Giving data journalism a second shot

By David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez
David Rodriguez

Flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., for an internship was a nerve-racking way to start my year. But that jump for a data journalism internship with The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University was the best choice I’ve made this year.

My first data internship was at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. I was very new to SQL and had a basic sense of Excel. I tackled four large databases from the City of San Francisco that were full of inconsistencies. That experience made me question whether I wanted to get into data journalism. But data problems are to be expected in this area.

During the last few months, I have been lucky to work closely with the editors at The Workshop on exploring different ways to use data journalism skills and on topics that I am passionate about.

My projects included filling a dataset by making hundreds of cold calls and reporting on border arrests of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America.

I felt that I had creative freedom over my story pitches, so my work here focused a lot on immigration-related stories. One of the projects that I have been updating is an interactive timeline showing immigration-related events since President Donald Trump took office. I also researched and created a timeline for the Workshop’s story on sexual offender registries.

The Workshop funded my trip to the CAR conference in Chicago, where I connected with data journalists from all levels of experience. I wrote a post about my first-time experience at the data journalism conference for Investigative Reporters and Editors.

But my internship at the Workshop didn’t just involve data. I have been working with my editor to start a solid foundation for a podcast. I have more experience in producing audio features, so I’ve been working hard to get this project going.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop is different from other nonprofit newsrooms because it connects students and recent graduates with professional, experienced journalists and newsrooms. The Workshop’s goal to collaborate, in my eyes, creates its own space in the world of journalism where investigative journalists of all levels can work together.

While moving across the country for an internship to give data journalism a second chance was terrifying, I now head back to California feeling more confident in my work and abilities as a data journalist.