About the authors

Ben Welsh is the editor of the Los Angeles Times Data and Graphics Department, a team of reporters and computer programmers in the newsroom that works to collect, organize, analyze and present large amounts of information. He is originally from Swisher, Iowa.

James Gordon is a designer and developer at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. He also teaches data journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism. He was previously lead developer for the California Civic Data Coalition.

Andrea Suozzo is the data editor at Seven Days newspaper in Vermont. She works with reporters to develop data-driven stories, creates data visualizations for stories and builds bots and databases to support newsgathering.

Cheryl Phillips is the Hearst Professional in Residence at Stanford. She is a founder of Big Local News, the Stanford Open Policing Project and the California Civic Data Coalition. Previously, Phillips worked at The Seattle Times for 12 years in a variety of reporting and editing roles with the investigations team and across the newsroom.

About this class

This course was first developed by Welsh for an October 2016, “watchdog workshop” organized by Investigative Reporters and Editors at San Diego State University’s school of journalism.

It was revised for a February 2017 hands-on training of students at Stanford’s journalism school and expanded into a six-hour class at the annual conference of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting in March 2017.

It was expanded into its current form for a massive open online course offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in May 2017.

Since then, the course has been taught more than a dozen times in classrooms and at conferences across America and around the world.

About the data

The course is based on data provided by the California Civic Data Coalition, an open-source network of journalists and computer programmers working to ease access to the state’s jumbled, dirty and difficult database tracking money in politics.

The goal of the coalition’s work is to make the data those reporters used easier to access, understand and analyze. Learn more about the status of the project and the data you can download at californiacivicdata.org.