Category Archives: The Student Journalist

Things I learned at ONA

In chronological order, a handful of the cool tips, tricks and advice I picked up at the Online News Association conference.

1) Cool mobile apps [AUDIO]

2) Data

  • Tips for data newbies on what to consider when looking for/working with data
  • First things first, figure out if data is even available, ie: call someone and ask
  • There is a TON of data out there, a small list from Chris Keller here.
  • You almost always want to get data in a CSV (comma separated value) format or an Excel file. Avoid PDFs at all costs.

3) Info graphics

  • No slideshow or webpage for this, but the tweets were pretty good.
  • Moral of the story was to look at your data and pick the best format for the data
  • Sometimes bar charts are the best way to visualize data
  • “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work”
  • Involve data viz people EARLY on when you’re working on a story

4) Sensors [AUDIO]

  • Major talking point: WNYC Cicada Tracker
  • Building, coding sensors is a step up from basic web development
  • Sensors journalists use are often inaccurate, compared to military-grade sensors, but much cheaper to produce and easier to crowdsource
  • Sensors can track many, many things (air quality, chemicals, pressure, wifi, cell phone signals [intensity not specific person], temperature, motion, etc.)
  • Still many ethical/legal questions around using sensors in public places

5) There are jobs in journalism…

  • …and people are hiring if you have the right skill set
  • Biggest buzzwords were “code” followed closely by “data” and “multimedia”
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Further fun with minimal coding

Monday evening I attended the lighting of the Washington Monument. I thought some before and after shots were in order. I used the ClassyCompare jQuery library to fix up some images.

See my full story here

Screen shot 2013-07-09 at 11.48.50 PM

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Wading through the noise: Journalism in the Internet age

The following is a blog post I wrote for a class in response to a post by my professor.

The Internet is a wonderful netwrok of information. It’s also filled with a myriad of storytelling tools that anyone, politicians especially, can access to spread information. But just because a politician uses Twitter to spread information does not mean that journalists should be dissuaded from reporting on that information.

On the contrary, journalists are needed more than ever to filter that information.

The fact that the public can read a press release from a local congressman does not mean that they will just because it is tweeted. To be frank, the larger public doesn’t care, younger people especially. They would much rather watch CollegeHumor than Hillary Clinton speaking on LGBTQ rights.

But, the public does care about topics that the press tells them to care about.

For example, take a tweet by a senator stating her support for a new bill.

Her supporters will see it because they follow her, just like they would see a newsletter or press release she would send out. But, if the Denver Post or Associated Press retweeted it and embedded it in their story thousands more people would see it.

Journalists are paid to pay attention to politician’s tweets. They also pay attention to press releases, appearances, Facebook posts and a number of other things. They wade through the mud and muck to bring the important things to the public’s attention.

The public is overloaded with information as it is. They want someone to tell them what’s important. Journalists can and should play that role in the Internet age.

This is not to say journalists should simply aggregate politician’s tweets and rewrite them into briefs. That’s not journalism. Social media should simply be seen as one more source of information in the course of reporting a larger story.

CU falls to Oregon State

On Saturday the Buffs lost 64-58 to Oregon State in their final home game of the season. I decided to shoot it because it had been more than a year since I’d shot basketball. Good times.

Also wanted to introduce a new storytelling technique I’m trying out… Gifs. Please click on the image below to see the gif.


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The student journalist: #NICAR13

Holy shit.

Just… Holy shit. This place is awesome. I don’t really know how else to describe the awesomicity [new word I just made up to mean the scale of awesomeness] of the 2013 NICAR conference.

And I truly mean awe-inspiring, not just the filler adjective that my generation uses when they can’t think of something else to say.

Where to begin?

For the past few years I have struggled to reconcile my various interests: journalism (specifically visual journalism), computer science and entrepreneurship. Here, they all come together into a beautiful mess of traditional journalists looking to go digital, coders who like telling stories and innovators looking for someone to listen. It really is beautiful to see the breadth of ideas and inspiration that currently surround me.

We (Ali, Ryan and myself) got in a few days ago and have been staying at the Econo Lodge (you’re welcome JMC). Kat and Fish (our T.A. and professor) got in the same day but have been doing their own things. The conference kicked off on Thursday and boy, what fun it’s been.

Right off the bat I got a swift kick in the ass from Chase Davis on what computer-assisted reporting (CAR) really is. He spoke on algorithms and programs I had never even heard of. R and Tableau and D3 and this and that.

While the methods may have escaped me the over-arching concepts stuck. One has to converse with the data because data waste sucks. So often we pull little bits and pieces and miss the bigger picture, which is why data visualization is so important.

I learned all about free and cheap data viz tools from simple to cascading tree sheets.

Yesterday I learned about SQLite and databases. By the end of the day I had Sequel Pro installed on my laptop and I was in search of some CSVs.

And the lightning talks, oh the lightning talks. The five minute pitches to try and spread an idea were hilarious and thoughtful all at one time.

Today I spent time talking about how baseball stats can apply to banking and how drones will change the face of sports (Thanks Matt Waite)

I just got back from a lunch with Andy Boyle that really deserves it’s own blog post, but I was afraid that might be a little too much. Boyle is a News Applications Developer at the Chicago Tribune. No big deal.

“I get to solve cool problems all day,” Boyle said in regards to his job. “And people think I’m a wizard.”

The bearded Nebraska-native clarified a lot in the realm of databases and CAR, as well as triggering numerous ideas for the CU Independent.

One thing he said was that, right now, our taste is better than our talent. By that, he meant that we know what looks good and we want to do work like that but we don’t have the skills to do so, at least right now.

The solution? “Just make shit.”

The only way we would be able to grow as CARers is to just start doing stuff. That’s also how we get jobs.

I would be remiss to not mention some new-found friends from Ohio University. They were the ones who invited us to lunch with Boyle. Good folks.

Ah, but now I have to run to some of the final sessions of the conference. There is still one night left but tomorrow morning I’ll be on my way back to Colorado.

Many thanks to JMC and Fish for allowing me the opportunity to come out and participate. I’ve had a swell time.

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Inaug Blog: Busy day

Well, today was it.

And I’m not sure I really shot to my fullest potential. It was a good day, but I’m not terribly excited with my take.

Here’s my essay on activism.

Here’s a GoPano of one of the protests.

Here’s a Lytro I took at that same protest. Not sure about it…

I’m also working on a map of simply our posts.

That’s about it for now. More tomorrow night.

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Inaug Blog: Go time

Today was a day of firsts. I’m pretty tired so I’ll keep this brief.

I mounted a Lytro camera to the hot shoe of my Canon for part of the day.


It wasn’t until I got the Lytro images on my computer that I realized I needed a subject in the extreme foreground and something in the back. This was my best image of the day, although I know I can do much better tomorrow.

I also tried out the GoPano for the first time in the field. Since it’s such a wide angle I need to get a lot closer to any subject. In this video, from the middle of the National Mall, you can see the Capital Building and Washington Monument in the distance.

<I’m having trouble embedding the video. See the link here.>

You can see that I have some work to do in these formats. I’ll have it down by the end of this trip though.

I shot some wild art and features that you can see via the CAPTURED page and some more images on my map, which is also on the site.

What a productive day, learned a lot and got the lay of the land!

Tomorrow I’ll be shooting the Yoga Ball. Yup, a yoga ball. It’s going to be awesome.

Sorry for the brief post, I need to get some sleep for tomorrow and Monday!