By Chris Adams

Tableau Software is a free application that allows journalists to create data visualizations that can easily be incorporated into online news platforms. In this three-part video tutorial, senior data analyst Dash Davidson of Tableau talks about how the software has been used in journalism worldwide. And he demonstrates, step-by-step, how the projects were done.

Tableau is designed to be simple and intuitive. A journalist with rudimentary skills in using Excel will be able to take spreadsheets, import them into Tableau and create the dashboard to present data as plots on a map or as charts and graphs.

In one example, journalists at CNBC documented human trafficking trends by layering information from a State Department assessment that divided countries into tiers based on the seriousness of their trafficking problems. Clicking on a tier displays countries on that tier; hovering over a country shows where it stands in the State Department report.

Tableau is free for journalists, and the data and visualizations are stored on the company’s servers. Visualizations can be embedded into your website.

Davidson explains the ideas behind and execution of several Tableau-based data visualizations – some of which he worked on with journalism organizations. Among them:

A map showing the power and reach of Amazon, state-by-state, from GeekWire.
A map showing the legality of marijuana, state-by-state, from the Forward.
A graphic that seeks to document what’s known as “the Moneyball effect” on professional sports leagues, from The Huffington Post.