What mo-jos don’t have

26 08 2009

As news budgets shrink and technology advances, more of us are mobile journalists. I could be a one-woman-road show — interviewing sources, putting things together on a laptop wherever my story is happening, then filing it via the Web.

But do I want to?

No. And here’s why: It seems like the best ideas come from collaboration.

For example, from what I can see, the ASU fellows all have some amazing material, and as we return to the newsroom to put our stories together, at least a few of us are struggling to find the best to put it all together. Perhaps even more than when we were planning our stories and out reporting, I, Chrystall, am noticing our need for collaboration.





Independence Day

5 07 2009

On July 4 fellow News21 reporter Evan Wyloge and I (Deanna Dent) headed out to interview some new U.S. citizens and listen to their stories.

The overall theme of our News 21 project is Latino culture and issues so many of these folks being sworn in as citizens provided interesting perspective.

Evan is focusing on issues surrounding a proposed “path to citizenship” and I am looking at the ways cultural icons — particularly the Virgin of Guadalupe — can transcend ethnic and national boundaries.

Here are some audio and photographs from the day:

It’s those little things that really tell you about people. This girl was all red, white, and blue as she giggled with family and friends as she was getting ready to leave Saturday morning. She is from Guadalajara but has spent the majority of her life in the United States.

Fourth of July heels

citizen01_lres

One family from Sudan celebrated two fathers receiving their citizenship on July 4th, 2009. Marco Bako, below, was one of those two dads and the little boy was playing while waiting for his father, a friend of Bako’s also from Sudan, outside.

fourth02bw_lres

citizen02A_lres

Tolemi was interesting, she was becoming American after spending 26 years in the country.

And lastly there was Maria Torres, wearing her Virgen de Guadalupe bracelet.

virgin_phoenix_lres





Planning the Final Stretch

1 07 2009

Each team took turns Tuesday meeting with our editor, designers and computer programmers to go over how the next few weeks will look. Speaking for only myself, it was a great meeting. Giving more definition to the edges of our projects is gratifying.

I snapped just a few photos while Travis Grabow and Emily Graham were in the hot seat.

Enjoy.





Wrapping up the reporting

22 06 2009

As we near the impending end date for reporting I find myself reeling from loads of content in the form of photos, audio and video.  I’ve documented merchandise in dollar stores in Washington D.C., unique calling cards in Austin, Texas and tourist photo props at a basilica in Mexico City.

I’ve been covering the Virgen de Guadalupe as a cultural and religious symbol in the United States and no matter where I’ve traveled I’ve found her image widely used on everything from t-shirts to altars to tattoos. I’ve decided to share some photographs of where I’ve found her along with captions describing how she is used.

La Virgen de Guadalupe, in this case a prop for tourist photos at the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico City, is put in storage during the swine flu pandemic in Mexico City.

La Virgen de Guadalupe, in this case a prop for tourist photos at the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico City, is put in storage during the swine flu pandemic.

A pilgrim from Chalma, Mexico tips his hat which he has airbrushed with the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe to honor her.

A pilgrim from Chalma, Mexico tips his hat, which he has airbrushed with the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

An engineer at a video studio in Monterrey, Mexico has placed a sticker of the Virgen de Guadalupe on his toolbox for protection, although the Mexican flag in the background also shows his patriotism.

An engineer at a video studio in Monterrey, Mexico has placed a sticker of the Virgen de Guadalupe on his toolbox for protection. The Mexican flag in the background also shows his patriotism.

A tourist shop in Tijuana, Mexico has painted a mural of the Virgen of Guadalupe in the rear of their shop.

A tourist shop in Tijuana, Mexico has a mural of the Virgen de Guadalupe in the rear of their shop.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is placed inbetween clothes in a trendy boutique in the Condesa neighborhood in Mexico City.

The Virgen de Guadalupe is placed in between clothes in the window display of a trendy boutique in the Condesa neighborhood in Mexico City.

A diabetic patient sits in her living room, watched over by a Virgen de Guadalupe in Phoenix, Ariz.

A diabetic patient sits in her living room in Phoenix, Arizona, watched over by the Virgen de Guadalupe.

A young girl shows off the bag her mother made and decorated with the image of la Virgen de Guadalupe in Austin, Texas.

In Austin, Texas a young girl shows off a bag her mother made and decorated with the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

La Virgen de Guadalupe decorates a $5 calling card in Austin, Texas.

The Virgen de Guadalupe decorates a $5 calling card in Austin, Texas.

The Virgen of Guadalupe is printed on this sweater, but the clothing brand is based in Japan where a community of lowriders and fans of Chicano culture has emerged.

The Virgen de Guadalupe is printed on this sweater, but the clothing brand is based in Japan where a community of lowrider enthusiasts and fans of Chicano culture has thrived for the past twenty years.

This San Fransisco artist is painting several Virgen of Guadalupe images to be placed in a church in the Phillipines when completed.

This San Fransisco artist is painting several Virgen de Guadalupe images to be placed in a church in the Phillipines.

A Virgen of Guadalupe decorates a blanket hung in the back of a dollar store in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington D.C.  Her image, alongside Jesus and Barack Obama, was the most commonly reproduced image in the store.

The Virgen de Guadalupe decorates a blanket hung in the back of a dollar store in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington D.C. The Virgin, Jesus, and Barack Obama were the most popular images in the store.





Nearly 1/2 done… tick… tock…

17 06 2009

Over the past couple days, a sense of urgency has begun to percolate into the ASU newsroom. Nearing the halfway mark of the fellowship, I think everyone is feeling deadlines approaching.  It’s motivating, and at the same time daunting.  Speaking only for myself, I’m glad to have those hard deadlines.

Andrew Long and Caige Nichols, our visual and technology experts, have had more presence in the newsroom lately. They’ve helped develop ideas for our presentation and user experience.  I know that there are a number of really interesting developments there. One of these will incorporate a new sort of video presentation, which will allow a deeper interaction with a viewer.  I’ve been continuing to develop a method to draw outside participation to the story through some crafty programming.  Caige and I will work more on this project throughout the week. Andrew always has a great way of trimming the fat from ideas, and focusing on the essential.  Both of these guys have been a huge asset and will continue to add to each project.  I know our content management system is moving closer to being complete as well.

All in all, there’s a lot of positive movement here, and over the next two weeks, each of us will wrap up with our reporting and focus on turning our work into a final product.  More updates to come soon.





Cross-pollination

12 06 2009

By Chris Cameron

Chrystall and I were driving across North Carolina a few days ago, hunting down contacts for our story, when we realized, “Hey! UNC is one of the News21 schools too!”

Fast forward to today, and we are having lunch and sitting in on meetings with fellow members of the News21 program.  Chrystall and I met up with Sara Peach, Ashley Zammitt, Chris Carmichael, Zach Ferriola-Bruckenstein, Jenn Hueting, and Monica Ulmanu at Pepper’s Pizza in downtown Chapel Hill on the campus of UNC.  We chatted about our stories over pizza slices, salads and calzones, and then walked across the campus to their newsroom.

We met the rest of the team, and sat in on a story meeting with Eileen Mignoni, Courtney Woo, Professor Laura Ruel, and others.  The UNC team’s focus is energy use and consumption, and this particular meeting was about a story temporarily titled “The Grid,” which deals with America’s energy grid and it’s possible weaknesses when it comes to new types of energy.

As it turns out, sitting in on the meeting was beneficial to both parties.  Eileen recently wrote a thesis on some Latino issues, and offered to help us find contacts, and I remembered that the New Media Innovation Lab at ASU had recently produced a “Green Game” on energy saving issues that could come in handy for Eileen’s story.  We also put in our two cents when the group was discussing innovative ways to display the story including an idea for an introduction to the package.

The visit was brief, but I believe it was quite valuable.  It was certainly interesting to see how the North Carolinians organized their newsroom (with such things as nametags on their respective computers, and a very very detailed daily schedule).

From their closely spaced desks in the subterranean floor of the building, they mentioned their jealously for our wide-open, windowed newsroom:

The ASU Newsroom

The ASU Newsroom

But they have one thing we don’t: a dog that quietly roams around and keeps them company while they work.





Rethinking Data Visualization

3 06 2009

By Chrystall Kanyuck

After the first serious “visuals” brainstorm of the Latinos in the Military project — with Andrew Long, Jason Manning and N21 fellows Chris Cameron and myself (Chrystall) — I’m thinking a lot about data, and how data tells a story.

sketch

White-boarding our thoughts on data visualization... The final product will be a little more polished.

When I think and read about data visualization, it’s mostly about the aesthetics of the information and the way the user navigates through the information. As much as we want our data to look nice and be user-friendly, our story lends itself particularly well to what I think is a next step for journalism — a marriage of data visualization and narrative storytelling.

One way we might do this is to invite people into the narrative stories — videos in our case — with pieces of data. For example, the user could enter a page that says there are 1.1 million Latino veterans, then they see a million little dots representing the people, and then a few people pop up to represent the specific veterans in our story. This part might look a little like the ‘Did You Know?’ video we (at ASU at least) all love so much.

Another way we’re thinking about the marriage of data and narrative is in relation to Faces of the Fallen. WashingtonPost.com shows us essential stats of all the folks that have died in the current conflicts, which is powerful because of its scale. Our approach might be an inverse of that; going much deeper with far fewer people.

Inspiration is on its way. I can feel it.





Of Automated Data-Grabs and Feature-Saturated Infographics?

28 05 2009

By Evan Wyloge

Today a number of the fellows consulted with our Managing Editor, Jason Manning, Caige Nichols, one of the programmers for our project, and Andrew Long, who will help us develop much of the visual element of the end user experience. As our individual projects have begun to take shape, we discussed ideas for how to present our project powerfully. We definitely didn’t make final decisions about what the look and feel of our projects will be, but we certainly got this process moving.

Speaking only for myself, I’ve considered a lot of different ways for how the story I’m working on might best be presented, but I’ve also shied away from coming to absolute conclusions about this. I want to be sure that whatever decisions we make about the presentation fit the content of the story first. Andrew underscored this point, noting that journalists can fall into the trap of pursuing their story with plans for making it fit a certain visual conception, even if the story would be better served by making those decisions later.

My project utilizes a large quantity of data that’s been gathered by various government agencies over the years, and it has a geographical component. So I’ve considered representing that data on top of a map of the pertinent areas. I also began to think about how content and information that is regularly updated over time could be routed into the piece. This sort of buttressing seems like a great way to keep a story dynamic and compelling, even after its original publication. Examples of this might include using RSS fed updates from government agencies or media outlets, youtube, flickr or twitter filters to bring new content and users to the piece, or automated Web site monitoring tools to add updated context to the piece.

One of my other concerns is that we could to easily try to fit too many technological bells and whistles into our presentation, so I’ve been wary about that. Andrew urged me not to worry about it too much at this point in the process, because that’s where the innovation will happen. It’s the fine line between unrestricted consideration, and focused execution that will produce innovative and coherent work.

Caige and I talked about Yahoo! Pipes, and how it might be a powerful, behind-the-scenes engine for parts of the project. At the risk of receiving the programmer’s rebuke, I’ll try to describe what Pipes does. It essentially gives users the ability to write programs that search, aggregate, mash, tease and format data, information or content from the Web at all times. The program lives within Yahoo! but spits the output to wherever you like. Properly designed, a Pipe can act like a small team of researchers and web producers. What’s even better is that most, if not all of the Pipes are fully open. So you can look at other Pipes and decide you like what it’s doing, and copy or share pieces of the mechanism.

Just as an example of what they can look like, here’s a screen grab of a Pipe I’ve built and tweaked from time to time.

I’m interested to hear what anyone has to say about any of this. If you’ve got input, please don’t hesitate to offer it.








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