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Lonely coder? Use these tools and resources to make your job easier

By Carlie Procell

In a Friday afternoon panel, Scott Pham, a data journalist and news application developer at the Center for Investigative Reporting, led a discussion on how to more easily integrate data and technology into your newsroom.

Pham began the session by talking about The Lonely Coders Club, which is a group of data journalists who feel alone in their position in the newsroom. Pham and Brent Jones of St. Louis Public Radio formed the group when they realized others were in similar situations. They thought other lonely coders could benefit from having other knowledgeable people to reach out to when problems arise.

Lindsey Cook, data editor at U.S. News & World Report, and Alexandra Kanik, a freelance interactive developer, along with Pham and Jones, discussed different tools that have helped them in their newsrooms. These include:

Adding census data to your story helps provide context for your audience. is very user-friendly and can help you create embeddable graphics ranging from chloropleth maps to pie charts.

Interactive tables

Most data is already somewhat tabular, so interactive tables are arguably the easiest data visualization to make. Make your tables sortable, searchable, and paginated with tools like jQuery, Bootstrap, & tSorter. You can expand your tables by including maps and other visuals.


 You can find already-created projects on Github, clone them and personalize them to fit your story. If the command line scares you, there’s a GUI you can use that makes Github more user friendly.

Browser developer tools

 Use ‘Inspect Element’ in your browser and the console log to help fix web-based issues. This is a great way to look at dynamically-generated CMS code so that you can manipulate it.


 Join an online coder community like the LCC or the NICAR-L listserv to get help from journalists around the world.


 Once you learn how to ask Google the right questions, it will be an invaluable resource for you.


A browser add-on to copy multiple links to your clipboard.

Quartz’s Chartbuilder

You can easily build charts without coding. The tool also allows you to change colors and fonts to reflect your company’s brand.

Carlie Procell is a sophomore journalism major at the University of Missouri with an emphasis in design and a minor in computer science.

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