University launches Australia’s first data journalism course

With data journalism growing in importance across Australian newsrooms The Centre of Advanced Journalism, at the University of Melbourne, has launched what is believed to be Australia’s first dedicated course on the topic.

Run as an intensive class the course shows students how to analyse and filter large data sets for the purpose of creating a new story.

“Our students have looked at key examples of data journalism and also learnt how to find, scrape, analyse and visualise the data themselves,” said the Centre’s Director Margaret Simons. “The feedback so far is very good.”

The course was taught by Craig Butt, a journalist specialising in data journalism, at The Age newspaper. It is aimed at students studying in the university’s Masters of Journalism program and also industry practitioners interest in expanding their skills in data journalism.

Example of data journalism topic | Source: Creative Commons

“The Age has done some good stuff and there are a number of other examples on a smaller scale in Australia,” said Simons.

“But nothing compares with The Guardian’s efforts overseas, I think if you look at their data journalism site… we don’t compare to that yet.”

Simons said she was pleased with the enrolment of 10 students, given this is the first time they have run the course.

“It’s one of those interesting fields that is a crossover between business intelligence, journalism, and IT. Ultimately there are a lot of people doing data journalism but not calling it data journalism,” she said.

“Next year we’ll be marketing it strongly both as a stand alone unit and as a entree to the masters.”

Nic Christensen


  1. NS
    18 Feb 13
    2:03 pm

  2. what’s that saying – there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics?

    i’ve never met a journalist who is also good with numbers and it terrifies me that they’ll feel qualified to read a story into large data sets

  3. Nuts
    18 Feb 13
    2:15 pm

  4. This is ADVANCED journalism?????

  5. The Internetz
    18 Feb 13
    2:49 pm

  6. Craig Butt. Sure he had his fair share of jokes growing up. #allduerespectbutcouldnothelpbutsaysomething

  7. The Rev Mountain
    18 Feb 13
    4:26 pm

  8. @ NS: You’re acting on the assumption that a number of people coming into the course aren’t going to already have a background in dealing with statistics.

    Most journalists will be building stories and infographics out of publicly available data, which is linked to (see the Guardian datablog for best practice, though Fairfax is good in this regard too).

    Disclosure: I should note that I’ve just finished the course myself.

  9. John Harrison
    18 Feb 13
    11:29 pm

  10. U Melbourne runs “what is believed to be Australia’s first dedicated course on the topic.”
    It’s not.
    If you look at the course profile online (Google UQ JOUR1710) we at UQ taught this stuff last year to nearly 300 first year undergrads in Investigative Journalism.
    Dr John Harrison
    Program Director
    Undergraduate Journalism
    The University of Queensland

  11. Andrew Duffy
    22 Feb 13
    4:32 pm

  12. Great to see UoM taking this on. Would love to know the details, how complicated it gets etc.