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Archives: August 2009

5 Online tools for following US government officials

The 2008 U.S. election season may be over, but the real work has only just begun. The following tools are tracking the every move of President Barack Obama and Congress in easy to use online tools that can turn any user into a political watchdog.

Congress Speaks

It’s safe to say that the members of Congress talk a great deal while in session. In total, more than 14.5 million words were spoken in the 110th Congress. Congress Speaks is a fun, interactive guide to who was speaking those words and how often. From the site we know that California Congressman Joe Baca spoke more than 24,000 words during the session and, from the small word cloud that accompanies each Congressperson, his focus was on families, children and food.

Capitol Words

A more timely and serious approach to tracking Congress, Capitol Words, a project of the Sunlight Foundation, tracks the most frequently spoken words said on the Hill. The data can be viewed a number of ways, including a bar chart that highlights the most commonly spoken words, a heat map that visualizes the most vocal states, and few other bar charts that highlight the most and least vocal Congresspeople. The words are also sortable by day, week, month, session, Congressperson and are searchable by topic.

The Washington Post: POTUS Tracker

The Post has made it easier to find out where the president has been at any given time with its POTUS Tracker, an interactive database that uses a tree map to visualize where the president has been and what issues he discussed. The database can be sorted by issues, the type of meeting or venue, and by those in attendance. Clicking further into the project reveals a tailored list of the president’s actions in relation to the selected category. The database also has an accompanying RSS feed for keeping track of President Obama 24/7.


After the 2008 election, the now Pulitzer-prize winning site PolitiFact shifted its focus to President Obama and the rest of Washington. The site’s Obameter tracks the campaign promises the president made during his campaign on categorizes them as Kept, Unkept, No Action, and a few other categories. The tool is remarkable in that traditional media have long been passive about holding candidates accountable for the promises made to voters.

The site still features its Truth-O-Meter, a holdover from the campaign season that analyzes the statements of key political figures and rates them on a scale from True to “Pants on Fire.”

USA Today: Presidential Approval Tracker

There are obviously a lot of words flowing from lawmakers’ mouths, but what does the American public actually think of its current and past Commanders in Chief? USA Today has created an insightful interactive chart that compares past presidents’ approval ratings — from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Users can select and two or more presidents and compare their standings while in office and adjust the graph by date.

For more online political tools and visualizations, including perspctv and FiveThirtyEight, check out the previous post 15 Ways to follow the 2008 election online.

Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Inspirational New York Times multimedia and interactive features
News databases: Turning numbers into knowledge
8 Ways of visualizing the news
Where to find the best in Flash journalism

Mediabistro Course

Get a Literary Agent

Get a Literary AgentWork with a publishing consultant to find the right agent for your book and write a query that will get the deal done! Starting December 3, learn the best methods for finding a literary agent, how to choose the right agent for your book, the etiquette of seeking literary representation, and how to stand out among the numerous queries agents receive daily. Register now!

POP QUIZ: Band Name or Font?

Anyone who has ever searched through a large selection of fonts for a design project knows that many fonts and typefaces can have some pretty out there names. Here’s your challenge… of the 15 names in the quiz below, which are actual names of fonts and which are band names. Good luck!

Also on 10,000 Words:

How to select the right font every time

What it feels like to make the front page of Digg

A is for Audio: The ABCs of Multimedia

How Twitter saved my career… and my life

There was a time when I refused to join Twitter, both because I am suspicious of anything being touted as the next. best. thing. and because I didn’t want the site consuming all of my free time. When I finally began using Twitter, it was much in the same way others did: sharing my thoughts and interesting links with other users. It wasn’t until I was suddenly laid off from my job that I truly understood the power of the site and social networking.

When I was first laid off from my position at a respected magazine along with a substantial number of other staff members, I was devastated. By then, Twitter had become an integral part of my day and before my supervisor could finish the call I had already tweeted: “I JUST GOT LAID OFF. Anybody have a job?”

Other journalists and colleagues who I had friended over the past several months sent knowing tweets of empathy and support, but had no jobs, only words to offer. I was moved by the support, but after the replies stopped coming, my termination began to feel like a meme: a here today, gone tomorrow event with a sudden and widespread rise in popularity, but forgotten even more quickly. Still, I went about the business of applying for jobs, comforted by the fact that anyone who googled me would find the tweet “Someone should hire Mark Luckie.”

I honestly expected to find a new job immediately after being downsized, but weeks turned into months and it became increasingly clear that, despite my unique skills, I wasn’t going to find another job as soon as I’d hoped. I felt an unshakable sense of isolation and despair sitting alone in my apartment day after day, so to fight it I threw myself into my blog and ramped up my use of Twitter: talking and sharing ideas with people, most of whom I had never met in person, but who kept me from constantly thinking about my job situation. It was through Twitter that I realized that thousands of journalists were being laid off from newsrooms around the country and that I wasn’t alone.

As the months crawled by, it seemed as if I would be unemployed forever. For weeks I considered changing my career to something other than journalism, even though I have an unabashed love and passion for the craft. It was on the days that I was feeling at my lowest that I would still send a tweet about something fascinating I’d seen online. The most casual tweets, often written to take my mind off my situation, were retweeted hundreds of times, which lifted my spirits and made me feel like I still had the natural ability to spread the news.

It was at the point where I was on the verge of shifting my focus to a field other than journalism that a few of my online friends or followers would send a note encouraging me to stick with something I knew and loved. I also was inspired by @RandomtoReason to write the book I’ve always wanted to write and reminded me why I love journalism in the first place.

It was through Twitter that I ramped up my job search, following users like @themediaishirin who listed journalism jobs I knew I was potentially qualified for. The tweets gave me hope that there were jobs out there, and though I hadn’t landed one yet, there did exist.

In the end, it was through a traditional online job board that I discovered the Center for Investigative Reporting and an opening for a multimedia producer position at its new California Watch project. More than most other jobs, I applied knowing that not only could I possibly be free from the shackles of unemployment, but more importantly I would be a part of an innovative organization that had the power to transform what journalism is and can be. Finally, in August 2009, I was hired to become a part of the California Watch team, ending an eight-month span of unemployment.

Over the course of my unemployment, my Twitter account grew from roughly 2,000 followers to more than 5,000, and it was undoubtedly these impressive numbers and a demonstrated knowledge of the power of social media that played a role in my hiring and differentiated me from others with similar skills.

It took being unemployed to really understand how Twitter could be used to foster community and relationships, a community that ushered me through a really dark time. Now I start a new chapter in my life and career with the cumulative knowledge and support of the Twitterverse to help me along the way. I look forward to interacting with many more of the brilliant minds on Twitter and to find even more new and exciting ways of using the service. For me, Twitter will always be both a guardian angel and one kick-ass job placement board.

Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Journalists you should follow on Twitter
How to analyze your Twitter followers and friends
The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make
Beyond Twitterfeed: Innovative uses of Twitter in the newsroom

20+ Cheat Sheets for Multimedia and Web Producers

With all the keyboard shortcuts and drop down menus built into many software programs, it can be tough trying to remember every one. The following are reference sheets that will make your multimedia and web production just a little bit easier.


Audacity Cheat Sheet
Audacity Keyboard Shortcuts

Pro Tools

Pro Tools 7 Keyboard Shortcuts
Pro Tools Keyboard Shortcuts for Macs

Final Cut

Final Cut Pro 5 Useful Keyboard Shorcuts


iMovie 08 Quick Reference
iMovie Quick Cheat Sheet and How to Get Started


Adobe Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts (for versions 5 through CS4)


Illustrator CS2 Keyboard Shortcuts – Mac
Illustrator CS2 Keyboard Shortcuts – PC


Adobe Flash CS4 Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet (PC and OS X)
Adobe Flash CS3 Quick Reference Card
Adobe Flash MX Quick Reference Card


ActionScript 2.0 and 3.0 Cheat sheets


HTML Cheat Sheet
HTML/XHTML Tag Quick Reference
HTML Character Entities Cheat Sheet


CSS Cheat Sheet
CSS Cheat Sheet (Version 2)


Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Keyboard Shortcuts (PC)
Adobe Dreamweaver 8 Quick Reference Guide

Also on 10,000 Words:

Essential multimedia tutorials and resources for do-it-yourself training
Where to find free sound effects and royalty-free music
21 Free online photo editing tools

20 Photojournalists' fantastic portfolios

The digital era has revolutionized photography. Photojournalists not only have access to high-end cameras with a seemingly infinite number of features, but their photos can be presented in many different ways, including slideshows and multimedia packages. However, it doesn’t matter the technology that powers the photography, what matters is the eye and innate skill of the photographer, as evidenced below.

1. Gerik Parmele

2. Chris Jordan

3. Natalie Behring

4. Antonin Kratochvil

5. Andrew Moore

6. Susana Raab

7. Martin Fuchs

8. Andrew Burton

9. Jacquelyn Martin

10. James J. Lee

11. Omar Mullick

12. Heidi Schumann

13. Benjamin Lowy

14. Stacey Axelrod

Stacey Axelrod”>

15. Maisie Crow

16. John Schreiber

17. Mustafah Abdulaziz

18. Harry Benson

19. Ryan Gibbons

20. Jodi Bieber

Also on 10,000 Words:

Photojournalism: Where to find the best in news photography
10 News photos that took retouching too far
30 Amazing photoblogs (and a few tips for creating one)
15 Journalists’ outstanding personal portfolios