Ben Welsh

Hello. My name is Ben Welsh. I’m an Iowan living in Los Angeles.

I am a journalist, albeit an unconventional one. I specialize in what some people call data journalism and some others call computer-assisted reporting.

I am the editor of the Data and Graphics Department of the Los Angeles Times newsroom. We are a team of reporters and computer programmers who collect, organize, analyze and present large amounts of information.

I am also a cofounder of the California Civic Data Coalition, a network of journalists and computer programmers dedicated to opening up public data, and the leader of PastPages, an open-source effort to better archive digital news.

Projects I've contributed to have been awarded The Pulitzer Prize, the Library of Congress' Innovation Award, a Knight News Challenge grant and numerous other prizes for investigative reporting, digital design and online journalism.

My reporting has led to reforms in the Los Angeles Fire Department’s 911 system, overhauls of the city’s firefighter recruitment and hiring practices, a revamp of a broken building inspection program, the replacement of the Los Angeles Police Department's public crime map, as well as increased fines against exploitative landlords. As a result, two city fire chiefs and the Los Angeles fire marshal have been removed from office.

I cofounded The Times’ first digitally focused projects team, which has grown to become a twenty-person news department. It has created the most popular pages in the history of latimes.com, including live election results across four presidential cycles, a mapping platform that set a new standard for defining L.A. neighborhoods, custom designs for flagship projects and the most complete resource on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

The California Civic Data Coalition’s work has opened up the jumbled, difficult database tracking campaign finance and lobbying activity in state politics. It has resulted in improved coverage of the topic, including some of the most comprehensive and probing analysis ever done of money at the statehouse. Funded in part by a Knight News Challenge grant, the coalition’s effort has also yielded a groundbreaking tool for database imports and data journalism curriculum that has been taught in classrooms and conferences around the world.

My open-source experimentation with digital archiving tools has generated a permanent collection of news homepages at the Internet Archive, a personalized clipping service that empowers journalists to preserve their work, a podcast celebrating the legacy of Studs Terkel, a social media bot that promotes photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library's historic collections and a series of open-source software packages that allow programmers to more easily archive born-digital material.

I'm also a proud code contributor to many open-source software projects, including Django, IPython, pandas, Jupyter, Svelte and Altair. I've led the development of tools that ease access to data from DocumentCloud, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and government wildfire tracking systems, for which I serve as a maintainer.

My work has been favorably mentioned by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Columbia Journalism School, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Poynter Institute, Nieman Journalism Lab, ProPublica, The Huffington Post, Source, O'Reilly Radar, Mashable, alternative weeklies, real estate blogs, conservative talk radio and the foreign press.

Elsewhere on the site you can find samples of my work and my public-speaking engagements.

Before The Times, I worked on investigative projects at The Center for Public Integrity and helped produce long-form documentaries for cable channels like CNN.

My education includes a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism — where I worked at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. I received my undergraduate training at DePaul University in Chicago. I frequently teach practical computer programming skills to journalism students and professionals.

I grew up near Swisher, Iowa and attended Cedar Rapids’ Prairie High School.

Technical skills
  • Programming with Python, JavaScript, Perl and Ruby
  • Data analysis with pandas, Jupyter notebooks and other statistical tools
  • UI development with JavaScript, CSS and HTML5 web standards
  • Data visualization with D3 and other browser-based libraries
  • Database-driven web development with Django
  • Database administration with PostgreSQL, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server
  • Digital cartography with GeoDjango, PostGIS, QGIS and JavaScript UI libraries
  • Deployment with Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Heroku
  • News writing and editing
  • Getting all of the above done on deadline
Honors
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