Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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2 Journalism Projects About People

One of the many reasons I use Twitter: finding out about what projects journalists are developing and launching.

Yesterday I saw two such posts:

and

1. Tampa Bay Mug Shots, also known to some as “Facebook for underachievers” is a simple and fun glance at booking data in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. A carousel of mug shots is accompanied by some basic crime data and arrest records.

The information presented here as a public service is gathered from open county sheriff’s Web sites in the Tampa Bay area. The booking mug shots and related information are from arrest records in the order and at the time the data was collected. Those appearing here have not been convicted of the arrest charge and are presumed innocent. Do not rely on this site to determine any person’s actual criminal record.

2. The Miami Herald’s 60 Seconds is actually a relaunch/update of an older project, and I worked with Stephanie Rosenblatt on the Flash video player during my internship at The Herald. There are 10 new videos in this series about South Florida characters.

I know that in some circles, this type of journalism may be looked down upon. No evils or corruptions exposed, no event described, no protesters sprayed with pepper spray.

But I see it as an example of what journalism should do more of: exposing a community to itself. In both cases, the profiles are of people who live or work in these communities. Just because it’s also entertaining (’cause I firmly believe that the funniest thing about any person is their mugshot) doesn’t mean it’s not useful and informative. Stories are still being told.

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Spotlight Extended, Call for Projects

mediashift_spotlightI started out this month really wanting to highlight newer, better projects in my Innovation Spotlight Series at MediaShift.

I spent a week or so collecting, sorting, e-mailing, and calling. I’ve spent the past 2 weeks doing interviews. And I ended up with 4 or 5 projects I wanted to write about.

Wait a sec, my posts only come out every other week…

I had two choices: hold onto some projects for next month or do mini-posts on my off-week.

I didn’t want to hold onto things because I’m sure that I’ll be flooded with great new projects next month as well. I was concerned that the inconsistency of the mini-posts – I won’t always have the time or material to do them – would affect the series.

But I got over that. And thus I present you with a mini-Spotlight, discussing the natural evolution of journalism from data collection to online tracking tool: ProPublica Puts Spotlight on Tracking TARP Money.

Please let me know of any innovative projects you are working on or have seen lately. It doesn’t have to be from a major newspaper, it just has to be an innovative blend of journalism and technology.

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Journalism That Matters

Poynter is hosting another conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Journalism That Matters: Adapting Journalism to the New News Ecology

The conference will take place March 1 – 4, 2009.

The New News Ecology means new jobs, new tools, new relationships, new
businesses.

But journalism’s very survival — at least its values and functions — depends
on the ability of news organizations — and citizens — to adapt to a
dramatically evolving landscape.

Where, now, does the news industry end, and begin? As some newsrooms shrink and
morph, what — and where — are the new roles for journalists — and journalism —
in a broader civic sphere? How do we match journalism with the work of
non-profit organizations, government, civic and even advocacy groups . . .
without abandoning its core values and functions to democracy? Is it time for a
national journalism service corp?

Links:
Media Giraffe Project – Newsecology
Register
Slideshow

I really miss going to conferences. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to afford them again.

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Neighborhood Trends For Me

EveryBlock, the darling of data journalism, just releases a new feature: Neighborhood Trends.

Brilliant.

Until this release, EveryBlock data was most useful for people living in the cities that are covered. When I moved to NYC, one of the most exciting things for me was being in a city that EveryBlock covered. (Wow, that makes me sound like such a dork. But it’s true.) Of course, they started covering Miami soon after, so I would have been happy either way.

I live in the Bronx, a borough which is historically painted with the black brush of crime, the red brush of danger…OK, point is, people asked me if I was buying a gun for self-protection.

I’ll not deny that there are some areas of the Bronx I won’t go. But my neighborhood is pretty safe. I’ve only been living there a few months, and as part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I vowed to get involved in my community. No sense living somewhere you don’t know anything about.

EveryBlock just gave me a shortcut to learning about Kingsbridge Heights.

I can see what sources are publishing the most about the Bronx. That tells me what sites to visit and read from. Also, where to apply for jobs. :)

I can see where graffiti is located and where its being cleaned up, (or not). This tells me where the punks are hanging out at night.

Where’s the closest store selling liquor? (licenses) What buildings would I want to avoid moving into when I decide to move? (Building violations) Etc.

I have a few complaints though:

  1. I want to see trends over at least 6 months. I’m getting 2 months here.
  2. I want to see if crime is rising or falling. It looks like the way that EveryBlock gets that information (in 2 weekly police reports) isn’t translating well to the charts.
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The Bush-Cheney Legacy

A few days ago the Washington Post put together a section looking back on George W. Bush’s presidency.

It’s a bit soon, but given the zeitgeist, totally understandable. Hopefully as time goes by we’ll get more analysis of what the effects of the past 8 years really are.

The section puts me in mind of Jeff Jarvis’ “Topic Theory.” Whether we can call topics the “building block of journalism,” topic pages are an important way for users to keep track of a paper’s coverage, catch up on unfamiliar stories and gather context on an issue.

The Post’s Legacy page includes “video interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Barton Gellman, a timetable of significant news events and policy decisions, and opportunities for users to submit their own views.” (from the press release I forgot I had received) There are also graphs, articles, and photo galleries.

I have a complaint, though: clutter. There is so much stuffed into this one page, with no clear hierarchy. It’s just a bunch of stuff on a page, when it could have been designed to lead a reader through the events of the presidency.

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Publish2 Contest Over

Yesterday was the last day to rate entries for Publish2’s “I Am the Future of Journalism” Contest.

Congratulations to the 10 highest ranked, from which one wil be selected for the prize of a job and $1,000.

Scott Lunt Ranking: 3.7

Greg Linch Ranking: 3.62

Ned Resnikoff Ranking: 3.27

Andrew Dunn Ranking: 3.26

Daniel Bachhuber Ranking: 3.2

Mark Abouzeid Ranking: 3.14

Wendy Parker Ranking: 2.94

Brittany Wilmes Ranking: 2.93

Jessica Estepa Ranking: 2.88

Will Sommer Ranking: 2.87

I came in 11th, with a ranking of 2.86. But I’m not upset. It was a fun challenge, and a good way to find new journalists to get in touch with.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Surviving in the Real World

Even though I graduated from college in May, I have trouble with the concept of not being in school. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I love school, and I miss all the things that come with it: being a part of a community, constantly learning new things, the surety of having something to work toward for the next few years.

Obviously, these are all part of living in the real world as well, but they seem harder and less tangible. I’ve lived in the Bronx for three months now, and I still only know the building super and the guy at the convenience store down the street. I’m so busy trying to make rent that I’m not learning the way I was in school. Sure, I learn new things on the job, but it’s very different. As for goals to work toward, instead of aiming for a degree I know I can get, I’m working toward a career in an industry that’s too busy trying to land on its feet to notice my efforts.

There’s no despair in this. Just readjustment. And resolutions.

I don’t need to be in school or have my dream job to learn new things or to be a journalist. I just have to carve out the time to do what needs doing.

So here’s a list of things I want to learn or do, regardless of jobs.

  1. Formally learn Javascript. I have some experience, but mostly in the vein of searching for the code that will do what I want, and implementing it. I’d like to be able to write a little on my own.
  2. Learn PHP. Like Javascript, I know quite a bit just from fiddling with websites (especially WordPress). But I’d like the formal knowledge that would allow me to manipulate databases without have to do a Google search every ten minutes.
  3. Write. I recently signed up at BrightHub, a science and technology site. I’d like to write at least one article a week. In addition, I want to try some pitching for publications. I think that my deficiency in published writing (due to a proficiency in multimedia and programming) has been detrimental to my career goals.
  4. Produce multimedia and web development projects. I want to keep my skills fresh, even if I’m not using them in day-to-day work. So each month I’ll come up some sort of project to work on, be it video, photography, data analysis…just something to keep me from getting rusty.
  5. Find a way to participate in my new community. I’ve been poking around community boards for the Bronx, and have also found some interesting groups in Manhattan. I want to get involved. There are also a few online communities that I’m a part of that I’d like to be more involved in.

I think these are good ways to be a journalist without the benefits of working for a publication. I’m still busting my butt to get a job in news, but until then, this is a good simulation.

What else can I do to be a journalist without the framework? What tips or advice can you give me for fulfilling these resolutions?

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Why I am the Future of Journalism

I submitted this for my entry to Publish2’s “I Am the Future of Journalism” Contest:

I have the will and the adaptability to be the future of journalism.

It’s not that I know how to write stories, use a video camera and write code.

Those are secondary qualities.

I am passionate about news. Passionate enough to learn new skills, to experiment with technology, to challenge myself to tell stories in multiple dimensions.

The power of news is change. It’s a cliche, but knowledge really is power, and journalists are the disseminators of information.

In journalism school they say “Show, don’t tell.” Somewhat ironically, print stories are limited in this capacity. Radio and television are better at showing.

But the mediums are merging. The buzzword is “convergence,” but what it means is that the media is catching up with technology.

A story is no longer a block of text. It is more than the sum of it’s parts; it includes video, links, databases, infographics and audio. A story is an experience. And when forced to acknowledge wrongness on such a level, how can people but work to change it?

Journalism makes an idealist out of me.

I’ve worked in a cramped college newsroom and a spacious metro daily. But the job was the same: What is the best way to make this information meaningful?

To that end, I’ve used Flash, Twitter, maps, video, podcasts. I’m learning more programming languages, exploring social media and experimenting with the possibilities introduced by the Internet.

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist in the early 20th century, said “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” The more tools we have, the better our stories become, because there isn’t just one way to do it.

I’m going to need a ginormous toolbox.

I don’t dream of working in a smoke-filled newsroom, surrounded by press hats and old coffee. I dream of the day when the world is my newsroom. I’ll work from the streets or my living room, and the physical state of the newsroom will be a server.

I AM THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM CONTEST.  Rate my entry!