Tableau Desktop for journalism instructors

Tableau Desktop is a great tool for creating and sharing interactive data visualizations. It’s simple enough that you can teach students who have just a little experience working with spreadsheet or other data files how to get started in just one lesson.

Journalists have been using Tableau Desktop to help tell stories with data for a few years. The Seattle Times was one of the first to use it extensively. In 2011, the newspaper reported howpoor patients on the state’s Medicaid program had died as doctors prescribed more methadone, an inexpensive and unpredictable painkiller. To help tell the story, the Times’ data journalists created this Tableau visualization.


In this more recent example, the Austin American-Statesman used Tableau to let its audience explore teacher turnover rates at local public schools. The interactive accompanied a story about how some Austin schools continued to struggle with high turnover rates, even as the district offered incentives to entice teachers to stay.


At its heart, Tableau is business-intelligence software that’s used by corporate customers to make decisions. But don’t let that or its $2,000 price tag scare you. With a raft of training videos available online,  Tableau makes it easy to dive in and learn anything from the basics to more advanced tricks. And, under its Tableau for Teaching program, the company offers free desktop licenses to instructors and students. Members of Investigative Reporters and Editors also qualify for free licenses.