Links and tips roundup from NICAR 2015

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The 2015 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference was an amazing experience. I couldn't attend all the sessions of the multi-track conference, so this doesn't cover everything. This is a selected chunk of things that I found especially interesting.

Student journalists and recent college grads may find this particularly helpful.

Blogs and articles to read

Tipsheets and Tutorials

If you're looking for something that isn't here, try the official master list of NICAR 2015 tipsheets and slides and the unofficial list.

Also interesting: How to survive #NICAR16.

Products and Tools to check out

  • Document Cloud is a document hosting, annotation and publishing service provided by Investigative Reporters and Editors. If your newsroom wants to post primary source documents online, send them an email.
    • You can search within documents that you have access to, so it's a good idea to share documents within your organization.
    • Documents are OCRed on upload, if possible, turning images of text into text.
    • Document Cloud's analysis tools automatically identify names, places and dates. Dates are charted, other entities are cross-referenced.
    • Notes made on the document can be private, shared with collaborators as drafts, or posted for the public to see. Notes allow you to highlight a narrative for readers.
    • Documents can be redacted.
  • Plotly, for creating interactive charts and graphs with more features than Google's tools.
  • landsat-util and schooner-tk for finding and manipulating Landsat satellite imagery. You can integrate this with Mapbox and Leaflet!
  • Datawrapper, a different charting tool.
  • Mapbox, which is now free for students

If you're in Nashville, eat Bolton's hot fish sandwiches. Recommended by Ryan Nagle, Adam Schweigert and me.

Those were not paid advertisments.

Notes for student journalists:

This is primarily based on the "Jobs and Career Straight-Talk: For (and by) Young-uns only" talk on Friday.

Grad school is:

  • A great way to turn a career or degree in some other field into a journalism career
  • A way to network
  • Probably best mixed with an internship

A computer science degree (or related) (or really any engineering or science degree) gives you a different way of thinking. And any computer science classes will help if you want to do anything web-related that isn't just HTML and CSS.

The person who interviewed you thinks about your interview, but then goes back to their normal flow of life and work. The polite follow-up email is a very subtle nudge. When advisors say "Follow up with people," that means you should:

  • Wait a day or a week
  • Thank the interviewer for their time
  • Say you're happy to answer any other questions they have, by phone or email

Someone suggested sending a paper thank-you note if the interviewer printed out a paper copy of your resume when you only provided an electronic copy.

Whenever you see anything cool, email a couple of people who worked on it and ask them how they did it and where they found the sources. Be interested! It's the right way to network, and a great way to learn how to do these skils. Email three people a week. Thus says Andy Boyle.

Sisi Wei adds: If you're doing that, and interacting with someone a lot, ask them if they'd be okay with you asking them for feedback on your projects. When you do this, reply to a previous email so they remember who you are.

Don't be afraid to ask non-journalism questions of your journalism coworkers, says Tyler Fisher. Example: "What are benefits?"

Start a glossary of terms for yourself, because then you don't have to ask a question twice. And pass it on to your supervisor and to other interns.

Keep your clips up-to-date. Do things regularly. This looks better to people who want to hire you. Being able to say "I taught myself this" is important. And contribute back to the community, says Heather Billings. Don't just use tools, but ask questions, submit answers, and help make the tools better.

If your current job is not what you want to be doing:

  • Don't let your desired skillset rust
  • Find a way to incorporate the skills you want to use into your current job

Go to conferences that look interesting. Many will offer discounted membership and registration for students.

Play with tools that look interesting. Many places offer discounts for students or for educational uses. Mapbox and Github for Education are two.

Always Be Curious.

Things I want to play with as a result of the conference


Disclosures and suchlike: I work for INN on the INN Nerds team, doing WordPress development for the Largo Project and INN's member organizations. IRE partners with INN. I graduated in May 2014 from the Ohio State University with a Bachelors of Science in agricultural communications with a minor in plant pathology and a long list of clips from The Lantern.