Excel Aficionado Talks Excel and XLhub

Scott Maier is a faculty member and professor of journalism at the University of Orego. He has over 20 years experience as a wire-service reporter, and his “beats” have spanned from city hall to the state legislature, Latin America, as well as a variety of other news beats. He is founder of CAR Northwest, “an industry-academic partnership providing training in computer-assisted reporting to newsrooms and journalism classrooms.” Professor Maier was kind enough to chat with us about his experience with Excel, and how XLhub might be a beneficial tool for even newsroom journalists.

XLhub: Would you say you use Excel on a daily, weekly, or longer basis? Does it vary depending on your story/project?

Professor Maier: I use Excel at least weekly for managing grades and research data.

XLhub: When working as a reporter, to what extent is it necessary for you to know Excel to perform your basic job duties?

Professor Maier: When I was a working reporter, I found my Excel skills to augment my basic reporting and to place me in a special class of reporters who could go beyond traditional daily news coverage.

XLhub: Would you say your strong understanding of Excel has enhanced the quality of your work? Has it given you an edge over other journalists?

Professor Maier: Excel gave me a tool to identify and quantify information and patterns not readily apparent in the flood of data now readily available online. With these skills, I would be assigned to report and write the “big picture” story that put me on Page One.

XLhub: Can you recall a specific project or type of task where you used Excel to improve your work as a journalist? What method(s) did you use?

Professor Maier: Excel was vital for examining thousands and thousands of individual campaign contributions and for detailed analysis of demographic change documented by the U.S. Census.

XLhub: Have you ever felt limited by Excel? Why?

Professor Maier: Excel is great for many things, but database work and statistical analysis often requires other software. (And I wish Access were available for Mac’s, the computers used in many journalism classrooms and newsrooms!

XLhub: XLhub is an Excel add-on that combines data from multiple spreadsheets into a single repository, where it can be consolidated and analyzed by multiple users. From the standpoint of a journalist and/or someone working in a newsroom, how could you use such a product?

Professor Maier: I see good potential for such a tool.

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