Smarter(6): A list for journalism students

Each Sunday, I post links to three (and only three) recent articles that are informative about, or pointing the way to, the future in journalism. Previous posts can be found here. There is also a Tumblr for this series, named Smarter.

Refuge: Exodus from Syria

Refuge: 18 stories from the Syrian exodus. Many Americans are unaware of what is going on in Syria. The civil war there started almost three years ago. This collection shows — with photographs, videos, text and maps — what happens after Syrians have fled from the fighting. This is “one of the largest forced migrations of people since World War II” — more than 2 million people.

Takeaways: We can scan through these stories in a random, casual way, and stop whenever something catches our attention. It might be a photo. It might be a pullout quote. This is not a traditionally structured “long form” journalism narrative. How does that affect our understanding of the Syrian situation? Does this manner of storytelling have a stronger chance of getting attention in a media-saturated world?

Scraper code by @kleinmatic

Scooped by code. There’s been plenty of discussion among journalists lately about learning to code. Here, Scott Klein of ProPublica (a nonprofit investigative journalism organization) explains how journalists use their code skills to uncover stories that no one else has found.

Takeaways: “Scraping websites, cleaning data, and querying Excel-breaking data sets are enormously useful ways to get great stories.” If you don’t know what “scraping” means, get busy with Google. If you think code is only used for making apps, check out the three story examples Klein links to in his essay. If you want to be the journalist who gets stories that others don’t, learn how learning code can help you.

Map showing homophobic tweets

Data and visualization year in review, 2013. Do you like seeing cool charts that explain things clearly? This roundup of examples and links highlights a wide range of information graphics that help us understand things better. Some of them come from journalists, and some come from scientists and statisticians. This was published on the excellent blog Flowing Data, by Nathan Yau.

Takeaways: Maybe you’re not an artist, and maybe you lack love for statistics, but most of us comprehend numeric data more quickly when we see it represented in graphic form. Notice how many of these examples use a map. Have you played with Google Maps Engine? How much do you know about making accurate charts and graphics to communicate about money, people, and amounts of things? Did you ever use Excel to make a chart (say, in high school)? If data visualization is a good tool for explaining, then more journalists should be able to do it.

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