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Data Visualizations in the Newsroom

If you consume any political news or watch late night television, Congress has become the punchline of many an editorial or frustrated monologue. But does Congress really suck?

With a data visualization, Nikanth Patel, an Editorial Production Associate at The New Yorker, hopes to help people answer that question. Created in his time away from the office, Patel entered his latest data visualization project “Does Congress Really Suck?” in the BiCoastal Datafest sponsored by Columbia and Stanford Universities, where it won the “Best in Insight” prize.

By aggregating public data into a sleek and interactive interface, Patel’s project allows users to judge Congress through comparisons to past sessions, by following the money trail, and a real-time view of the public’s opinion of Congress on social media.

Why data visualizations? For starters, it makes information easier to consume. Since we have the technology to make data look sleek, even artful, and let readers interact with it, why not? Patel sees data visualizations as just another step in the evolution of the image. Reporters have used pictures, then video, to help tell their story. Why not data visualizations? As long as it’s in context, of course. Read more

Is Learning HTML/CSS ‘Like Learning How to Use Commas’?

How important is it for journalists to know HTML/CSS? How about for journalism students, who will be entering a job market with more digital and fewer traditional job choices? This point has been discussed and debated to death. We’ve talked about it and covered sites and organizations that aim to help teach journalists to program.

But reading a recent post by University of Florida professor Mindy McAdams, it occurred to me how these skills have increasingly become expectations for job-hunting journalists. It’s not been enough for a long time to be a writer or a photographer, you need to be very good at something and at least good enough at others to be competitive in a world where writer’s send standups back from crime scenes and photographers produce slideshows, with intros and captions on the fly. But HTML? CSS? Javascript?

Her post is primarily aimed at journalism educators and why they should learn and teach HTML and CSS so their students are better equipped. But it’s beneficial to all journalists. She writes:

The system we use to present information on Web pages begins with HTML, a markup language that structures the content of the page.

I’m starting with HTML because I know a heck of a lot of journalism educators have never tried to learn HTML, and that’s just wrong. You know how to use a comma? Good, I would expect that. The basic use of HTML is just as important as correct use of commas, and it’s certainly not harder to learn.

The web is littered with comma splices, so certainly not everyone learned that skill. Nor will everyone be willing to learn HTML and CSS. (I say willing because I agree with Mindy that’s they’re very learnable. I taught myself starting when I was 10.) But she’s right, if a journalist wants to be competitive, to place themselves in the best position to land and keep a job, to have the best and most opportunities open to them, they’re going to want to know the basics or be willing to learn.
Read more

Washington Post Joins Forces With Medill To Help Programmers Earn Journalism Degrees

Computer programmers looking to move into the news industry have a chance at getting their full tuition paid — that’s right, free grad school — at Northwestern’s Medill program, plus an internship at the Washington Post after graduation, thanks to a new partnership.

Washington Post joined the Knight Foundation in the scholarship program that lets computer programmers earn a master’s degree in journalism in a 12-month program at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.  The scholarship program, previously only funded by the Knight Foundation, has so far supported 9 programmers-gone-journalist since 2008, who are now some of the industry leaders:

Spread the word to all your programmer friends.

‘For Journalism’: News Developers Launch A Kickstarter To Raise Money To Teach Data Journalism For All

A new Kickstarter campaign kicked off this weekend with a goal of raising $32,000 to create educational tools for the “next generation of news-application developers.” If they reach their goal, these are the first eight courses they’ll teach:

It’s a lofty goal and a huge commitment from each instructor, seeing as they each have day jobs at high-profile news organizations. The great Dave Stanton will be the ringleader of the group, overseeing day-to-day outreach and helping the instructors stay on goal.
The mission of this project is admirable, and would be one of the best educational resources out there for journalists.  Each course contains an ebook, screencasts, code repositories and forums.
Pledging to their campaign comes with benefits:
  • $5+: You’ll get a Twitter shoutout
  • $20+:  Access to one topic of your choosing
  • $100+: Access to seven topics of your choosing
  • $110+: Every course in the batch plus a t-shirt
  • $500+: Access to all materials for a team of 10
  • $10,000+: All university students/staff get access, plus help strategizing around integration

 Donate here.

3 Easy Tools for Building a Professional Website

These days, finding freelance (or even full-time) work without an established and thoughtful web presence is next to impossible. It’s important to have an online presence that’s “Google-ready,” with a smart-looking website that shows off your professional work in a formal yet stylish setting, to lure publications into your professional brand and show them your best work.

But it’s hard to quickly put together a professional portfolio website with a dearth of disposable skills and time, and not many freelancers have the extra budget to hire a web designer.Thankfully, there are some fast, simple and stunning portfolio-building websites that will not only put your work online but also do it with the right amount of flair. Here are three standouts, with their ease and good looks, that can give you a great portfolio website without breaking the bank.

What’s your favorite portfolio website? Let us know in the comments.

Pressfolios

One of the most difficult tasks involved in sending a pitch packet or cover letter is including relevant clips. Whether it’s sending a large and ugly PDF or including a set of links at the bottom of the email, it’s rare that clips are presented in a simple and smart way — and can also do more for your web presence.

Enter Pressfolios, a minimalist and lightning-quick way to put all of your clips in one place. Now out of private beta, the portfolio website offers an easy and evergreen place to store all relevant clips online and presents them in a thoughtful, tile-based presentation. Compiling clips is as easy as copying over a URL from your favorite article and pasting it into the Pressfolios reader. You can also select your own image for the article to make the most visual impact. Once your portfolio is put together, you can encourage potential employers to access it through a smart permalink in your cover letter — making clips an easy and fluid part of your application package.  Read more

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