Saturday, March 26, 2011

8 Goes Green, Trendsmap and O&CO

On the journalism side of life

 This week, my classmate Nan Wu and I worked on a blogpost for KOMU's 8 Goes Green project.   It aims to be "a guide for greening up."  With Spring arriving, our post was about keeping lawn products, like fertilizers and pesticides, out of our local watershed.  We also provided an alternative to chemicals - composting - and how to learn to make it.

One cool site to watch this week has been Trendsmap.  It provides a real-time look at the most used words and hashtags on Twitter around the world.  If you spend some time on the website, you can watch the words and hashtags grow/shrink and move around on the map.  Clicking on the links allows you see the tweets that mention the word or hashtag you clicked on.  I watched the word "anderson" - as in Mizzou's old men's head basketball coach and Arkansas's new head coach - move from being over the mid-Missouri area to being above Fayetteville, Ark., thanks to his decision to switch teams.

I also think it's interesting to look at where on the world map there's blank spots.  The three most prominent spots - besides Antarctica - are Eastern Africa, most of the Asian continent including Russia, China and Mongolia, and Northwestern Australia.  I believe it says something about how that area has adapted to technology, which says something about the economy.  But, I don't believe China fits into that assumption.  We know they use technology profusely and that the Chinese government tends to restrict access to certain internet sites.  The last reports I've seen show that China has blocked Twitter, which is reflected on the Trendsmap.

On the personal side of life

Last weekend, my family and I visited New York City.  We took a food tour of Greenwich Village with Foods of New York.  We visited a variety of places including a pizza joint, cheese shop, bakery, and Cuban restaurant.  My favorite spot was OLIVIERS & CO., better known as O&CO.  Their main product is olive oil made with hand-picked olives grown by family farmers mostly in the Mediterranean.  The olives are cold-pressed to keep their rich flavor, not hot-pressed like industrial growers.  We tasted basil olive oil on a toasted baguette slice with sea salt and I knew I had to have some for my own kitchen!

It had a rich olive flavor with the light, crispness of basil.  My bottle arrived Thursday and my Friday afternoon snack was exactly what we had in NYC.  I can't wait to try it on pasta and see how else I can work it into my cooking!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The World's Focus

We are trained as journalists to write and present information in a way that everyone can understand.  We don't cater to a specific industry so we don't write in lingo.  But with some stories, lingo is the only way to go.

I believe that the nuclear crisis in Japan is an example of when lingo is the language that works.  There's no way to explain in layman's terms what it means for a nuclear reactor that creates energy to melt down.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the time to explain the unfamiliar terminology.  Present it as a sidebar, web extra, or graphic, like the New York Times did below.

Although the world has become increasingly concerned with the nuclear reactor meltdowns in Japan, most people outside of the nuclear science community don't understand what that means.  This interactive graphic goes through the process of a meltdown step by step, with an explanation at each turn.  This is important so that viewers understand the significance and global impact of a nuclear meltdown.  A little extra time makes the world of difference to viewers.  This should be a lesson to journalists when they find themselves talking in lingo - explain it.

A week ago, the biggest news story was the revolution in Libya.  Since last Friday, this critical story has been eclipsed by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.  But that doesn't mean Libya isn't a big story with global impact.  It shouldn't be placed in the backseat, because it, too, affects many people around the world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Computer Assisted Reporting

Excel: Pivot Tables.
Access: SQL.
You name it, I got it.

"It" being the tools to do investigative journalism.  I finished my Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) course today and my journalism toolbox is expanded.

In this course, I learned how to analyze data in Excel.  This includes cleaning the data, using Pivot Tables, and sorting it.  Then I took those skills and applied them to using Microsoft Access as a database management system.  

 In Access, I learned how to write SQL, compare databases to find matching data, and clean data using queries (trust me, it's very different than cleaning data in Excel).  Part of my coursework involved placing an open records request, which was a new and interesting experience.  I did not end up getting the data from the City of Columbia because they wanted $365 for it.  I now know how to place a request so next time it won't be so intimidating (the City doesn't bite... they just charge).

I really enjoyed learning these skills and will be on the lookout for a story where I'll be able to do some CAR!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ridin' Solo and a Break from the Norm

On the journalism side of life:
This week, I produced my shows totally on my own!  The way we learn producing at the Missouri School of Journalism is by taking the Advanced Producing class.  A person who has already taken that class is our TA.  Over the course of 6-7 weeks, the TA goes from producing most of the show to giving the student producer all the responsibility for the show.  Last week, my TA only stepped in at the end when I didn't have no-live scripts written for my live-shot and I was busy with other things.  This week, my TA didn't show up for any of my shows and I'm proud to say the shows went off without a hitch!  Yesterday, I produced the 5 p.m. show and another student did the 6 p.m.  We chose this as the song of the day: "Ridin' Solo".

On the personal side of life:

Last week my mom had a big birthday and she didn't want a party.  Well, we didn't listen.  Dad and I planned a surprise party back in Dallas.  I flew in from Mizzou, my uncle came from Chicago, and my little brother Casey (well, he's not so little) drove up from Texas A&M.  We gathered at Fearing's Restaurant  downtown with some close family friends,  my brother Kevin and my aunt and uncle and yelled a loud 'SURPRISE' when she walked in.  And we all won the big bet: she started crying as soon as she realized what was going on!  It was the perfect surprise and for how sneaky she is, Mom didn't know a thing about it!

I love to cook and bake, but with my schedule, I don't get to do it that often.  But last weekend, when I returned home from my Texas trip, I made time to try a new recipe.  I'd never tried to make fortune cookies before but I found a recipe from Martha Stewart on a link the Cooking Channel tweeted that looked doable.

This is what they looked like in the oven.  The recipe says they're meant to be large fortune cookies, and they spread out even further and thinner in the oven.  You can only bake a few at a time, because when you pull them out of the oven, you have to shape them quickly before they harden!

When they're done, the edges might look burnt, but they're not.  The cookie has a sweet almond flavor that's not overpowering with a satisfying crunch.  They looked nice (while they lasted) and would be great for a party!

Cooking and baking, especially baking, is a stress-reliever for me, but bad for my waist-line.  So I've decided to work out (which my friends know is a big deal for me) a couple times a week, and reward myself with time to bake.  So far this semester it's worked... we'll see if I keep it up.