Tableau: Essential tool for data journalists

Data journalists rely on different software and apps to facilitate their newsgathering and production techniques. Most data ever recorded can be really insightful if analysed, presented and acted upon accurately. Visualising a data story well is key when helping the reader understand the information.

Tableau is a software, used to create powerful visualisations requiring minimum effort, operating many functions with high accuracy and precision, therefore, the first choice for many data journalists.

Sophie Sparkes is a data analyst at Tableau since September 2014. She came to BCU and gave a Tableau tutorial for all journalism students attending. She demonstrated basic things you can do with the software which it was more than enough to awaken an interest to commit to learning more about all of the possibilities of using it for journalism.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 21.02.47

1) Cleaning up a chosen dataset: Sophie Sparkes went through the data points on the Excel file to make us familiar with the information provided. For the purpose, we all had downloaded a dataset about student drop out rates published by HESA. After identifying what needs to be cleaned up, such as headers and footers, we decided to try to do a clean up through one of the features, the Data Interpreter and then, review the changes to the data and Tableau did .

When reviewing, it automatically opens the data on Excel, with a sheet displaying the key to the new version.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 21.04.45.png

2) Creating numerous different charts is easy and quick.

“I’m all about really fast analysis”

Sophie Sparks was saying every time she showed us a shortcut to a cool feature or some of her own tricks and hacks. She said there isn’t a wrong way doing things on Tableau, so I guess you just experiment until you get into your own habit of using it as possibilities with the software for a beginner do seem endless.



3) Using the dashboard feature is where you organise worksheets in one place 

This was done in 2 minutes with another dataset on mental health spending. I couldn’t recreate the more complex visualisations that the Tableau expert demonstrated today but I am looking forward to explore more of it.

Dashboard 1
Mental Health Spending in £m

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