I am a student. Formally of journalism and of geography but informally of the world. We all are. The best part about being a student of the world is that every person you meet is a teacher. So the great characteristic of Science Online 2012 was that for three days, I got to surround myself with teachers who have invested a lot of time knowing about the very things I want to make into a career. As a journalist-in-training, here are some of the tools and wisdom I picked up in Raleigh last week:
- Tool: using deep listening to turn 60 minutes of talk into a one-page visual. This is my attempt at sketchnoting the “History of science as a tool for science journalists” session.
- Wisdom: Visual thinking is popular and employable.
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter generator: http://www.rcfp.org/foia
- GovernmentAttic.org, a website with 1000s of government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act
- Submitting a FOIA early on in an investigation is a red flag because your FOIA is a public document, searchable and viewable by everyone.
- Though a journalist’s ultimate responsibility is to readers, not sources, you must have trust as a central part of your relationship with sources.
- A step-by-step on how to tell a data-based story, with tools for each step: http://speeddataing.tumblr.com/
- Carto DB, an alternative to Google Fusion Tables: http://cartodb.com/
- Choices on how to display data should first be intellectual, not aesthetic.
- Finding a story in data boils down to locating trends and then the exceptions to a trend.
- Data is a character in the story. Interview it.
Journalism, full stop
- The Guardian’s open news list: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/series/open-newslist
- My (second) copy of A Field Guide for Science Writers. I love that book.
- Adding context is not an “extra,” it’s vital to your story.
- If you can’t tweet the topic of your piece, then you don’t know what it’s about.
- The rise of social media may be altering an audience’s perception of what journalism is supposed to be.
Bonus: Awesome (and free) presentation tool if you plan to use many internet tabs: http://stich.it/
Beyond all of these “take-aways,” the best part of the conference were the chats. I met people that I would love to see again and will enjoy working with, which is a great feeling when you’re just entering a career. A huge huge thanks to Science Online volunteer organizers Bora Zivkovic, Karyn Traphagen, and Anton Zuiker.