Improve Watchdog Journalism Skills With Sunlight Foundation Free Training

Feeling nostalgic for back-to-school lately as your Twitter feed and Facebook wall fill up with posts about first days and weeks of classes?

Journalists already on the job, both recent grads and lifers, don’t have to feel left out. Here’s a chance to bone up on your data analysis skills, learn more about tracking congress, and learn other skills to make you a better reporter and investigator. Best of all: The training is tailored specifically to journalists, including to their budget — which is to say, it’s free.

The Sunlight Foundation launched a series of online training courses, known collectively as Sunlight Academy, this month to help reporters better master their craft, with a heavy focus on watchdog tools and tips. They also have several politics related modules that can help track the presidential and other election campaigns as we head into the last few months before November.

From their blog:

Whether you are an investigative journalist trying to get insight on a complex data set, an activist uncovering the hidden influence behind your issue or a congressional staffer in need of mastering legislative data, our transparency training program will teach you how to better connect the dots and make our tools and resources work for you. The modules on offer at the Sunlight Academy are diverse. Ever wondered how to create a pivot table to analyze government data? Need help understanding the different lobbying reports? Or what exactly are APIs (and why do we talk about them so often)? Watch this tutorial to find out.

The individual training posts sort of walk you through the subject, with some written guidance and some video tutorials. You can mark each completed as you go through them. They’re relatively short introductions/instructions for the specific topics (such as pivot tables or APIs), and you could always go back to review something specific later on.

They have more than a dozen total courses up now in the following categories:

Don’t see the topic you want to learn about? They’re also looking for more ideas for training to develop, email suggestions to The developers say they want to continue to expand the offerings. In a world of tight newsroom training budgets — earlier this month we reported on research saying lack of training leads to journalist job dissatisfaction — these short courses can help keep you fresh and informed.