that?”
But of course there are also situations that make a data journalist infinitely happy.
9) When you merge two tables without any errors. A rare sight!
10) When you reach the 1,048,576 row limit in Excel
11) When you discover the news in your data after countless calculations
…and show your discovery to your colleagues.