Tableau: What drew you to data journalism? What do you like about it? Craig Butt, data journalist: It's all about asking questions and being able to tell stories—telling stories through data, through interactives, and through charts and that kind of thing.
Tableau: So how do you find your stories? Craig: There are a lot of different ways you can actually start off a story now. Rather than having to rely on sources or having to rely on—at the very worst—press releases. (Instead) it's given us something that we can have a look at—this data that's been put out there or that we are given—and actually find the stories ourselves.
Tableau: Can you tell us about your first visualization that you’ve had published in The Age? Craig: The very first thing I had published on The Age was a Tableau dashboard, which was looking school results.
We'd got data on the number of high achievers in all the different VCE subjects, which is like the top level of schooling in Victoria. This was given to us as raw data, so there were 30,000 different records. I used Tableau to aggregate all that information together and see which schools had got the most students who'd got above 40, which school got the most students with 50s. Which students had got the most 40-plus scores, all those types of things.
And we turned it into an interactive, which actually ran with the story. So people could actually choose their school and see how that school performed. And that got a mention on the front page of the website that day.
So and that was an area where Tableau helped us find that information and to present that information quite nicely.
Tableau: How much time do you have to produce your stories and visualizations? Craig: Sometimes I'll get in to work and I'll have to pitch a story, write it, find a case study, and do a graphic for print and online and iPad all in the space of a day.
So having tools available that allow me to turn around interactives and dashboards very quickly without having to do too much work on all the design and all the bespoke elements is really handy.
Tableau: That's great to hear! Is a day the tightest deadline you typically face?
Sometimes with Tableau there have been stories that have come up and I've put a dashboard up within about 20 minutes—just because the data's been perfectly formatted and I've sort of known how to do a quick bar chart with a few filters or something like that to get people interested in exploring the data for themselves.
Craig Butt,Data Journalist
Craig: Sometimes with Tableau there have been stories that have come up and I've put a dashboard up within about 20 minutes—just because the data's been perfectly formatted and I've sort of known how to do a quick bar chart with a few filters or something like that to get people interested in exploring the data for themselves.
Tableau: Wow, glad to hear we're able to help you meet your deadlines! Does Tableau come up in any other areas of your professional life? Craig: I've taught classes in data journalism and Tableau has been one of the tools I've shown people in there.
Tableau: That's great to hear. What are your thoughts about the future of data journalism? Craig: I think it's definitely a growing area. As more data—if there's more information being codified, as data sets get bigger, as more people are using data as the basis of decision making, it makes sense for journalists to be in this space.