Two Minute Tips

New tools for doing data

August 14, 2020

Share this article:

Looking for data tools to use in your business reporting? Give these a try. (Pixabay user PhotoMIX-Company)

I’ve come across some new (at least to me) tools that are great for reporters doing data work as part of their business journalism. Here they are. Give them a try and get in touch to say how you find them.

Adobe PDF extractors

I recently was writing a piece on politics, looking at election machines in Kentucky. One question was how the number of potential voters per machine varied by county.

The state’s data was there, but in PDF form. Sometimes you can copy data and then paste it in, retaining formatting. But a few minutes of trying to copy columns into spreadsheets and realizing that there was still a lot of typing ahead, I checked for any tool that might make it easier.

Adobe came through. For $23 a year, I got access to a set of conversion tools. One took a PDF with table information and turned it into an Excel spreadsheet. Figuring that the money was a small gamble, I paid and tried it. Marvelous. In a matter of minutes, each PDF became a spreadsheet and I saved probably a good hour or two of data entry.

St. Louis Fed’s Mapping

I love the FRED site of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. There is a huge number of economic data sources that can help any business journalist’s reporting and provide material for graphics.

The St. Louis Fed recently announced a new mapping tool called GEOFRED. For some data that has geographic ties, you can immediately get maps, or create your own from thousands of data series.

The site has tutorials and you can create a free account that lets you save, share, download, or print maps. Here’s an example of one showing June 2020 unemployment rates by state.

GEOFRED example, unemployment by state, June 2020


This isn’t new; I’ve been using it for a couple of years. And while I found it irritating at first, Datawrapper has become a handy choice. I’ve seen multiple news outlets using it, plus I have my own personal (free, thanks) account that lets me create and download many types of graphics.

You can add charts, graphs, and tables by uploading data. (A hint: things started working better for me when I put all data into columns rather than rows.) A series of steps brings you through choosing the type of graphic you want, tailoring the display, making customized changes, and ultimately downloading the results so you can include them in a story. Corporate accounts let you host the image on the Datawrapper site and embed the results, so that if your data ever changes, so does the displayed graph. No need to edit and upload a new version of a graphic.

More Like This...

Five takeaways from recent business investigations

For business beat reporters looking for story ideas or inspiration, here are five watchdog stories to spark creativity. The stories, all published in the first seven months of 2022, touch

Think like a business owner. Not a freelancer.

Not all journalism grads will work as full-time staff for a news organization. Maybe after searching on and following up with journalism school contacts, you’ll choose to become a

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!