API data can provide a rich source for journalists and data scientists, and I think I’ve found the simplest API on the web to get you started. In this article, we’ll take a REST API run by the FAA to provide airport status information and write an API wrapper for it so we can access the data in future code. You should have some comfort writing code, and experience with Python if you want to follow along but the principles can be applied in any programming language. Python is pretty readable if you can write code in any language.
If a data set’s not in the right format, we can’t do anything with it. Data cleanup is the first part of data analysis, and usually it’s the most time-consuming. It can be tedious, but the more skilled you are at cleaning up data, the more you can get out of documents other journalists might not be able to work with at all. In the first section, we’ll look at the difference between data that looks right to humans and data that the machine understands.