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Archives: June 2010

The best advice I ever received…

Every journalist has at one time received advice from a mentor or colleague that changed their life or how they viewed their career or work. You were asked via Twitter for the best advice you ever received. Here’s what you shared:

 
Best advice was actually criticism meted out by my old news reporting tutor at Cardiff Journalism School (UK) back in the 80s, on reading our pretentious efforts: “Boring Boring Boring!”

So best advice: don’t be boring.

- Jules Marshall

 
“Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why are your only honest friends.”

- submitted by Paul Wiggins

 
“Omit needless words.” – Strunk & White

“Everyone has a story to tell.” – late Elden R. Groves, Editor Emeritus, Farm and Dairy

- submitted by Susan Crowell

 
“Shake as many hands as possible. You never know who could be useful or helpful down the line.”

- submitted by Kase Wickman

 
“Never think you’re too good for PR”.

- submitted by Elizabeth Pears

 
The best advice I ever received is if you’re having trouble starting an assignment, just “get the paper dirty.” Once you start writing, the ideas will start to flow.

- Lauren Irwin

“Know your audience.”

These three words are key to communication and the best journalism is crap without communication. This isn’t merely what do audiences want to know (that part alone leads to gossip/entertainment news overload) but what they need to know and what you need to do to engage them to make message clear.

- Susan Kille

“Marry someone who understands journalism.”

- submitted by Jake Batsell, who was given the sage advice by veteran journalist Walter Cronkite when Jake was an undergrad at Arizona State. Jake will soon celebrate his seventh anniversary with Tracy Everbach, a fellow journalism professor and former reporter.

 

 
And here’s a few more from the web:

 
“Everything comes down to being able to write well. Before you write well, forget Facebook, Twitter, etc. And you learn to write well by reading lots of good stuff and write a lot yourself. And find a good editor!”

- Ben Hammersley, editor, Wired Magazine

 
“If you think the story is worth doing, fight for it.”

- Lester Graham, Great Lakes Radio Consortium

 
“Evolve.”

- Dave Lee

 
So what’s the best I received? Not advice really, but a warning from my former editor Kim Jace: “Those pants are too hip-hop for the newsroom.” The remark was made about some pants I wore that had patches on them and were indeed hip-hoppy, but the lesson I gleaned is that people trust those who look trustworthy, that I shouldn’t dress for the job I had (an internship at the time), but the job I wanted, and that I could be more than I was at the time.

 
You can find more advice for journalists at the Online Journalism Blog and the Journerdism post 32 of the best real world career and life tips for new journalism graduates entering the newspaper industry.

 

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

How Twitter saved my career… and my life
25 Things I’ve Learned About Journalism
10 Things I wish they’d told me in J-School

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Geocoding

What is a treemap? 5 examples and how you can create one

Treemaps are a growing trend in online data visualization and you’ve likely spotted one or two around the web. But what are they?

Treemaps, sometimes written as “tree maps,” display hierarchical information in a series of clustered rectangles, which together represent a whole. The size of each box represents a quantity. Treemaps also can use color to represent any number of values, but it is often used to categorize the various boxes within the treemap.

Interactive and news designers are taking advantage of treemaps to represent a variety of information as in the examples below.

1. BBC News: SuperPower: Visualising the internet

To start you off, here is a simple treemap created by BBC News to visualize what types of web sites are most popular on the web. The “Search/Portal” block takes up the largest space because those sites are most popular. You can also hover over each block to see which sites within the categories are popular. For example, eBay and Amazon are the largest blocks in the larger “Retail” block because they are two of the most popular retail sites on the web.

 

2. The New York Times: Obama’s 2011 Budget Proposal

To visualize something as large and complex as the budget of the United States of America, the Times turned to a color-coded and easy-to-navigate treemap. The treemap is divided into sections, including national defense and social security, and the budgets within those divisions are represented by smaller blocks. You can hover over the smaller blocks to see the monetary amounts and read further descriptions. The colors of each block represent how much each allotment has changed since last year — red represents a decrease and green represents an increase.

 

3. CNN: South Africa 2010: Twitter Buzz

One of the most common ways designers are using treemaps is to track the social media response to a particular event. CNN uses a treemap to visualize the discussion of the World Cup among Twitter users. Instead of a single color, the blocks in the CNN treemap are represented by the flag of the country that is being discussed. In the example below, Argentina occupies the largest, leftmost block because it was, at the time, the most discussed World Cup team.

NBC created a similar “Tweet Tracker” to visualize the discussion around the 2010 Winter Olympics. MTV and Stamen Design used interactive treemaps to visualize the MTV Movie Awards and Video Music Awards (VMAs).

 

4. Nike: Post-Season Twitter Playoffs

Nike’s Twitter treemap, also created by visualization powerhouse Stamen Design, uses proportionate blocks to represent which NBA teams are most discussed on the social network. The Los Angeles Lakers, 2010 NBA champs, are the most discussed team and therefore occupy the largest block.

 

5. Newsmap

Finally, an oldie but goodie — you can’t talk about treemaps with mentioning the Newsmap, an interactive treemap that categorizes the news aggregated by Google News. The various colors represent different sections such as business or politics. The older a news story is, the darker the box becomes. The size of the boxes represents how many similar stories also appear in Google News.

 
You can produce a tree map a number of ways, including using Illustrator or Photoshop to draw proportionate rectangles or by using the visualization tool Many Eyes. You can also use advanced tools like Google’s Visualization API.

In order for treemaps to be easily understood by the viewer, they must be clearly labeled and, for the most part, uncluttered. A treemap can contain any number of boxes, but space restrictions limit how many boxes can be included without it looking like a big mess.

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

Be inspired! 12 ways to find the best in data visualization
8 Ways of visualizing the news
5 Ways to find, mix and mash your data
7 Amazing Twitter visualizations

The 5 most underrated fictional journalists

If you ask a journalist to list their favorite fictional reporters from movies or television, you’ll probably hear the names Clark Kent, Lois Lane, or even Ron Burgundy. This post is a tribute to the great, unsung heroes of journalism, those fictional journalists that even real deal reporters should take notes from:

Angela Vidal and Scott Percival, Quarantine

What happens when you’re out shooting a puff piece and a zombie attack breaks out? You kick some zombie ass that’s what. Reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and cameraman Scott Percival (Steve Harris) keep the camera rolling, even as everyone around them turns into flesh-eating monsters. At one point, Scott uses the presumably very expensive camera as a weapon, knocking out zombies with the blunt end of the camera. He then wipes the blood off the lens and keeps rolling. Now that’s bad ass.

Polly Perkins, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Before the age of digital cameras and instant previewing, journalists were saddled with cameras that required the film to be developed before it could be viewed. Bad news for reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) who witnesses amazing adventures and spectacles along with ace pilot Joe Sullivan (Jude Law). The problem is she only has a few clicks left on her one and only camera. It is up to Polly to use her news judgment to decide which of the fantastic things she witnesses are worth capturing on film. She does a great job of it, saving her last few photos to document the awesome things around her. In the end, she saves her last image to photograph her true love Joe…a stirring idea until she realizes she left the lens cap on.

Colleen Lipman, Bring it on Again

Anyone who has ever worked at a college newspaper or broadcast outlet knows how challenging it can be to produce news with a short staff or limited resources. Student reporter Colleen Lipman (Katherine Bailess) makes the most of the situation, doing energetic standups from around the California State College campus and tossing live to…herself.

Edward Cunningham, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Small-town newspaperman Edward Cunningham (John Ericson) is a grizzled reporter who is singularly focused and will stop at nothing to expose the corruption of the town’s wealthy land-grabber Clinton Stark (Arthur O’Connell). That is until Dr. Lao (Tony Randall) and his crazy bananas circus comes to town. Edward must then pursue the two biggest stories ever to hit the town at the same time. He asks question, refuses to back down, and makes lots of stern, frowny-faces along the way.

Amber Atkins, Drop Dead Gorgeous

Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), an aspiring journalist and contestant in the fictional Sarah Rose American Teen Princess Pageant, gets her shot when a television reporter is hit by a stray bullet during a live broadcast. She calmly picks up the microphone and begins recounting the events in true TV reporter style. For her grace under pressure, Amber is given a job as an evening news anchor at a local television station. Pretty impressive and one heck of a way to land a job.

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

Great (or greatly amusing) fictional journalists
DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part I)
How to use a video trailer to share your work with the world

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on collaboration, innovation, and more

Vivian SchillerAt last week’s IRE conference, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller gave a stirring keynote speech to the more than 800 journalists in attendance about how their jobs and the industry had shifted. In her remarks, she commended investigative journalists and new non-profit models, and touted the need for innovation. Highlights from the speech are below and you can read the full speech here.

 

“Partnership does not come easily to most news operations. When I got to NPR I heard ‘we don’t partner well.’ It was said with a little bit of apology…and a healthy dose of pride. And that has certainly been the case at most news organizations. But to increase our impact we at NPR have had to learn to get over ourselves, and to approach collaborations in a new way.”

 

“While I’m as despondent as you are at this newsroom carnage, I’m feeling very hopeful and even excited about what the diaspora of immensely talented journalists has given rise to… dozens (soon to be hundreds!) of new news orgs. Many of them are turning to a new way, the nonprofit way and in doing so are inventing something completely different — a hybrid of past and future, of old media and new.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that journalism pundit Alan Mutter jokingly lamented the short-sightedness of the newspapers who fired so many reporters ‘turned them loose to start so many blogs. They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.’

Well here we are… alive and very well, thank you.”

 

“We need to harness the power digital technology to create open platforms for our work. We need to create a true NETWORK. Not in the TV network way — there is no single entity that pulls the strings, but rather we need to come together as a network of reporters, data miners, and analysts via open platform technology where all types of media can be searched, combined, sorted. And made accessible to publishers, educators and especially motivated software developers who will invent ways to elevate our work beyond our wildest imagination.”

 

“We must employ digital media in both gathering and distributing the news. And we must adhere to a seriousness of purpose — we’re aiming high and not just for high ratings.”

 
Read the full speech here

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

Wise words from a wise man: Albert Einstein
How Alfred Hitchcock can make you a better storyteller

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