Quite the day

August 28, 2008

Today our most senior reporter was fired. The exact reasons why are spinning around the rumor mill, but essentially, he was fired for missing work to interview for another job. Outwardly, newsroom was rather macabre the rest of the day, but conversation and discussion was intense on a low-key level. Lots of people are considering the ramifications. Most noticeably, they are questioning what this means to the quality of our paper.

Journalists are interesting folks, and their set of morals and values have a tendency to clash rather than yield.

Quite the industry.


Mapping out data

August 27, 2008

I’m a visual person. Give me a list, and I start visualizing what I’m reading. If I’m unable to visualize, I hit a wall and either move on, or start looking for a way to chart this stuff out.

Today I started work on a project I conceived the night before I interviewed for my job at the PNJ. I want to figure out what is going on with abandoned houses around the city. The specifics will be ironed out as the story presents its self.

So I found a list of code violations on a local government website and since I’m new to the area, I hit a dead end. (Although I did see my neighbor’s house had a violation.)

So after an afternoon interview was a no-show, I sat down and tried to figure out how to map out the addresses. A google search for, “Map out a list of addresses,” turned up Map A List.

It was the PERFECT solution. It’s easy to set up and interfaces with Google documents. I dumped in a list over 700 addresses with code violations and it gave me this: (click image to visit interactive map).

It offers tons of options for displaying data and can be displayed interactively on web pages that support iframes (wordpress blogs don’t apparently).

Me and Map A List are going to get very well acquainted.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found a way of presenting interesting information about derelict houses and problem areas to the public absolutely free of charge. Map-a-list is free, and the list of violations are public record. With a little tweaking, I can have the violations and the addresses appear when a pin is selected.

There are lots of possibilities. I think that the future of journalism is going to be in taking the interesting bits from the torrent of information avaliable on the web, and repackaging and presenting it in a way that makes sense.

Tools like these make this possible and cheap.

Beyond the press: what it means

August 27, 2008

In a world of limitless possibilities, I’m trapped in an industry of limits. An industry where, suddenly, the freedom of the press isn’t feeling so free. Journalists today are constrained by tightening budgets, fewer jobs, less space and less time.

So looking at the landscape, and realizing the problems, I’m jumping in head first.

I’m a brand new professional journalist, cutting my teeth at my first “real” journalism job at the Pensacola News Journal, a Gannett paper on the panhandle of Florida.

This space is about what doesn’t make it on the page.