Posts tagged reporting
Posts tagged reporting
This is my own (numberless) data visualization to explain a digital journalist’s skill set.
Lisa Williams of Placeblogger.com and MIT Media Lab’s Center for Future Civic Media shared some tips on creating powerful data visualizations in this free “Diving into Data” webinar from the Knight Digital Media Center (Oct. 30, 2012).
1. Why should I care? Why is learning data visualization tools so important? Because the problems we face as a nation/world/species are ever more complex and can’t be told adequately in narrative forms, says Williams. (HOORAY FOR ALT STORY FORMATS! She’s my people!) Data viz is persuasive and shareable (think viral Facebook memes) because it’s so visual. It can teach the story better. This was one my favorite examples from the webinar: Billion Dollar O-Gram, which puts the billions of dollars of global spending into context using a treemap.
2. Data viz *IS NOT* new. The Vietnam War Memorial is data visualized. Also, Florence Nightingale displayed her death statistics from the Crimean war in a powerful chart.
3. Go to the ‘gym’! Yes, we’re all incredibly busy doing our jobs. Who has time to learn how to make data come to life? We just have to make time, says Williams. Try to develop an exploration mindset — one of continuous learning. How? Intentionally carve a few hours a week to update your skills and try some of these tools out. Think of it as a “gym for your career.” Fantastic analogy!
4. Where should I start? If you’re hunting for data, be sure to search what’s already available at data.gov and datacatalogs.org. How to turn the data into fancy charts and graphs? For beginners, Williams recommends Many Eyes. More options: Buzzdata (more visual snap) and Tableau Public if you’re really serious.
My top 5 takeaways from The Art and Science of Editing webinar with consultant/educator Merrill Perlman (@meperl), formerly of The New York Times
This Oct. 3, 2012, webinar is “for writers and editors who want to learn to identify when you need to edit something, when you don’t and how to explain your changes to others.”
Most important: Your job as an editor is to stand up for the reader. Your goal is to make something more accessible — what is the writer saying? What is the reader hearing?
Good editing follows guidelines, not rules (except when it’s a law).
You want to edit, not change. A change is something you *want* to do … an edit is what copy *needs* to be clearer. “An edit always keeps its main focus on the reader. A change is made for convenience sake or to obey a rule.” And editing improves copy as *invisibly* as possible.
“Good editors understand why they do what they do … and can explain it.” When you do explain an edit, avoid terms like “you did” or “I fixed.” Instead: “The idea is unclear” or “a reader might misunderstand …”
How to give a story a fresh read? Change the font size to make it bigger … or print it out and read on paper.
Once again … Stanford bingo time!
I never realized Storify was born from a Stanford journalism fellowship … I learned this by reading the full Knight Foundation study, “Digital Training Comes of Age,” released today.
Howard Finberg of Poynter does a fine job summing up the survey results here.
Below are my 5 favorite nuggets (many of them echo the highlights from “News, Improved,” written by one of the same authors) … the bolding is mine:
1. “Professional development will play a key role in the transformation of the news landscape. Not all news organizations will survive the transition to the digital age. The ones that make it will be nimble, adaptable. They’ll have learning cultures, where training is built into the daily routine.”
2. “Creating a ‘learning culture’ can be as important as skill training because most traditional news organizations historically are highly change averse and they must become more adaptive and open to change to succeed in the digital world.
3. “In assessing their shift to a more digital focus, the training and fellowship program leaders stressed the need to constantly adapt as well. ‘The most important lesson that we have learned is that it is essential to keep evolving. That means not just adding new things but getting rid of old ones,’ Bettinger said. ‘We now aim to shed 5-10 percent of what we do in any given year, freeing up time and energy to add things.’ ”
4. “Training that is strategic, training that focuses on goals, training that involves entire newsrooms can improve both the content and the culture of news organizations. Good professional development, by its very nature, emphasizes communication and breaks down internal barriers.”
5. In Wichita, editor Sherry Chisenhall says training is a key part of her newsroom reorganization. Every job description has been rewritten to reflect a multiplatform newsroom, where Web and mobile publication come first and print is at the end of the work cycle. The key to the success of her restructuring was a training plan designed ‘to help every person learn, on their work time, how to do the job now
expected of them.’ The newsroom set a goal – every employee gets at least 30 hours of training a year – ‘because what gets measured gets done.’ Chisenhall says it can be done without a large budget by using online services such as Lynda.com (at $2,000 per year for unlimited use), peer training, inexpensive webinars and seeking scholarships for outside training. This past year, she said, 80 percent of the staff met the 30-hour goal. Chisenhall said training is essential to progress. ‘It’s imperative to be more creative about how you define training, and to start with the position that it’s fatal for the newsroom and for people’s individual careers to do without it.’
Here’s an email I sent to the Roanoke Times / roanoke.com newsroom today:
Thanks for taking the training poll I sent out a couple of weeks ago.
The clear winner was “How to be more creative,” which I’m really excited about, as it’s my favorite topic to research and discuss.
Creativity is way too big to tackle in one brown bag, so I thought we could take the entire month of August to explore the topic.
“Individuals who want to increase their creativity need to be open to trying things they haven’t done before, even when the results are completely uncertain,” writes Tina Seelig, author of “inGenius” and a brilliant professor who teaches creativity at Stanford.
So I invite you to have some fun and explore some new ideas in two ways:
1. Tea with TED (in under 20 minutes)
Ever heard of TED Talks? These are short (5 to 20-minute) videos of some of the world’s greatest thinkers sharing “ideas worth spreading” at TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences around the world. I’ve found many of these talks brain-bending and inspiring.
I’ll screen one *surprise* TED Talk every Wednesday in August at 2:30 p.m. in the News Conference Room. If you bring a mug of hot water, I’ll bring the tea and snacks.
If any volunteers would like to screen the same TED Talks in the NRV and in the evening for the night shift, I’d be happy to coordinate with you.
2. Try something new for 30 days
Are you up for a 30-day personal challenge?
Let’s tap into our subconscious minds and stretch ourselves just a bit. August could be the month when you give yourself permission to play, relax and explore.
The key is to THINK SMALL, so you don’t feel overwhelmed — and build it into your daily routine, which will give you the momentum to keep going. Remember, it’s only 30 days!
For inspiration, watch this wonderful, brief TED Talk with Matt Cutts , who talks about how his 30-day challenges changed his life. The video is only 3 minutes long!
Need some examples to help get you started?
DISRUPT YOUR ROUTINE
Want to get out of the office more? Aim to work/report from a new place in the community every work day.
Don’t eat lunch at your desk for 30 days.
What makes you laugh or relax? Tackle a gardening project. Paint every day. Take up knitting. Been putting off playing basketball at the Y?
Watch every Will Ferrell [or other comedian] movie available.
WORK YOUR BRAIN
Read one random Wikipedia article every day
Read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to get to every day.
Watch a brief “TED Talk” every day
STRETCH YOUR JOB
Take 15 minutes to brainstorm mundane story assignments (on the roof garden?) every work day with this storytelling checklist
How might you reimagine your job? In what areas would you like to grow the most? Pick something specific and work on that every day. Perhaps it’s shooting a short video every day. Or taking a beautiful photo every day. Or crafting a creative Tweet or Cornershot.
Read one Poynter article every day
Ask a random stranger every day for a story idea
Send an email thanking or praising someone every day
DELIGHT YOUR SENSES
Listen to mix tapes/CDs from your past every day.
Try an exotic new food — or recipe — every day.
Practice some yoga or meditate every day.
Sunshine and fresh air can do wonders: Do something outdoors every day.
Take a brief walk — on a different route — every day.
For those of you who’d like to share your project, prizes will be awarded for the most creative and most life-changing 30-day challenges on August 29.
Hope you can join us this *Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.* for our first surprise Tea with TED.
By the way, we’ll tackle the other most popular training topics in future months. September will most likely focus on Engagement (engaging in person, building a strong blog community, promoting your work, etc.).
I’ve never actually caught fire before, but ever since kindergarten I know exactly what to do if that should happen.
Stop, drop and roll, right?
I played off this wise advice for our newsroom in my mobile gladiator workshops.
After analyzing our breaking news successes, I realized teamwork and clear communication was KEY to how quickly and comprehensively we could report.
My goal was to equip our journalists with the essential apps — and confidence — to help save time and maximize the mobile tools at our fingertips.
What happens if you find yourself on the scene of breaking news, with adrenaline pumping and your mind racing? What should you do first?
I advise our journalists to …
SNAP: Capture the event in photos or video — You may lose the opportunity, depending on the news event.
CALL (or text)* your team leader or online editor to alert them to the news. Make sure someone else on staff knows what’s going on, so you can focus on reporting.
*A critical part of the training was taking the time to update phone contacts, which include an email that alerts a wide group of editors, along with an email address that allows you to automatically upload video to the Roanoke Times YouTube account.
ROLL: Quickly tweet your photo/video w/ a caption (going public ASAP), which the desk-bound editors can retweet on the main account and post on the website. Roll on with your reporting, relaying to editors primarily through Twitter or over the phone, whichever method you’re most comfortable with.
As I emphasized in our training, our mobile tools are incredibly powerful, allowing us to report faster than ever before. But our *brains* are the most important weapon we have — learning to quickly communicate and improvise as the news unfolds, using these tools wisely.
At SXSW this past March, I attended the “Funny People Can Make You Buy Dumb Things” panel featuring Andy Currie, writer of Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man In The World” campaign. I distinctly remember two bits from Currie: That he watches a lot of TV, which drives his creativity. And one of his particular book suggestions: A Technique for Producing Ideas (1942), a concise, 31-page guide by James W. Young, who wrote it for an advertising class he was teaching at the University of Chicago.
The book reinforced my previous research into creativity. If I could sum it up in a few of sentences it’s this:
Creativity is a process of taking existing knowledge and making new combinations — basically seeing relationships and connections. You gather your food — chew on this knowledge for a time, letting your subconscious mind work it over. Then you digest, waiting for the eureka! moment, which will most likely appear on a walk, in the shower (when you least expect it). Then you critique.
I routinely used this exact process years ago while editing Inside Out, our weekly entertainment guide for The Roanoke Times / roanoke.com.
My food — or raw knowledge — were simple calendar events. As I learned of a festival or concert or whatever, I would add the event to my big Google calendar. By seeing this calendar a month at a time, I could see connections and patterns — which would usually spark cover story ideas. I had time to work these ideas over in my subconscious mind — and could anticipate what readers might be curious about from week to week, month to month. Ideas would flourish.
Here are a few more truths worth quoting from author James W. Young, specifically about lifelong learning and curiosity:
“Every really good creative person in advertising whom I have every known has always had two noticeable characteristics:
First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested, from, say, Egyptian burial customs to Modern Art. Every facet of life had fascination for him.
Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.” (p. 16)
[T]he principle of constantly expanding your experience, both personally and vicariously, does matter tremendously in any idea-producing job. Make no mistake about it.” (p. 31)
Finally found the helmet I wanted for my Breaking News to the Maximus: Mobile Gladiator Workshop. Can’t decide if I’ll keep it at my desk for inspiration … or if I’ll start a pass-along award in our newsroom. Should it be for kick-ass mobile reporting? Or excellent breaking news reporting? Or inspiring leadership in breaking news? Hmmmm.
Journalists: Should we see ourselves as ‘knowledge creators’?
The core principle/values discussion in Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” reminded me of the more recent “Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.
[ By the way, Jim Collins AND Bill Kovach both associated with Stanford in some way (and Rosenstiel is from Palo Alto) … once again showing all creative roads lead to Stanford. ]
This a long excerpt, but I think it’s spot-on when it comes to our purpose:
The News Organization as Knowledge Creator and Disseminator
Everything we have discussed so far in this chapter involves the idea that for journalism to survive in some recognizable form, news organizations, new or old, must understand and define the function they actually play in people’s lives. … What function does a newsroom serve in its community? What is its essential purpose, apart from generating revenue.
Telling stories is not the answer. Neither is delivering the news, or even monitoring government. All those have been part of it historically. But we think the essential function is something broader and more conceptual, and the future of journalism depends in part on embracing this broader notion.
A news gathering organization is a place that accumulates and synthesizes knowledge about a community, either a geopolitical community or a community of subjects and interests, and then makes that knowledge available and interactive in a variety of ways. (p. 190)
What are some of the kinds of knowledge that newsrooms have accumulated and not yet exploited? What other kinds of knowledge could they begin to accumulate? What are some possible markets for that knowledge? What are some of the ways to disseminate it? And how might those be monetized? (p. 191-192)
Building teams of creative, lifelong learners committed to this purpose of collecting, organizing and disseminating *useful* knowledge seems like a wise path to me.
If only we could come up with a cooler title than “knowledge creator” …. hmmmm ….
Finally read this suggested bestseller: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap .. and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins.
Definitely would appeal more to aspiring MBAs and top executives than journalists, but I did find some helpful points for leaders aspiring for greatness.
My favorite concepts from the book? I’ve boiled down to two of the most memorable questions I’ll keep asking:
1. How do we attract/hire/retain the “right” people in the newsroom?
— The good-to-great leaders began the transformation by first getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and *then* figured out where to drive it.
— Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.
— The purpose of compensation is not to “motivate” the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to get and keep the right people in the first place. (p. 63-64)
So this leads me to more questions: How do the “right” people behave? What appeals to those folks? I would argue for highly creative, self-motivated people with a deep sense of purpose and curiosity. Critical thinkers. Problem solvers. Enthusiastic about our readers, our community and how journalism serves the community.
A personal story: I wanted to work at The Roanoke Times in 2000 not just because it was the daily newspaper in my hometown — but because it offered tuition reimbursement. My goal was to earn my master’s degree while working full time (and while paying off my undergrad debt). The purpose of earning the master’s degree was primarily so I could adjunct later in my career, whatever that would evolve into.
So add lifelong learner to the list?
What company benefits or cultural attributes would attract creative, lifelong learners to our newsroom?
2. As a news org, what is our purpose? Our core values?
I’m intrigued by the author’s Three Circles/Hedgehog Concept, which helps simplify your mission and values — and get the most meaning from your business and/or personal life.
And it’s not just because I’m a sucker for silly analogies.
“The good-to-great companies are more like hedgehogs — simple, dowdy creatures that know ‘one big thing’ and stick to it. The comparison companies are more like foxes — crafty, cunning creatures that know many things yet lack consistency.” (p. 119)
Three intersecting circles translates into this simple, hedgehog concept:
1. What you are deeply passionate about
2. What you can be the best in the world at
3. What drives your economic engine
How would the leadership of The Roanoke Times / roanoke.com answer those questions? What would our circles look like?
And in your own career, how would you answer?
Later on in the book, Collins talks more about purpose and core ideology:
“Enduring great companies preserve their core values and purpose while their business strategies and operating practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. This is the magical combination of ‘preserve the core and stimulate progress.’ ” (p. 195).
All this talk about finding that enduring core purpose and identity reminded me of one of my favorite parts of “Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. (SEE NEXT POST).
Three cheers for this creative (and short) “Dear Derecho” video by Ryan Loew and Katrina Tulloch …
Roanoke Times multimedia editor Ryan Loew and digital news intern Katrina Tulloch took the epic windstorm that has been covered every which way all week … and a straightforward man-on-the-street concept … and turned it into this delightful package for The Roanoke Times / roanoke.com. I especially love that it helps us all pronounce “derecho” correctly. (I’ll admit I’ve said “dare echo” out loud. In front of people.)
WATCH “DEAR DERECHO” HERE » http://bit.ly/LCHjKf