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11 top online tools for business journalists

January 25, 2017

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Business journalists have instant access to an immense pool of data and resources. We've got 11 online tools to bookmark.
Business journalists have instant access to an immense pool of data and resources. We've got 11 online tools to bookmark.

Tools, data, and other resources can help make your work faster, more accurate, and better. Here are 11 online tools (all with free versions) that are worth a look.


Impending and existing legislation can have huge impacts on how business works. This is a way to search by bill numbers or keywords, to find related bills, to browse treaty documents by topics, even to get an audio version of the legislation.

Google News Lab

Whether you want to create interactive maps based on data or gain access to mountains of public data, Google has a set of tools and tutorials on how to use them. I’ve dropped maps into some stories I’ve done, adding a new view of a story and a bit of panache.

Journalist’s Toolbox

Another list of many online resources, broken down by category (“agriculture,” “public records”), which will be of interest to journalists.

Knight Lab Projects

Northwestern University Knight Lab has developed a number of open-source media tools. The best known is Timeline.JS, which lets you create timelines. But other tools like StoryMap.JS (using maps in stories) and twXplorer (Twitter search) are worth checking out.

Online Business News Resources

The directory of hundreds of sites for business reporting will turn up lots of interesting ways to advance your work, from tracing property transactions to tracking down the manufacturer of a particular product.


A great site to follow the money in politics, which often means knowing which industries and companies are putting in their dollars to support specific candidates and generally gain influence.

ProPublica Data Store

Interested in some data-driven journalism? In its work, ProPublica develops data sets based on information that can come from a variety of sources. They clean and prep the data for use under different categories. (Business is one.) Some of the data sets are free and others cost, but are relatively inexpensive.

SEC Edgar

It’s the mother of all public company financial information disclosure, at least in the U.S. Take time to see the variety of reports that companies regularly file and the types of information in them. What you can gain goes a lot further than an income state or balance sheet.


This is the public and free version of a tool regularly used by data scientists and analysts. You can create all sorts of data visualizations. Go to the Tableau Public link on the home page to download the app, which is available for Windows or Mac OS.

United States Patents and Trademark Office

Knowing the details of specific patents or trademarks may seem esoteric, but for business journalists they can offer important insights, as well as story possibilities. I once did a series of pieces on who might actually own the rights to touch interfaces on mobile phones.


Ycharts gives you a financial terminal in your computer. There’s a certain amount of data you can get for free, with more requiring an account. The power can be immense. I’ve ripped through doing comparative analysis on various factors of a company’s performance in a twinkling of an eye.


  • Erik Sherman

    Erik is an independent journalist and author who primarily covers business, economics, finance, technology, politics, and legal/regulatory, while elegantly expressing the complex and often incorporating data analysis.

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