Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer fun for journalism students and grads

Mark Luckie has an inspiring list of 30 Things You Should Do This Summer for journalism school grads, most of which involve getting practice with new online journalism tools... and they are perfectly good ideas for students a year or three away from graduation.

Meanwhile, the Society of Professional Journalists has a "Journalist's Toolbox Update," with more than 30 resources for reporters, editors and teachers -- from online social network tools to background articles on swine flu and government contractors in Iraq. Exploring any of those would be a good idea, too...

As Luckie puts it, "You could spend this summer working on your killer tan... or you could use the downtime to get heads up on the thousands of other grads competing for journalism jobs."

I added a footnote to his post, suggesting that many journalism grads would also profit from the less technological activity of reading some really good journalism -- both to experience the writing and to think about how the reporting was done. I'm working on Max Frankel's autobiography, "The Times of My Life, and My Life with The Times," myself. Gay Talese's "The Kingdom and the Power" and David Halberstam's "The Powers that Be" are old favorites for J-school grads who haven't read them yet.

Here are some source lists:

Those last Pulitzer examples include stories you can read online. The book-length suggestions, on the other hand, are easier to take to the beach.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching & graphing public data using Google

A new data-visualization feature was added to Google search a couple of months ago, while I wasn't paying attention to anything but end-of-semester work. The system uses the latest official statistics available from government agencies, and Google is soliciting more data.

Luckily my Twitter feed brought a couple of tips about it today. Very cool. Try typing "unemployment rate" or "population" in a Google search window, followed by the name of your city or county. This would be very useful for journalism students, once it works as advertised. (See note below.)

Related posts:
Problem:The click-through enlarged graphs shown in the video work for "population radford va" but when I search for "unemployment rate radford va" the enlarged graph page comes up blank. The same happens with the two searches demonstrated by Google. I posted a note in a Google forum asking whether the unemployment data search is broken... and will update this when I get more info. (Or just follow that link to the forum to see if there's any discussion.)

On the population data search, a left column allows you to add other counties or states to the expanded graph, as shown in the video. Using the same technique with unemployment data would be even more interesting, so I hope they get it working.

Footnote: The search should be "population placename, st" or "unemployment data placename, st" -- if you leave out the word "data" in the unemployment search, or include it in the population search, you don't get the data graph. The comma appears to be optional. Also, in some localities, such as Radford, independent city names work with or without the word "city." County searches also work with or without the word "county." (New York City, however, is not the same kind of thing. Apparently "New York County" is only part one of five in the city -- 1.6 million of its 8.2 million people. See U.S. Census QuickFacts. )