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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Journalism data always needs context

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No one would ever accuse me of being a data geek, although nearly all of my newspaper stories over 17 years relied on numbers in some way.

I started my career in sports, for goodness sakes. Nothing gets more number-numbing than that.

As a business writer it was hard to write anything that wasn’t data sourced. City government, the courts, investigations — all had their own version of data crunching. I did all that and respected the data.

Data is once again center stage in journalism. It’s a cycle. I remember when data was big in the ‘80s. We called it computer-assisted reporting. Data was treated like the Holy Grail. I looked frequently at the Grail but mostly drank from my comforting Solo cup.

The reality is that data never went completely out of style. Good journalism has never abandoned the value of statistical information, although many times we’ve been asked to treat it as a means to an end, something that pumps up a story, not leads it.

Today, we toss out buzzwords like “analytics” and “metrics” as we strut our spreadsheets back into vogue.

This leads me to a couple of weeks ago when I helped with a data-crunching session for the National Association of Science Writers in Columbus. Kiplinger offers a training session on using Google Fusion Tables to make numbers less intimidating and to show how they can be the perfect instrument to guide reporting. Designed by Director Doug Haddix, a data aficionado, it’s a huge hit in this data-scraping and visualization world.

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‘Dirty Dozen’ digital apps for journalists goes viral

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A packed house at the Dirty Dozen workshop at Excellence in Journalism.

Late last spring when I was brainstorming workshop proposals for Excellence in Journalism 2014, I decided to visit a theme that successful trainers had been drawing from for the past few years.

I admit the plan for Digital Dirty Dozen wasn’t original, just maybe a clever modification on the many sessions I’ve sat through in which digital media experts have shared their favorite apps and programs.

EIJ14, the combined national conventions for the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio, Television and Digital News Association, would have more than 80 programs, and making the cut requires guile and progressive thinking. Going this route of the tried and true was risky.

But, after sitting though one particular session at another convention where the speaker attempted to show off 100 journalism “must-haves,” I decided that Kiplinger could do this with a little more pizazz and less blitzkrieg.

So, the Digital Dirty Dozen was born. When I told Kiplinger Director Doug Haddix we were on the hook for this if it was accepted, he raised an eyebrow. When we got word it was accepted, both eyebrows were raised. We were both a little skeptical since neither of us had gone this route. But, we were confident we could do it well.

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A website is born

Like a proud new father, I’ve fallen in love with our new website – born at 9:00 a.m. today.

I’m convinced that you, too, will see it not just as a delightful new addition to the Web family – but also as a valuable place where you regularly find ways to become a better journalist.

We blew up our old website and started from scratch to better serve our audience of journalists, educators, students and other communicators. In essence, we want our website to be an invaluable resource hub. Here’s a taste of what we hope you find helpful:

  • Responsive design: The new site is highly visual and interactive. Content automatically adjusts to fit your screen, whether it’s a 17-inch monitor, an iPad or a smartphone. As Brian Boyer of NPR puts it: “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work.”
  • Kip Tips: We’ll regularly feature quick tips involving social media, mobile apps, smartphone videography and digital tools.
  • Blog: Our new blog features how-to guides and best practices for digital journalism.
  • Featured Fellow: We’ll regularly put a former Kiplinger Fellow in the spotlight, showing now they put digital training to work in their storytelling – as a way for others to learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • Partnerships: Expanded information shows how journalism organizations, newsrooms and universities can join forces with the Kiplinger Program to better equip journalists with practical training.

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