In some respects, I think, the distinction between being a 'data journalist' and a 'journalist' is misleading. As an investigative reporter for the NY Times, most of my biggest stories have been based on data analysis (ie, millions of Clean Water Act records, or federal data from nursing homes.) However, I never come to a story by finding the data first. Rather, someone in a particular field (or, most often, multiple people from various aspects of a field, such as professionals, academics and activists) suggest a story to me, and then I find data in an attempt to see if their arguments hold true. Knowing how to manipulate data, I think, is a less valuable skill than knowing how to see a story amid the noise. That said, being comfortable with data is invaluable.
About the Author
Staff Writer, New York Times and Author of, Smarter Faster Better