Posts tagged tips and tricks

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Strunk and White, Elements of Style.

Always a good reminder, and a reminder that you can download Elements of Style for free. PDF | eBook

Boiling Water Meets Freezing Air, Creates Snow

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus posts this short video to YouTube to demonstrate “what happens when you toss a pot of boiling water into the sky when it is -21°F with a wind chill of -51°F.”

The science behind it all, via Slate:

You might think that boiling water would be harder to instantly freeze than a pot of cold water. In fact, Holthaus tried cold water immediately afterward, and it stayed in liquid form. It’s the gradient between the hot water and the freezing air that makes the trick work, climatologist Mark Seeley explained in a 2011 LiveScience explainer on the phenomenon. The boiling water has relatively low viscosity, so when you throw it into the air, it breaks into tiny droplets that vaporize almost instantly due to their high ratio of surface area to volume. But cold air can’t hold much water vapor, so it quickly clings to tiny sodium or calcium particles and crystallizes.

Read through to Slate to watch what happens when you shoot boiling water from a Super Soaker in -41°F degree weather.

[I]f you want to have marijuana out at a party, you should treat it just like you would cocktails or anything else you are offering at your event: Display stylishly, fit with your theme, and make it available for all. If you want people to smoke outside then put it with an outside bar and a small sign.

Aviva Palmer, CEO of a Seattle event-planning company, The Adventure School, to The Seattle Times. Tokin’ around the Christmas tree: Pot etiquette for parties.

FJP: Service Journalism on behalf of those throwing holiday parties in pot legal states.

I Am An American
Late last summer The Atlantic put together a nice round-up of free online image collections.
These range from the well known, such as Flickr Commons, to the less well known, such as the Washington State Coastal Atlas.
In between, for your browsing and remixing pleasure, check out Rijks Studio from the Netherlands’ state museum, and the Open Content Program from the J. Paul Getty Trust which launched just this year.
Read through for other collections at The Atlantic.
Image: A Japanese-American hangs a sign on his grocery store December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Via the Calisphere open image collection.

I Am An American

Late last summer The Atlantic put together a nice round-up of free online image collections.

These range from the well known, such as Flickr Commons, to the less well known, such as the Washington State Coastal Atlas.

In between, for your browsing and remixing pleasure, check out Rijks Studio from the Netherlands’ state museum, and the Open Content Program from the J. Paul Getty Trust which launched just this year.

Read through for other collections at The Atlantic.

Image: A Japanese-American hangs a sign on his grocery store December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Via the Calisphere open image collection.

The Power of Empathy

Via Fast Company:

Dr. Brene Brown’s 2010 TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” has gotten nearly 12.5 million views online. And it’s no wonder: Brown delivers insights into human connection, vulnerability, authenticity, and shame with humor and deeply personal stories that avoid the kind of platitudes and sugarcoating that self-help skeptics love to hate. Now, a clever new animation from RSA shorts, animated by Bristol-based Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne), brings Brown’s wise words to life with cartoons of a sad fox, an empathetic bear, and a judgmental reindeer.

Important for reporters and their interactions with subjects. More important for all of us and our interactions in life.

Interviewing Survivors of Gender-Based Violence
Yesterday say the end of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, an annual event that sees focused, worldwide attention on issues surrounding gender-based violence.
An interesting starting point if you weren’t along for the ride comes from Evidence & Influence Micromagazine. It asked the filmmakers Bishakha Datta and Nancy Schwartzman, along with members of Tactical Tech to create a list of films they’d use if they were teaching a course on gender. They came up with 25.
WITNESS, a non-profit that teaches activists and organizations how to use video to document human rights abuses, took a different tact. Its participation in the #16Days Campaign included the release of a six-part video companion to a guide on conducting interviews with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
The guide and the videos walk readers and viewers through security issues such as risk considerations of those being interviewed and the importance of informed consent, along with practical tips on preparing the interviewee and preparing for the interviewee by understanding the psychology effects and trauma a survivor may feel.
If GBV issues are your beat, you’re a documentarian focusing on the issue or an activist campaigning around gender violence, spend some time with these resources. One of the most important takeaways: stories such as these are not “gets.” They are a survivor’s story, not a reporter’s or a documentarian’s, and they need to be treated as such.
Meantime, big congratulations to all organizations around the world whose years-long campaigning around this issue is so vital.
Disclosure: I’m Digital Lead at WITNESS and played a part in putting these resources together. — Michael
Image: Title page, Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews With Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, via WITNESS.

Interviewing Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

Yesterday say the end of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, an annual event that sees focused, worldwide attention on issues surrounding gender-based violence.

An interesting starting point if you weren’t along for the ride comes from Evidence & Influence Micromagazine. It asked the filmmakers Bishakha Datta and Nancy Schwartzman, along with members of Tactical Tech to create a list of films they’d use if they were teaching a course on gender. They came up with 25.

WITNESS, a non-profit that teaches activists and organizations how to use video to document human rights abuses, took a different tact. Its participation in the #16Days Campaign included the release of a six-part video companion to a guide on conducting interviews with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

The guide and the videos walk readers and viewers through security issues such as risk considerations of those being interviewed and the importance of informed consent, along with practical tips on preparing the interviewee and preparing for the interviewee by understanding the psychology effects and trauma a survivor may feel.

If GBV issues are your beat, you’re a documentarian focusing on the issue or an activist campaigning around gender violence, spend some time with these resources. One of the most important takeaways: stories such as these are not “gets.” They are a survivor’s story, not a reporter’s or a documentarian’s, and they need to be treated as such.

Meantime, big congratulations to all organizations around the world whose years-long campaigning around this issue is so vital.

Disclosure: I’m Digital Lead at WITNESS and played a part in putting these resources together. — Michael

Image: Title page, Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews With Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, via WITNESS.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
Via @RCdeWinter.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

Via @RCdeWinter.

Your Low Cost, No Cost & Creative Commons Guide to Licensing Music
Andreas Silenzi, Managing Director of the Free Music Archive, has a very handy Google spreadsheet that lists sound sources you can explore for your next media project.
These range from those with Creative Commons licenses to ones that are simply free to use to others that have rather nominal charges but are generally royalty free.
Check it: Free Music Archive Guide to Online Audio Resources.

Your Low Cost, No Cost & Creative Commons Guide to Licensing Music

Andreas Silenzi, Managing Director of the Free Music Archive, has a very handy Google spreadsheet that lists sound sources you can explore for your next media project.

These range from those with Creative Commons licenses to ones that are simply free to use to others that have rather nominal charges but are generally royalty free.

Check it: Free Music Archive Guide to Online Audio Resources.

Stats, Data, Freelance Pitches and Other Things You Should Learn in J-School

The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan interviews some of her colleagues about things they wish they’d learned before becoming journalists.

Statistics and data are important. Stories about and around them take all forms. Take, for instance, how mathematicians and urban planners are analyzing bike share data to map our cities.

Ditto how to pitch a freelance story. We all start somewhere, and it’s usually not with a full-time job in a newsroom. Knowing what’s a good pitch, and how to write one, is half the battle to getting your story out there… and getting paid for doing so.

Oh, yeah, and code. It helps to know a bit of code.

Read through for the list. It makes for good advice. What Should Reporters Learn in Journalism School?

Hello, Facebook Graph Search
Facebook Graph Search is rolling out to all users over the next few weeks. If you’re unfamiliar with its capabilities the basic rundown is that it’s a highly personalized search engine that lets you query information based on what your friends, friends of friends and oftentimes public (depending on privacy settings) are liking.
As Salon’s Andrew Leonard explains it:

Facebook allows you to slice and dice your network with astonishing ease. “Friends who like ‘Dumb and Dumber’”? Friends who like porn films?” “Single women who like to read Thomas Pynchon and live in California?”
After each search: Presto! A page full of profile pictures — many of whom are probably people you’ve never seen before, because Graph Search rummages through your “friends of friends” network, a grouping that is exponentially larger than your mere “friends” network.
You can also search through photo albums that have been made public. For example: “Photos of single men taken in California.” Oh, the douchebaggery. We have so much to be embarrassed about, and now Facebook makes it easier than ever to find it.
Graph Search is addictive. “Photos of beaches liked my friends”? Sure! “Friends of my friends who like Edward Snowden Support Page”? Absolutely. “Friends of my friends who like Rush Limbaugh?” Holy moly! There are more Limbaugh fans in my extended network than porn film fans! Something is very wrong here.

Have privacy concerns? Don’t want your pickle eating, Justin Bieber, complicated relationship, trashy novel liking life to be shown? We got you covered in two easy steps.
First, visit Facebook’s 3 Tips About Search Privacy to get an overview of what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with. Second, Slate’s Will Oremus walks readers through changing their privacy settings en masse, or on a post by post basis. Or, as Slate’s headlines writers put it: If You’ve Ever Posted Anything Embarrassing on Facebook, Now Is the Time to Hide It.
Image: Facebook Graph Search, via Facebook.

Hello, Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search is rolling out to all users over the next few weeks. If you’re unfamiliar with its capabilities the basic rundown is that it’s a highly personalized search engine that lets you query information based on what your friends, friends of friends and oftentimes public (depending on privacy settings) are liking.

As Salon’s Andrew Leonard explains it:

Facebook allows you to slice and dice your network with astonishing ease. “Friends who like ‘Dumb and Dumber’”? Friends who like porn films?” “Single women who like to read Thomas Pynchon and live in California?”

After each search: Presto! A page full of profile pictures — many of whom are probably people you’ve never seen before, because Graph Search rummages through your “friends of friends” network, a grouping that is exponentially larger than your mere “friends” network.

You can also search through photo albums that have been made public. For example: “Photos of single men taken in California.” Oh, the douchebaggery. We have so much to be embarrassed about, and now Facebook makes it easier than ever to find it.

Graph Search is addictive. “Photos of beaches liked my friends”? Sure! “Friends of my friends who like Edward Snowden Support Page”? Absolutely. “Friends of my friends who like Rush Limbaugh?” Holy moly! There are more Limbaugh fans in my extended network than porn film fans! Something is very wrong here.

Have privacy concerns? Don’t want your pickle eating, Justin Bieber, complicated relationship, trashy novel liking life to be shown? We got you covered in two easy steps.

First, visit Facebook’s 3 Tips About Search Privacy to get an overview of what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with. Second, Slate’s Will Oremus walks readers through changing their privacy settings en masse, or on a post by post basis. Or, as Slate’s headlines writers put it: If You’ve Ever Posted Anything Embarrassing on Facebook, Now Is the Time to Hide It.

Image: Facebook Graph Search, via Facebook.

Let's Define Some Terms, AP Style

Sometimes in our reporting we forget what’s what in terms of attribution. Here’s how the AP handles things.

Not everyone understands “off the record” or “on background” to mean the same things. Before any interview in which any degree of anonymity is expected, there should be a discussion in which the ground rules are set explicitly.

These are the AP’s definitions:

On the record. The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.

Off the record. The information cannot be used for publication.

Background. The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position. AP reporters should object vigorously when a source wants to brief a group of reporters on background and try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record. These background briefings have become routine in many venues, especially with government officials.

Deep background. The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.

In general, information obtained under any of these circumstances can be pursued with other sources to be placed on the record.

FJP: Pay attention to that last bit. If someone requests anonymity and will only speak off the record or on background or deep background, do your best to find someone who’ll put their name behind their words.

Related: Back when Reuters’ Jack Shafer was still at Slate, he had a pet project of tracking publications’ use of anonymous sources. He called them anonymice.

The Big List of Photography Cheatsheets
Check Hongkiat for their cheat sheets that help photographers with everything from depth of field to aperture settings, shutter speeds, focal length, lighting and more.
Hongkiat, 20+ Cheatsheets & Infographics For Photographers.
Image: The 10 Rules of Photography, via Hongkiat.

The Big List of Photography Cheatsheets

Check Hongkiat for their cheat sheets that help photographers with everything from depth of field to aperture settings, shutter speeds, focal length, lighting and more.

Hongkiat, 20+ Cheatsheets & Infographics For Photographers.

Image: The 10 Rules of Photography, via Hongkiat.

I also would like to say: You really should have kids review the children’s books (especially reviewers who are the same age as the kids whom the book is intended for).

Second grader Rosa Cohn in a letter to the New York Times (via schoollibraryjournal)

FJP: Brilliant advice.

Data Journalism: From the Inbox
any recommendations for training/workshops in data journalism? (also, i love this blog) — aliciee
Hi there. We love that you love this blog. Here goes:
Since I don’t know where you actually are I’m going to stick to mostly online resources.
One place I’d start is Lynda.com which is an online training site with video-based courses that range from desktop applications like Photoshop to programming languages like Ruby. It’s subscription-based but you can pay by the month ($25) and drop it at any time. Two courses that might be of interest are Interactive Data Visualization with Processing and Up and Running with R. Also, if you’re still in school, see if it’s available to you for free. Jihii has free access to it at Columbia.
One of the hard things about answering this question though is that there are various moving parts, not least of which is what tools you want to be working with. I mentioned R and Processing above, but there are also tools like Google’s Google’s Fusion Tables, Hadoop and Gephi, not to mention a whole host of others.
Which, come to think of it, is probably why you’re asking about training and workshops. Figuring out where to start can be confusing.
So here are some places to start:
Go Through the Data Journalism Handbook.
Review DataVisualization’s inspiration on tools you can use.
Hit up Reddit, and head to the subreddits such as this one on visualization. Ask questions.
Go to Perugia, Italy. There’s a data journalism conference going on there April 24-28… We can fantasize, right?
In the offline world, take a look at Meetup and Eventbrite for events and workshops. They pop up all the time. For example, here are upcoming workshops in New York City and here are NYC Meetup groups that focus on data.
So, with apologies for not being more specific on actual workshops, that’s what I got for you. Hope it helps. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
Image: Using Google Earth to visualize marine and coastal data. Via OpenEarth.

Data Journalism: From the Inbox

any recommendations for training/workshops in data journalism? (also, i love this blog) — aliciee

Hi there. We love that you love this blog. Here goes:

Since I don’t know where you actually are I’m going to stick to mostly online resources.

One place I’d start is Lynda.com which is an online training site with video-based courses that range from desktop applications like Photoshop to programming languages like Ruby. It’s subscription-based but you can pay by the month ($25) and drop it at any time. Two courses that might be of interest are Interactive Data Visualization with Processing and Up and Running with R. Also, if you’re still in school, see if it’s available to you for free. Jihii has free access to it at Columbia.

One of the hard things about answering this question though is that there are various moving parts, not least of which is what tools you want to be working with. I mentioned R and Processing above, but there are also tools like Google’s Google’s Fusion Tables, Hadoop and Gephi, not to mention a whole host of others.

Which, come to think of it, is probably why you’re asking about training and workshops. Figuring out where to start can be confusing.

So here are some places to start:

So, with apologies for not being more specific on actual workshops, that’s what I got for you. Hope it helps. — Michael

Have a question? Ask away.

Image: Using Google Earth to visualize marine and coastal data. Via OpenEarth.