Megan Taylor

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

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Jay Rosen’s Explainthis.org Would Have Journalists Answer Users’ Questions

Interviewed NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen about ExplainThis.org, an open system for asking and answering questions that journalists can use for story ideas.

If you listen to Rebooting the News, a podcast done by Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, and Dave Winer, often described as the father of blogging and RSS, you’ve heard their ongoing discussion about the importance of context and explanation in a new system for news.

Building on those ideas and several existing projects, Rosen has developed an idea that could make journalism better by allowing more people to participate in the process: ExplainThis.

Published: January 8, 2010

Publication: Poynter E-Media Tidbits, a Poynter Institute blog about the intersection of news & technology.

Skills: Reporting, Writing

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How Programmer/Journalists Craft Their Own Study Programs

Interviewed six college students who are teaching themselves a combination of journalism and programming as part of a series on the “programmer/journalist” trend.

Remember the sidewalk scene from “Reservoir Dogs” that showed a group of tough guys walking down the street? They’re all out to do the same thing, but none of them are what you’d expect. The same seems true for aspiring programmer/journalists.

I spoke to six college students who are combining self-taught programming with elements of journalism education. Most work at their student papers, but only two are journalism majors. These students are putting what they know and love together in ways their formal education — and in some ways the industry as a whole — hasn’t caught up with yet.

Published: December 2, 2009

Publication: PBS MediaShift, a blog that tracks how new media — from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism — are changing society and culture.

Skills: Reporting, Writing

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Harris Field Contaminated

I broke this story about a local park where renovations were delayed due to the discovery of heavy metals contamination.

Heavy metals have been discovered at Harris Field in Bedford Park during the park’s reconstruction, the Norwood News has learned.

The Parks Department declined to answer specific questions about what heavy metals were found, the levels of contamination, or the steps taken to make the site safe. Although the agency claims proper procedures were followed, further questions were referred to its legal department and the Norwood News has filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain the information.

Published: October 22, 2009

Publication: Norwood News, a bi-weekly community newspaper serving the northwest Bronx communities of Norwood, Bedford Park, North Fordham and University Heights.

Skills: Reporting, Writing

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Can Programmers, Journalists Get Along in One Newsroom?

How do you merge the culture of the programming environment with the culture of the newsroom? Part of a series on the “programmer/journalist” trend.

“You need to go do what you’re being asked to build,” he [Matt Waite] said. “Spend a night on the sports copy desk taking high school football scores and you’ll get an idea of what a football score taking app should do, no matter what the editor is telling you.”

Similarly, journalists would do well to sit with a programmer and watch their ideas get turned into an app.

Published: October 19, 2009

Publication: PBS MediaShift, a blog that tracks how new media — from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism — are changing society and culture.

Skills: Reporting, Writing

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In Search of the Perfect Skillset for a Programmer/Journalist

Spoke with several programmer/journalists to determine what the ideal skillset might be for an aspiring student. Part of a series on the “programmer/journalist” trend.

Web development is probably the biggest distinction between CAR skills and programmer/journalist skills, though there aren’t any hard-and-fast distinctions. To try and further define the skillset of the programmer/journalist, I posted this question on Twitter: “What skills does a programmer/journalist need?”

Brian Boyer, a graduate of Medill’s journalism for programmers master’s track and now News Applications Editor at the Chicago Tribune, responded with this list:

“XHTML / CSS / JavaScript / jQuery / Python / Django / xml / regex / Postgres / PostGIS / QGIS”

Holy alphabet soup!

Published: September 8, 2009

Publication: PBS MediaShift, a blog that tracks how new media — from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism — are changing society and culture.

Skills: Reporting, Writing

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How Computer-Assisted Reporters Evolved into Programmer/Journalists

Researched and interviewed journalists regarding computer-assisted reporting and the evolution of the programmer/journalist. Part of a series on the “programmer/journalist” trend.

I see a very clear progression from CAR to the programmer/journalist trend via the web. CAR is meant to be invisible. You analyze a database as part of the reporting process, but you don’t want to clog up a story with too many numbers. The ability to add details online has changed this process. Data has become a part of the story. And that’s the key connection between CAR and programming in journalism: data.

Matthew Waite, the developer behind PolitiFact, told me his evolution from computer-assisted reporter to programmer/journalist was “the natural evolution of someone who just keeps going with CAR skills.”

Published: August 7, 2009

Publication: PBS MediaShift, a blog that tracks how new media — from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism — are changing society and culture.

Skills: Writing, Reporting

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How AP’s News Registry Will (and Won’t) Work

After the Associated Press released a controversial statement about a “news registry” that would help the organization track use of its content, I did some research to find out exactly how it would work.

The Associated Press’s announcement of a news registry to “track and tag all AP content” to “assure compliance with terms of use” has stirred a lot of discussion. From techies to journalists, it’s unclear how the registry will work, whether it will do what AP claims, and how it will fit in with copyright law and the culture of the Web.

The news registry was announced as part of the AP’s initiative to “protect news content from misappropriation online.” Bloggers worried that AP was after them, spurred by AP CEO Tom Curley’s statement to The New York Times that the registry would be used to regulate even the use of a headline and a link to an article. Others at the AP, however, have said that the news organization has no problem with people quoting its content in the course of blogging.

Published: August 7, 2009

Publication: Poynter E-Media Tidbits, a Poynter Institute blog about the intersection of news & technology.

Skills: Writing, Reporting

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NYPD Buys Guns, but Residents Doubt Effects

I interviewed Bronx residents about the Gun Buy-Back Program after police asked media to leave buy-back locations.

Related blog post: Reflecting on the NYPD’s Gun Buy-Back Program

Nearly 20 other Bronx locals who were asked about the program agreed with A.J. that gun crime would not be significantly affected by programs like the gun buy-back event, which coincided with 13 shooting incidents in the borough that weekend.

Published: May 14, 2009

Publication: Norwood News, a bi-weekly community newspaper serving the northwest Bronx communities of Norwood, Bedford Park, North Fordham and University Heights.

Skills: Writing, Reporting

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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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Resolution and Project Update

So I made some resolutions in January, and two months into the new year I guess it’s about time to see how I’ve been doing.

One of the things I wanted to work on was posting to my blog more often. I did well in January, with 24 posts. But not so much this month, with one week left and only seven posts. Clearly, I’m going to have to work on plan to find, think or do more interesting things to write about.

As for learning Javascript…I’ve written a few simple scripts for pop-up windows and the like at work, but I haven’t been making progress with my Lynda.com videos. I’m thinking about finding a text resource; the Lynda.com videos go really slowly for me.

I have been making some progress on PHP, mostly through more advanced manipulations of WordPress. Haven’t started any formal learning though. Should wait until I’m done with Javascript.

Although I have not been writing for BrightHub once a week, and I’ve been neglecting NewsVideographer as well, I have been writing a whole lot for my Innovation Spotlight series at MediaShift. I had so many projects for January and February that I wrote mini-spotlights on the off-weeks. I’m looking for new projects now though…

I said in my resolutions post that I would produce one multimedia or web development project each month. I haven’t really kept up with that, mostly because every time I turn around, I get in my own way. Right now I’m dealing with some PostgreSQL issues on my Mac. However, I did edit this video for Quinn and Co., Public Relations.

My last resolution was about getting involved in my community. I got in touch with the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative a few weeks ago and I will be helping them out with a new Web site and hopefully a guest lecture.