Megan Taylor

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

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Investigative Reporting Workshop for College Students

Clearly I graduated too early. I can’t apply for this class, but maybe you or someone you know can.

CampusCoverageProjectInvestigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), in partnership with Education Writers Association and the Student Press Law Center, is launching a program to share investigative reporting skills with college and university students that they can apply to covering campus issues.

Seventy-five students from around the country will be selected to receive full scholarships to participate in the Campus Coverage Project.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use the Internet as an investigative reporting tool.
  • Read budget documents and find the stories that matter.
  • Prepare for tough interviews and come away with the information you need.
  • Analyze your school’s performance to see how it measures up.
  • Examine athletic programs—and their funding.
  • Use legal tools to pry open foundations, auxiliaries and other secretive campus institutions.
  • Examine issues on your campus in the context of national debates on higher education.

Qualified students are those with experience reporting for campus-related news outlets who have at least one year of coursework remaining.

Apply by Oct. 12, 2009 for a full scholarship to attend a three-day Campus Investigative Reporting Workshop and participate in a year-long program that offers ongoing training and opportunities to learn from top reporters from throughout the country. Space is limited.

For more details and an online application, go to www.ire.org/campus.

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Scaring highschoolers about the future of journalism

On Wednesday evening I spoke to a group of five students who are taking part in the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

I’ve mentioned BYJI here before, mostly begging for help with my public speaking anxiety.

To my surprise, the whole thing went pretty well. The kids were Web-savvy enough to have uploaded a few videos to YouTube, and knew of Twitter, though none are using it yet.

I talked about the “newspaper crisis” caused by lack of innovation, an old business model and the problems with advertising and paywalls. (The kids’ immediate reaction to paywalls: “That won’t work.” Out of the mouths…) I went over the basics of online journalism: blogs, social networks, multimedia. I also talked about citizen journalism a little bit, in terms of how everyone can have a voice in their communities, which is a big problem in the Bronx. They really liked the concepts of “Not Just a Number,” which I showed them, along with the Las Vegas Sun Web site.

One student asked me how he could learn to code, and I directed him to the W3Schools site. Another asked about the future of news on e-readers like the Kindle. And of course the final question was “Where are we going?”

Thanks to Mindy McAdams, Craig Lee, and Tracy Boyer for their advice and inspiration. I’ve uploaded a powerpoint presentation to Slideshare which I used as a guide for my presentation, although it was really more a conversation than a speech.

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: ChangeTracker, plus hiatus

mediashift_spotlightThis week I wrote my last Spotlight article for a while. Hopefully I’ll get to start them up again sometime down the road, but for now, sayonara.

My last Spotlight is ProPublica’s ChangeTracker, created by new intern Brian Boyer.

ChangeTracker is a project at ProPublica that watches three government websites — Whitehouse.gov, Recovery.gov and Financialstability.gov — for edits, deletions or changes to existing content. Through an RSS feed, Twitter account or daily email digest, ChangeTracker will inform you when a page changes on these sites, and show you what’s been added or removed.

ChangeTracker is yet another example of a trend I’ve noticed in newer journalism projects. Rather than building a single thing, some journalists are building tools that can be used over and over, in different ways, to produce information and tell stories.

It’s an important concept, given the restrictions and limited resources available to journalists whose publications are struggling. I hope to see a lot more work like this.

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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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Speaking at the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Next week I will be speaking to the students of the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative about online journalism and the future of news.

The West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is a weekly program offered to sophomores, juniors or seniors from Bronx high schools.

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

I’m nervous, because I’m really horrible at public speaking. But also because I have no idea what these kids know.

What’s the level of computer/Internet proficiency? Do they have access to computers at home? Do they read news online, have blogs, read blogs?

James Fergusson, the program coordinator and Editor of the Mount Hope Monitor, has told me that they have not discussed online journalism in class.

I got some great advice from Mindy McAdams, who told me not to assume that the kids are technologically ignorant. Even if they don’t have computers at home, the public libraries offer free access.

She also suggested that I show “Not Just a Number” and “The Mac” as examples of stories told by people about their own communities.

I can probably spend a few minutes at first figuring out what they know without looking like a total hack. The problem is how to adjust what I want to say to their level. After beating college reporters over the head with the “good news” for two semesters, I’m not sure how to condense the message to half an hour.

Any advice? What should these high-schoolers know about online journalism? What do I tell them about the future of news?

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: Represent

The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs.

This week, I covered New York Time’s Represent.

Represent is a look at the future of online journalism — focused, local and geographically relevant. It’s a different way to group and browse information based on an individual’s political districts.

Some have compared Represent to EveryBlock. It does fill a hole in EveryBlock’s coverage, taking the concept of block-by-block news and expanding it to fit the political realm of information. In fact, EveryBlock recently hooked up with The New York Times to display political news items for each block.

Check out Represent Helps New Yorkers Track Their Politicos to learn about how Andrei Scheinkman and Derek Willis did it.

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: Map-Timeline Framework

mediashift_spotlight The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs. The main spotlights will run every other week, with mini-spotlights running on the off-weeks.

Another mini-Spotlight this week, featuring the Washington Post’s TimeSpace framework for media browsing.

TimeSpace, a Washington Post project, is a coverage mapping framework that displays content from multiple sources in space (via a map) and time (via a timeline). A display map, covering anything from a single city block to the world, is tagged to show viewers where news is being covered. Viewers can also view the news map as it appeared at different points over the preceding hours or days, giving them a picture of how the news events unfolded over time.

Check out Washington Post’s ‘Web Ninjas’ Build Map-Timeline Combo for how they did it and screenshots of the development.

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. Please e-mail me at mtaylor[at]megantaylor[dot]org to submit a Spotlight recommendation.

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First Look at a (new) News Interface

Over the weekend I discovered The New York TimesFirst Look” blog.

I’d never seen this before, although the blog has been around since 2006, when the Times was experimenting with “My Times.”

How did I find it now?

Because the Times is testing a browsing prototype, “the article skimmer.”

Article Skimmer by The New York Times

Article Skimmer by The New York Times

While “First Look” wants to compare the article skimmer to “Reading the Sunday Times, spreading out the paper on a table while eating brunch,” I simply find it an interesting — Ad-free — interface.

In fact, if Dave Winer hadn’t put together this alternative for free, I might have found myself willing to pay up to $25 a year for that slick interface. Here’s Winer’s podcast on what he would pay for from the Times.

Of course, now I can just take Winer’s river of news and spice it up with some CSS.

Don’t worry, Rex Hammock will pay for it.

Happy, Pat?

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Times Labs and the Data Challenge

This morning I discovered the Times Labs blog, where the Times Online is writing about innovation in online journalism and sharing experiences.

It was through this blog that I found out about the Digging into Data Challenge.

diggingdata

DIDC was announced by agencies in the U.S. UK and Canada to search for ways to use the huge amounts of data that have become available to the public.

The idea behind the Digging into Data Challenge is to answer the question “what do you do with a million books?” Or a million pages of newspaper? Or a million photographs of artwork? That is, how does the notion of scale affect humanities and social science research? Now that scholars have access to huge repositories of digitized data — far more than they could read in a lifetime — what does that mean for research?

Applicants have to form teams from two out of the three countries. A list of data repositories is provided, although it doesn’t look like you’d have to use those specific datasets.

DIDC is being sponsored by “the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from the United Kingdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from Canada.”

Submit a “Letter of Intent” by March 15, 2009, final applications are due July 15, 2009. Winners will be announced in December, and will receive grants to build their projects.

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: BronxRhymes Tracks History of Hip-Hop

mediashift spotlight logo The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs. The main spotlights will run every other week, with mini-spotlights running on the off-weeks.

And this week we’re back to our normal column. I found a really great project produced by two individuals who did not set out to create journalism, but have done so nevertheless: BronxRhymes Uses Locality, Maps to Track History of Hip-Hop.

BronxRhymes is an attempt to raise awareness of the history of hip-hop in the Bronx, the northwestern borough of New York City where the musical style is thought to have originated. The history of hip-hop is illustrated through rhymes and plotted on an online map.

Inspired by music, history and technology, Masha Ioveva and Claudia Bernett created a way for the community to become engaged in its history, at a time when gentrification may be wiping it away.

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. Please e-mail me at mtaylor[at]megantaylor[dot]org to submit a Spotlight recommendation.