Megan Taylor

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


SNDBoston: Elections Roundtable

Coverng elections is a serious design challenge: fairness, impartiality, dense content, BORING?! Designers can make the content interesting and visually appealing.

Paul Nelson, The virginia Pilot

– Work with ad vertising to ensure enough space
– Handle news based on value and not on previous coverage
– Get opinions from community (reaction pieces on debates, etc.)
– Create ways to make the good stuff stand out (local connections to issues, adwatch – are candidates telling the truth in ads?)
– At-a-glance info
– Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
– illustrations, graphics, multimedia, embed from YouTube etc.
_ reefers to Web site
_ prepare multiple fronts

Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe

– Cartoons for election campaigns: has to fill the same size rectangle 4-5 times a week.

Eilliott Malkin, information architect, New York Times interactive

– 2004 election coverage: infographic reefer, liva data from AP
– 2006 coverage: modular inforgraphics, came up with structure 6 months in advance: results page for each section
– 2007: blog caucus, full column infographics, live data, results by various categories
– 2008: homepage, politics section front, blogs, election guide (evergreen), topic pages via nyt navigation and google searches (SEO), timelines


SNDBoston: my tentative schedule

For my 21st birthday (which was a month and a half ago now) my mother promised to buy me a Blackberry Pearl as soon as I qualified for the T-Mobile discount, which would be sometime in October. Well, October is here. This means, that despite not having a laptop, and my MacBook Pro not being delivered in time, I should be able to blog my way through SNDBoston (Society of News Design conference).

So, this is my tentative plan:

On Thursday, I’ll be attending the Student Sessions, which promise advice but are a little vague on structure and content.


9:30 am You can judge a book by its cover
Described by USA Today as “the closest thing to a rock star in graphic design today,” Chip Kidd revolutionized book design. Kidd shows how to tell and sell stories using conceptual thinking, visual puns, and found images.

11 am Brainstorming workshop: design
Inspiring examples and practical tips for fresh approaches to design. Robert Newman (Fortune, Real Simple, Vibe, Entertainment Weekly) and Kate Elazegui (art director, New York magazine).

And at this point I’m conflicted. At 2pm, there are two fantastic looking sessions:

Roundtable: The elections
Print and online designers, graphics artists, and picture editors discuss fresh ways to cover the upcoming elections. Panel includes Elliott Malkin (, Paul Nelson (Design Director, The Virginian Pilot), and Dan Wasserman, editorial cartoonist for The Boston Globe.


It’s the little things
Recent innovations in presenting stock tables, sports agate, and other small information. The panel includes Dennis Brack (The Washington Post) and typographer Matthew Carter.

Input anyone? Onward, then.

3:15 pm Multimedia, the next frontier
The next place for great design and photojournalism is multimedia argues Brian Storm founder of MediaStorm and former head of multimedia for MSNBC.

Oh, poppycock, more conflicts:

Brainstorming workshop: graphics
Inspiring examples and practical tips for fresh approaches to infographics Archie Tse (New York Times) and Javier Zarracina (The Boston Globe).


Typography roundtable
A discussion on trends from readability to revivals with typographers Matthew Carter and David Berlow.

And Friday ends with

6 pm ‘Helvetica, The Movie’
It’s the 50th anniversary of the typeface you love—or love to hate. Director Gary Hustwit’s documentary has been drawing rave reviews on the film festival circuit. The Chicago Tribune enthused that the film “sharpens your eye in general and makes connections between form and content, and between art and life.”


9:30 am Reinventing The Guardian
Mark Porter, creative director of one the 2005 SND World’s Best-Designed newspapers on reinventing the print and online versions of one of Britain’s leading newspapers.

11 am The future is now
A look at new and emerging technologies from The New York Times R&D team. Interface designer Nick Bilton and futurist-in-residence Michael Rogers demonstrate the handheld Times Reader and discuss interactive newspaper technologies in development.

This conflicting sessions thing is really obnoxious. I need a time machine!

2 pm Reinventing page one
Long the most traditional page of the paper, panelists Jeff Hindenach (San Jose Mercury News), Gayle Grin (National Post, Canada) and Søren Nyeland (SND 2006 World’s Best-Designed Newspaper Politiken, Denmark) show how to build memorable fronts with photography, graphics, teasers and a strong design voice.


2pm Storytelling in print and multimedia
Jenn Crandall (’s onBeing) project and Kelli Sullivan (Los Angeles Times projects including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Altered Oceans“) show how words and images can be combined to create compelling narratives.

At 3:15 I’ll be having my portfolio reviewed. I’m really nervous about this because this Web site is in dire need of a redesign (which I’m working on) and I can’t really print out a lot of my work.

The (for me) icing on all this newsy cake is a session at 4:45 with Adrian Holovaty.

Making data webby
Adrian Holovaty of shares philosophy and strategies for making data browsable online. He’ll touch on several of his past projects, including and Faces of the Fallen.

I’m working on a couple of database projects this semester and probably will be working with Django next semester, so I’m looking forward to satisfying my fetish for the geekier side of journalism.

Applied Fact Finding was a great class for me.

In class we reviewed news stories that were seeded or based entirely on analysis of public records. I learned how to find local and state records on all topics: “campaigns and elections, property, business, health care, court procedures, environment, education, online and library research, FOIA requests, computer-assisted reporting, and Excel.” (from her description of the class)

I was amazed and a little perturbed by how many parts of people’s lives are available through public records and how easy they are to find once you know where and how to look. I’m all for open access, but not to my life.

I love nothing more than to think of a question and use the Internet to find an answer. For this class, my questions were more specific, and limited to the life of one person (who despite numerous marriage licenses was extremely boring). And occasionally, we had to use actual books.

I was further intrigued by the possibilities for journalism that can come from analyzing and tracking public records.

But my favorite segment of the class focused on Web search. Of the two choices available for a book review assignment, I read John Battelle’s “The Search”. I now recommend it to my friends along with “Atlas Shrugged” and “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

This is a class I would take over again if I could. In my mad rush to learn everything, sometimes I’m unable to slow down and pay attention to something that needs and deserves a little patience. Because of this class, there are randomly scattered CAR (Computer Assisted Reporting) -related Web sites among my bookmarks and Google Reader. I only wish there was as much emphasis on CAR in journalism education as there is on multimedia.

Here’s the resource Web site from the class.


More Online Politics: Newspapers and Databases

I’m always on the lookout for different ways to keep track of the political realm. It is an area that is very hard to cover well, concentrating on the issues without getting caught up in the “who has more money.” I believe it is an area that newspaper have so far failed to cover well. So I turn to the Internet.

The Washington Post has a Campaign Tracker, which lists and maps the campaign events of the 2008 presidential candidates. For each candidate, it lists the state and city with the most events, as well as the top state for fund raising. You can see the results by candidate, date and state, and there’s also an RSS feed. This is a nice start, but its focusing on the least important aspects of the campaigns. I’d like to see the issues candidates represent, whether or not they are being consistent, what groups are they getting support from, and links to every article in which they are mentioned.

EDIT: Derek Willis of the Post pointed out that I totally missed the candidate profiles, finance filings, and primary information linked to the Campaign Tracker.

WashingtonWatch reveals the costs behind proposed U.S. federal legislation and regulation. The site also asks for comments, allows responses to a poll and allows Bill summaries to be edited. The cost of a bill is broken down into “cost per family” which makes it easier to digest. Just looking at some of those costs makes me wince.

I may just be getting cool enough for people to send me press releases, cause I got this in my inbox the other day from the Congresspedia Associate Managing Editor:

  • Get an early look at Congresspedia’s new legislative section

  • What’s McConnell Hiding?’ Win $500 for getting Sen. McConnell to answer on the record

  • LOUIS—a new database of documents from the Congressional Record, congressional bills and resolutions, congressional reports, congressional hearings, GAO reports, presidential papers and the Federal Register.

  • federal money & politics search engine launched (so far only California and U.S. Congress)

  • Open House Project delivers recommendations to increase transparency on Capitol Hill

I really like some of these ideas: pinning politicians down, easy search of Congressional documents, following paper trails and shining a light on Capitol Hill are all great things to put out there. And not necessarily things I expect from my newspaper.


Coconut Grove Grapevine


I grew up in Coconut Grove, and my parents still live there. It was a great place to grow up: very little traffic, winding streets, trees and bushes and the best neighbors a kid could ask for.

It wasn’t until recently that I started to pay attention to the adult world in the Grove. While looking for ways to keep up on my ‘hood, I found the Coconut Grove Grapevine.

I don’t have any idea who the blogger is, but I trust the source. Both of my parents are involved in local politics; the facts check out. I’m even pretty sure the blogger is someone they know. Another reassuring point is the amount of community interaction that goes on in the comments. Letters from commissioners and local bigwigs as well as outspoken Grovites have appeared. People I know, know of, or don’t know at all are talking back, adding information and opinion to the mix.

My parents kept me up-to-date on commissioner elections a while ago, but I was only getting their point of view. While the CGG blogger is clearly biased toward the Grove, not all commenters were of the same opinion. I enjoyed getting to see the different sides of issues that affect a place I love, even if I no longer call it home.

This blog is how I found out that my idyllic little oasis is in trouble. Over-development has been a problem everywhere is South Florida, but it never seemed to hit the Grove – until now. I cheered Grove residents on as they campaigned against Home Depot. I kept a close eye and crossed fingers over a project that would allow more condos to be built on the water, obstructing the view and adding unwanted traffic. The Grove lost both wars.

While the Grapevine focuses on politics, I’ve also seen announcements for local festivals and even a “Paris Hilton goes to Jail party.”

For anyone trying to figure out what hyper-local is, this is it. Coconut Grove is a tiny area in big, busy Miami, and is often overlooked by television and print news. This blog doesn’t just keep me in the know, it makes me feel like I’m still a part of the community.


Congressional Web Site Investigation

A while ago I wrote about a number of online political projects, including the Sunlight Foundation’s Congressional Web Site Investigation.

Today I got an e-mail from Bill Allison:

…we investigated 536 congressional Web sites–supported by taxpayer dollars–and found that a staggering 499 members have sites that do not offer basic information about their official duties in Washington.

Members didn’t bother to mention the names of the committees on which they serve, or link to the bills they introduce into Congress, or, in a few cases, even an email address to write them. Not a single member offers or links to the disclosure forms they’re legally required to file on their income, junkets and office expenditures. And just a handful offer information on their daily schedules or the earmarks they sponsor.

Included was information on their next project, Congresspedia.

Now, we want to add the results of the investigation to each member’s “permanent record” – their Congresspedia profile. Below is a link that will take you to the complete results of the survey for each member of Congress you investigated. We’ve set up an easy-to-use, semi-automated process by which you can add the results for Congresspedia’s tens of thousands of daily readers to see when they look up their member of Congress. Hopefully this will help educate citizens about how transparent their members are and serve as a powerful incentive for members to improve their transparency for the next time we conduct this investigation.

I think this is a great way to provide interested citizens with information about their representatives in government. Head on over to Congresspedia for more information.

Will CAR (Computer Assisted Reporting) also stand for Citizen Assisted Reporting? Or will we just stick to calling it citizen journalism?


Governments online, social or otherwise

My hometown cops, the Miami Dade Police Department, is on MySpace. They have a theme song, videos and safety tips. Apparently, the Department is in a relationship and its zodiac sign in Capricorn. I hate to say, it could be legit.
miami dade police dapertment myspace

Even better than the Washington Post’s Congress RSS feed: OpenCongress brings together official government data with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind each bill. OpenCongress is a joint project of the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation. They have a Digg-like visualization and RSS feed for “Most Viewed Bills,” “Bills Most Covered in the News” and “Bills Most Covered in Blogs.” You can also look at issue areas by popularity and the home page displays the Most Viewed Senator and Representative: right now, Barack Obama and Heather Wilson.
This is really awesome, and a must-see for those politically inclined.

The Sunlight Foundation is also host to the Congressional Web site Investigation Project. They asked volunteer Web surfers to analyze and grade the official Web site of each member of Congress. I did one a week or so ago, to see the rubric, which unfortunately I can’t pull up now. But basically we were asked to find whether or not a member posted certain information (required by law or not) on their Web site. The results of the study will be publish within the next 10 days.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Goes Social
from 901am by muhammad saleem. The Washington Post has more.
United States Patent and Trademark Office Home Page
No sign of these changes yet.


New York Times Blogs and Newspaper Web site stats

The New York Times has staff blogging about:

  • Bits – newest gadgets and trends
  • First Look – new features and services
  • Carpetbagger – movie awards
  • The Lede – news stories
  • The Caucus – elections
  • Pogue’s Posts – technology
  • DealBook – business
  • The Pour – wine, beer and spirits
  • Diner’s Journal – restaurants
  • The Public Editor’s Journal – responds to reader complaints/comments
  • Dream Home Diaries – the epic tale of home construction
  • Screens – Web video and media
  • The Empire Zone – politics in NY, NJ, And Conn.
  • Tierney Lab – science
  • The Fifth Down – fantasy football
  • Wheels – cars

In addition, this article reports that newspaper blog traffic has tripled from 1.2 million viewers a year ago to 3.8 million in December 2006.

Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.

Lookin’ good!


The Election cliche

To journalism majors at UF: Don’t take Applied Fact Finding, Reporting, and Communication on the Internet all in the same semester.

That said, I’m gonna succumb to the all-too-powerful urge to post about today’s election. For the above reasons, I didn’t vote. Shame on me. But I did get hour by hour calls from my parents, who are working on a campaign in Miami, Fla. I wish now I had recorded their phone calls, add a little audio excitement to this otherwise trite excuse for a blog post.

Move along over to Slate for some election snark.