Megan Taylor

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

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Apps for America

appsforamerica

Sunlight Labs recently announced Apps for America, a mashup contest to create applications using Sunlight data to “make Congress more accountable, interactive and transparent.”

Sunlight is offering $15,000 as the first prize, and scaled prizes to second, third and honorable mentions.

Entries must be applications that use a host of government information APIs or datasets, including the Sunlight Labs API, OpenSecrets.org API, the FollowtheMoney.org API, the Capitol Words API and other Sunlight APIs and datasets. We also encourage you to use Sunlight’s code libraries, which the Labs recently open sourced.

Adrian Holovaty – Founder, Everyblock.com, Django Project, Aaron Swartz – Director, Watchdog.net, Peter Corbett – iStrategyLabs, Xeni Jardin – BoingBoing.net and Clay Johnson – Director, Sunlight Labs will judge the entries.

Submissions are due on March 31st. Winners will be announced on April 7th.

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Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

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YouTube Journalism Contest

YouTube recently collaborated with the Pulitzer Center to produce Project: Report, a journalism contest focusing on important stories that don’t get the attention they deserve.

youtubeprojectreport

The winners have been announced, chosen through three rounds of competition, voting by the YouTube Community, and a panel of journalists from the Pulitzer Center.

The winner is Californian Arturo Perez, Jr., who reported on Camphill California, a community where adults with developmental disabilities live, learn and work together. He will receive $10,000 to travel and do a story in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center.

Check out the finalists, stories produced by the Pulitzer Center and production tips from Sony and Intel.

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Obamania

I’m confused. I feel out of the loop.

I get that Obama is the first black president.

I get that he represents a new era in our history.

I get that he represents changes that a lot of people want to see.

I get that his use of social media and technology during his campaign implies some very cool things during his presidency.

But why is everyone going apes**t!?

Why do I keep seeing articles about what the Obamas ate for lunch, or the kids’ first day at school or his physical appeal?

Why did a whole bunch of people stand around in the freezing cold to listen to other people talk, and musicians with numb hands try to play?

Why are there iPhone applications devoted to this man and his inauguration?

I remember Bush’s inauguration as a bad day, because my family disagrees with his beliefs and policies. I don’t remember Clinton’s. And before that, I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than my skinned knees.

But I’ve asked around, and no other inauguration has been compared to Woodstock.

I really don’t get it. Do you?

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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!

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Election Afterthoughts

Last night was one of most exciting of my life. I got to watch America do something special.

I got home around 6:30, right after the first polls closed. I stayed hooked to television and computer until just after President-elect Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. It was an amazing experience.

During past elections, information was sought largely from television news. This time, I paid more attention to a large selection of Web sites than to the obnoxious commentary of political analysts. Apparently, so did a lot of other people:

According to Akamai, which is the content delivery network for most major news sites including CNN (which had a record day on its own), NBC, Reuters, and the BBC, global visitors to news sites peaked last night at 11 PM with 8,572,042 visitors per minute.
That is double the normal traffic level, and 18 percent above the previous peak of 7.3 million visitors per minute achieved during the World Cup back in June, 2006. (The third biggest peak to news sites was last March during the first day of the U.S. college basketball playoffs when it hit 7 million visitors per minute).(TechCrunch)

Most of the links below aren’t to news sites, though. These are passionate and creative people who found different ways to reflect on what we all saw last night. A little bit of meta-coverage, if you will.

Mark Luckie put together a time-lapse video of the NYTimes home page from last night. It starts while voters are still at the polls and ends with Obama’s victory. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was an inspired musical choice.

Mark Newman and his cartogram software showed how skewing the normal red/blue map according to population or electoral votes is a better graphical representation of how America voted.

Daily Kos collected headlines and newspaper front pages in the US and elsewhere. Excellent collection with some really creative designs.

My friend Matthew Gonzalez grabbed some screen shots from news Web sites’ home pages. I really love the NYTimes treatment.

Designer Robb Montgomery collects his best picks of front pages. I have to agree, the Chicago Sun-Times front is amazingly powerful. He also brings us “a video tour and spot critique of top U.S. media Web sites and their election graphics at the moment when Sen. Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.”

ReadWriteWeb put together a really cool slideshow of election coverage online, showing resources from Twitter to Ustream, news sites and more.

Mindy McAdams put together her own slideshow of voting maps and home pages.

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Spot.us FB group and updates

I recently joined the Spot.us group on Facebook. I’ve met David Cohn and heard him talk about Spot.us as well as following his blog for quite some time now. His idea is intriguing, and I’ve been pretty excited to see how things might work out for him.

From his message to the group, here are three successfully funded stories:

The first example of Community Funded Reporting came from a fantastic reporter Alexis Madrigal who examined the infrastructure of ethanol in the state of California. I feel confident that it is the most exhaustive look at the subject to date.

The second example is ongoing: The SF Election Truthiness Campaign. We raised $2,500 from 74 small donations (average $33) to fact-check political advertisements for the upcoming SF Election.
Just today PBS’ MediaShift blog wrote about it.

Our most recent success story is underway right now: Chris Amico will look into the environmental concerns of cement kilns in the Bay Area.

Sounds like things are going really well for David so far, (congrats!) and I hope to see the project grow and even expand to other areas!