But starting Homicide Watch, the business, took much more.
There are a lot of resources out there for entrepreneurial journalists; unfortunately I didn’t know about any of them when I got started. Much of my learning was trial and error. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to set up your own business, and in this post I’ll take you through my steps and what I learned in the process.
This is one of a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences and sharing their knowledge with the community. Fellow Lam Thuy Vo is an associate producer for National Public Radio’s Planet Money.
Ugh, the blog format. For a lover of long-form magazine stories and documentaries, I was never the biggest fan.
With blogs came shortened word counts, limited visual capabilities and a curtailed shelf life (although that might be arguable).
But necessity is the mother of invention, and there have been a number of folks who took the format, ran with it and converted me (which is good because I now work on a blog).
The Edmonton Journal is hiring a new sports editor. When the posting went up a few weeks ago, it got me wondering exactly what I would change if I were in charge of a sports section. How would I transform our coverage and focus to deal with the new digital reality? Where do I think sports reporting is going?
To be truthful, I always intended to be a sportswriter, not a data journalist or news applications developer. It was a speech given by Jim Brady (of Digital First Media, and ONA Board President) back in 2010 at a Canadian Association of Journalists conference in Toronto that got me excited to be in the digital world.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this plan — a bit of a dream, but this is what I would do if I had the chance.
Sports sections need to give readers a reason to visit the website. The way I see it, anyone who would want the score from last night’s game either already watched the game or the highlights on ESPN, or checked the league’s website. Writing a story for the next day’s newspaper seems like a very poor use of reporters’ time. So what should we do instead?
We need to engage our readers — bring them to our website during the game. The audience we want to grow has more than one screen in their houses — they have laptops, tablets and smartphones along with their television sets. Hosting chats during the games builds community, creates loyal readers and gives those readers a say in the coverage.
Laura Amico, the founder and editor of Homicide Watch D.C. in Washington, D.C., a website that covers every homicide in the nation’s capital, and includes news, obituaries, profiles, court documents and memorials.
Lucas Timmons, a data journalist and web producer for The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Lam Thuy Vo, a multimedia reporter at NPR’s Planet Money, formerly with The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong.
Applications are now open. Find out more about eligibility here.
Google Fusion Tables is a great tool for journalists to create visualizations easily and quickly. Since its launch, many news organizations have done some innovative things with it. With a bit of education and the willingness to experiment, you can make your maps even more informative and interesting. The steps outlined here will get you on your way.
Reporting in unfamiliar terrain is exciting. It’s the reason many of us get into the business. But it’s also full of pitfalls for green reporters.
During my time at The Wall Street Journal, I had the good fortune of being sent to many countries and having the guidance of bureau chiefs in those countries. Here are a few words of advice they passed on to me.
Last May I started writing about a new reporting method I called “Reporting from Analytics.” I’d been using the method for several months, but on May 4 it really clicked: Based on search terms that had come into Homicide Watch that afternoon. I discovered, and reported on, a homicide that my local police department had not yet reported.
I’ve refined my process since last May, but the key components remain the same and Reporting from Analytics is now one of my daily reporting tools. Many times, by keeping an eye on my analytics, I’ve beaten my competitors by hours — and even days — on stories.
After Apple booted Google Maps from iOS last year, Daniel Graf led the development of a beautiful, refreshed mapping experience that shot to number one in the iTunes store and kicked Apple’s ass on its own turf. Here’s how Graf made it happen—in his own words:
“We have a very successful Android version of Google Maps, so the easiest thing to do was to say, this is super-successful, users love it, so why don’t we just port it over to iOS? But I wanted to challenge the team. While the Android version is a great product, you can also tell it’s been around for a while. You have to access everything via menus—it’s not really best-use-case driven anymore. I said, let’s take a step back—what if we could start from scratch and forget anything we’ve ever done? We have the foundation—the Google data, the mapping data, the local business data, the imagery, the navigation algorithms—it’s a dream to start with.”