1.3 Is this book for you?

There are three main audiences for Practical R for Mass Communication and Journalists:

  • Spreadsheet users who want to “graduate” to learning their first programming language. If that’s you, this book will get you gently up to speed so you become comfortable writing code to answer questions about your data.

  • People who know another programming language and now want to learn R. While there will be some basic programming fundamentals discussed, this book focuses much less on theory and more on how to do useful work with R. So even though this is an entry-level R book, there should be plenty here to help you use R when dealing with data.

  • Communications professionals who already know some R but want to get some new tips and ideas for using R in a newsroom or similar setting. If this is you, you may want to quickly skim the next chapter on setting up R and RStudio. However, the rest of the book should help you learn ways to apply R specifically to the kind of work you do.

This book emphasizes “Practical” and “journalism/mass communications”. There are already many good, generic R introductory books that go through language fundamentals. But I know that if you’re a journalist, PR professional, political staffer/advocate or otherwise want to communicate ideas from data, you may not want to read a computer-science text as your first introduction to R. So, I don’t start off with some basic information you’d typically get in a beginning R book, such as outlining different data types. Instead, I focus on the most important information you need to do useful work with R.

I want you to learn R with data that you can imagine using in your newsroom, government office, or community group. This book aims to show you how to use R in the real world – your real world. After the very basic introduction in chapter 2, theory and structure will come up mostly when needed, in situations you might actually encounter in your work.

We’ll work together step by step to see how R can help you tell stories about topics like major weather events, election results, airline flight delays, and restaurant safety inspections. I took a lot of care when choosing projects and sample data in this book. I’ve seen enough Excel classes where journalists’ eyes glaze over as an instructor drones on about which salespeople are eligible for bonuses. Compelling subjects are important in my work, and in yours.

Once you see how much R can help you when working with data, you may want to continue on your R-learning journey, perhaps with another book that focuses more on fundamentals. First, though, it’s time to whet your appetite on what R can do for you.