Interviewing is the baseline skill of a reporter.
I don’t remember the first interview I ever did, who it was with or what it was about. It was probably in ninth grade, when I was writing for the Craig Junior High School newspaper in Indianapolis. Maybe something to do with the chess club or the cafeteria.
I do remember being an interview subject back then, though.
We were playing floor hockey in gym class. We weren’t wearing any protective gear and I was the goalie.
When the puck shot in front of the goal, I dove on it just as one of my opponents’ sticks came slapping down. I took the full force of the stick in my right eye.
There was an explosion of electric sparks in my head. Putting my hands up, liquid poured between my fingers. I thought my eye had split open.
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WASHINGTON – Andrew Lih has always been interested in how people communicate and he’s found himself a front row seat, taking part in journalism’s digital conversion.
Lih was on the ground floor of digital journalism education — suggesting to Columbia University that they teach how to write and design for the Web. The school was the first to offer a Web-based journalism program, Lih says, in 1995.
After spending time teaching in Hong Kong, Lih was looking for the next big thing and heard about a site called Wikipedia. His reaction to the initial concept is one many of us can related to.
“That sounds wacky. That sounds like it would be a complete garbage dump of content,” Lih says.
But he quickly realized the power of Wikipedia as a rolling archive of what is happening — a living transparent document. He says every edit to every page is monitored.
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John Sullivan says it’s difficult to make an investigative reporter. They just come out that way.
“There are reporters who have this incredible desire to get to the truth no matter what the personal cost is, as far as time and effort and energy,” he said. “Certainly, they’re not crusaders, but they just have this unquenchable curiosity about what is really going on here. They are very smart about how they see the world and these problems. I mean they have this kind of instinct about how the world works and people relate to each other.”
Sullivan is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporter. He was part of the The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s team that won the public service prize for a series of articles about the under-reported school violence in the Philadelphia school system.
One of the keys of what makes an investigative reporter is the objective of their work.
“We look for wrongdoing,” he said. “We look for harm. We’re analyzing a problem. We’re trying to determine what is the true state of this agency, and so we’re usually trying to determine, ‘Is there something wrong here?’ And, I think a lot of reporters do that, but I think a lot of reporters also do lots of other types of stories too. Investigative reporters focus mainly on those things.”Continue Reading …
WASHINGTON – It’s a Herculean task: Leaving journalism to apply the tenets of the field to a new sphere. In Washington, hundreds of journalists find great jobs at government agencies hoping to adopt a journalism-mindset in their communications.
For long-time journalist Rob Roberts, a video and multimedia expert, his new digital playground is at the Department of Energy.
After a career in newspapers including USA Today and the Raleigh News & Observer, jobs in online Flash design and a stint with a government agency operating from the White House, Roberts is the director of digital strategies for the DOE and runs Energy.gov.
“It’s interesting now because in the government space, I see a lot of what excited me about journalism 10 years ago. When I was at Raleigh, we were always watching what The Post was doing and what The New York Times was doing and saying, ‘How can we do it? That’s cool’ … Especially among the agencies that are starting to understand the Internet and starting to understand what they want to be doing as part of a digital strategy, we see that same level of competition where we’re looking at what State’s doing or we’re looking at, especially what the White House is doing, and using that as kind of a way sort of uping our game,” Roberts says.
Giving government a less formal voice
While Roberts says it’s exciting to take on the challenge of branding the Department of Energy both online and on social media, he says it’s a lot of work to convince a previously formal agency to loosen up and do something as simple as responding to questions on Twitter.
“I think people want to know you have a personality. I think they really want to know that you care about these issues and it’s we want people in our office who are passionate about the subject, who go home and read about renewables, who go home and are interested in hard-core science and partical accelerators and things like that. And I think it’s important that we convey that we’re interested in these topics,” Roberts says.
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WASHINGTON – Rethinking the approach to a story can be challenging even for the most weathered of journalists. Many of us know our medium and have not ventured too far beyond it when it comes to storytelling. Data visualizations are becoming a more popular way for journalists to do their jobs, either in finding a story in the numbers or as a supplement to a larger investigation.
Since some of us are just venturing into the world of data vis, it may seem like a relatively new medium. But experts like Joshua Hatch have made a career out of specializing in data-driven reporting. Hatch is the senior editor of data and interactives at the Chronicle of Higher Education. He’s an Online News Association board member and adjunct professor of journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.
After working with data for years, Hatch understands its storytelling value. We discussed the best use of data is when it answers a question.
“You’re getting data you can then act on. So the same is true with … knowing the point spread of a game, or it might be what stock is tanking. So, I think a lot of times data is really a step towards answering questions, solving a problem, that sort of thing,” Hatch said.
Hatch was kind enough to write us a how-to guide to aquainting yourself with the basics of data visualizations. For those of us who aren’t looking to become experts, he says it’s still important to understand the capabilities for story telling with data — not only to increase your knowledge base, but to better understand the challenges and lingo of the data experts in your newsroom.
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Jan Schaffer, the executive director of J-Lab, wants to help media entrepreneurs find new ways to succeed.
A Pulitzer-Prize-winning business editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she left her daily journalism gig in 1994 to become one of the pioneers of the growing civic-journalism movement.
In 2002, she launched J-Lab to help journalists develop new projects with innovative technologies.
“I think journalism is very much in flux,” Schaffer said. “A lot of legacy news organizations have been disrupted. But at the same time, a lot of media entrepreneurs are coming up with entirely new media products that are very exciting. They are filling the gaps that have been created by old media, where old media has pulled out of areas or pulled reporters off the streets. So, there’s a lot of innovation going on and a lot of entrepreneurship going on.”
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Amy Eisman is a journalism educator and former editor. Currently, she is the director of the MA in Media Entrepreneurship program, launched in 2012, and the 13-year-old MA in Interactive Journalism at American University, from which the three founders of It’s All Journalism graduated. Previously, Eisman was the AU School of Communications’ director of writing program.
For 17 years, Eisman was an editor for Gannett, including the executive editor of USA Weekend. She was also a managing editor at AOL and a Fulbright lecturer in Moscow. Eisman co-chaired the 2010 Online News Association Conference and chairs ONA’s MJ Bear Fellowship committee, which honors digital journalists under the age of 30.
It’s All Journalism’s Michael O’Connell spoke with Eisman about where journalism is at, where it’s headed and how journalists can find opportunities in the shifting environment.
Tutorials and lessons
- HTML5 Please
- Code School
- Journalists’ Toolkit
More resources — recommended by Amy Eisman
- NewsU at Poynter
- PBS MediaShift
- 22 tools and apps every journalism student should know about (h/t Jody Brannon)
- Maynard Institute
Find more It’s All Journalism Podcasts here.