NICAR 2020 Lightning Talks

Submit a talk by February 7th. Voting begins Feb. 14th (10 a.m. Eastern) and closes Feb. 21nd (11:59 p.m. Eastern).

3
votes

Natural experiment approach against statistical cynicism

Natural experiment approach is one of the compelling ways for the reporters to write causal inference stories by analyzing observational and/or public data while avoiding selection bias and statistical cynicism. Although this approach cannot always be applied to the questions you want to know, you have still many policy-making arguments that you can debunk.

2
votes

How to face your fears and do cool shit

Fear can be a useful emotion but in today's crazy world, too often things trigger fear which stops us from doing things that we want to do and it really gets in the way! Part "inspirational talk", and part practical advice for how to rationally deal with your anxiety demons and use fear to do cool shit.

1
votes

Collaboration Without Hatred

Collaborating on long term projects with multiple reporters, producers and editors can end up feeling like a fraught process as you juggle different personalities, working styles and workloads. A data reporter runs through how the team for Capital Public Radio's TahoeLand podcast worked together to create an in-depth podcast about climate change (and still liked working with each other at the end of it) by valuing each other, acknowledging their teammates know things they don't and sending each other lots of silly gifs on Slack.

5
votes

Improving your mental health: 5 tips for maintaining hope in a dark world

From mass shootings to heart-wrenching accounts of people who have undergone tragedies, a journalist's job can be consistently traumatizing. I’ve covered more mass shootings than I’m comfortable with and come from a family with mental health issues. Too many journalists witness tragedy and suffer alone. I'll talk about methods that I've used to maintain hope in a dark world and systematic changes that employers can make to improve life for their team.

0
votes

How to add a JavaScript-based data visualization to your Wordpress posts

I'll show people how to add a plugin to the Wordpress site and later, add HTML, CSS, JavaScript codes to a post. I'll use examples from HighCharts JS and amCharts JS.

3
votes

How You Should Feel About Sentiment Analysis

What's the secret sauce that makes sentiment analysis tick? We'll go beyond simple positives and negatives to see how algorithms are used to wrangle memes and tease out topics like hate speech and sarcasm.

1
votes

Shopping as a metaphor for software development

Some projects go very smoothly. Many projects don't go smoothly. This talk proposes a simple risk classification scheme for software development tasks, based on how common shopping trips often go wrong.

9
votes

The three kinds of code you'll write in the newsroom

And there are only three: reporting, storytelling and product. You might do all three, often at the same job and sometimes on the same project, on the same day. But we screw ourselves up when we (or our editors) forget which kind of code we're writing in a given moment. This is an effort to find common language for ourselves and our bosses, for our work today and our career growth. (And I'll talk about a few times I've learned this the hard way.)

3
votes

Self-care for the young journalist – without alcohol

As a full-time college student juggling two part-time jobs as a journalist being a freelancer minoring in Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies volunteering at a nursing home weekly having responsibilities in my local church congregation – here's how I keep my cool and find my joy every day while handling really hard topics, and some tips from others on their methods too. Loving our jobs and loving our lives while wrestling with pain and stress everyday is possible!

10
votes

The secret history of Pokémon, as told through metadata

On ’90s video games, hidden indices and how world-changing creative ideas come together.

6
votes

How do you put the data viz in the CMS?

At NICAR we learn how to make many types of graphics, data visualizations, interactives, apps, maps, and embeds. Every newsroom wants to use these, but how do you get them into the CMS? This will cover many different CMSes and many different feature types. Plus there'll be a reference website you can visit after the talk!

4
votes

What is data journalism's "triple threat"?

What does Mizzou basketball player Aijha Blackwell have in common with LeBron James? What do you have in common with Jen LaFleur? The answer to all of these questions is: the FUNDAMENTALS.Fundamentals, and the discipline to practice them, are the keys to success. And they are accessible to everyone, regardless of skill, experience, platform, newsroom, salary, and job description. Let's take five minutes and drill the data journalism version of basketball's triple threat, and learn a few basketball moves as well.

1
votes

Streamline your project pipeline with Google Docs

Google Docs' collaborative editing and accessibility to the broader newsroom make it an ideal place for the data that powers interactive projects. I'll talk about how we've used Docs and Sheets to publish enterprise stories and templates, and how we turned the keys over to reporters and editors so that making updates to those projects is as simple as pushing a button.

3
votes

Wait, what actually is AI?

It's apparently changing the world around us, and taking our jobs with it, but what actually is artificial intelligence? For a term so often seen, both in our reporting as well as at conferences like this, it's often not understood. And how about 'machine learning'.. is that the same thing? Is it all just computery-magic? I'll give an accessible explanation of what exactly AI is.

1
votes

Life hacks: 3 Tips to Make your Day Run More Efficiently

Quick scripts to automate some repetitive tasks1. How to send multiple customized emails at once2. How to use Google sheets to calculate distancesBonus: A faster healthy dinner trick

6
votes

What's a margin of error anyway? Commonly misunderstood terms about polls

2020 is going to be a big year for polls, not to mention the decennial census program. Both will use sophisticated methodologies, such as imputation and oversampling. This talk will provide strategies for communicating these methodologies to the general public.

2
votes

Getting the most out of your text data using Python

Have you ever wanted to automate your text processing tasks? This talk will teach you the basics of Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Python. I'll cover how to complete basic NLP tasks in the Spacy spacy, review ways you can use text analysis to develop data stories, and show examples of where NLP makes articles shine.

5
votes

Lessons from Thomas Hoffeller: The Precinct Data Problem

The single greatest factor in predicting future election outcomes is historical election results, which makes granular election data a very powerful tool. Being able to connect voting trends to locations on a map allows us to see how political boundaries affect the results of elections and political representation. The late Thomas Hoffeller knew how important this data was, and the Princeton Gerrymandering Project is creating such a resource out in the open. Come hear how we’re building a precinct-level database of shapefiles, election results, and census data for all 50 states on OpenPrecincts.org. We’ll show you how we resolve frightful joins, poor data quality, and other common problems.

7
votes

Rapid Response to Gerrymandering in 2021

In 2021, political maps of all levels will be redrawn in all 50 states. This is a fast paced and chaotic process that often ends up with multiple proposed maps being published right before they are scheduled for public hearings or votes, giving journalists and the public minimal time to make any observation or provide feedback. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is building tools to strengthen rapid response strategies that will allow a well rounded analysis of a map to be publicized across the state, leading to fairer outcomes this decade than the last. With accurate open data, a little python, and the power of journalism, we can let map drawers know that citizens will not let lines be drawn for politicians any longer.

8
votes

I'm Obsessed With Numbers. Here's How Weird They Can REALLY Get.

We're at NICAR, so I know you already like numbers. But in our day jobs, we rarely encounter how how utterly quirky and absurd numbers can get. Did you know there are different kinds of infinities? Or that there's a mathematically ideal way to cut cake? Let me melt your brain — and give you some new ways to think about numbers.

8
votes

What we learned about data viz from starting a Dungeons & Dragons club

Dungeons and Dragons: It’s not just for Will Byers anymore. A data viz reporter and a developer share what they learned from bringing the world of mind flayers and paladins to their newsroom. Learn why it’s important to have a tank and a healer on your team, why Adobe Illustrator is a dungeon master’s best friend, and more.

7
votes

Why I surrounded 11 lakes for a story

Nature is a private good for the public and should therefore be accessible for everyone – so far the public opinion in Austria. Nevertheless a lot of property along the lakes is privately owned and not accessible, so every summer the discussion starts again. But: there is no data about accessibility available. So I walked and drove around the eleven biggest lakes to measure the proportion of access to compare different lakes and policies. We found huge differences in public access, and even corrected some false information published in other media.

4
votes

Baby’s first newsroom: lessons learned in our first year since transitioning to journalism

A year ago we were unhappy at our former jobs and trying to break into journalism, interviewing for positions in a dim office stairwell and in the parking lot of a 24 Hour Fitness. We’d like to share how we transitioned into journalism without J-School degrees and why hiring someone outside of journalism can be an asset (and maybe even a superpower).

9
votes

Covering immigration as an immigrant

As soon as Trump took office in 2017, one of his first moves to axe the work permit for the visa I was on. Then they tightened the criteria for my husband's visa. Every year under this administration has been challenging for every immigrant, including me. But it also empowered me to unearth stories of abuse and power with more empathy, passion and rigor. An immigrant can bring rich perspectives and new voices to the reporting, which is much needed, but newsrooms sometimes wonder about bias. This lightening talk will take you through my experiences reporting on a project while undergoing similar things in my personal life. We'll talk about the checks and balances we put in place to be fair and show how the benefits this type of reporting bring can far outweigh any concerns of bias.

7
votes

5 things you can learn from court records

An RCFP attorney will walk participants through the value of court records and what you can glean from this often under-utilized resource.

9
votes

How to show your editor what you've found in data

Ever feel like you know you've found a great story in data but when your editor asks to see it, suddenly all communication just breaks down and you're speaking two different languages? I'm here to share what I've learned about presenting data stories and data elements to stories on all beats to editors of varying skills.

4
votes

When our data knows more than our sources

It can be easy to forget that sometimes the data we're looking at is telling us more about the world than the people whose lives it represents even know. I learned that the hard way using satellite imagery while reporting in a refugee camp. We have power in the tools we use and the techniques we can apply - but with each story come hard choices about how we use what we know. This talk would share a hard lesson learned about what to consider before you start sharing your data.

9
votes

Who does the chores in your office?

From loading dishwashers in kitchens to organizing holiday parties to taking notes in a meeting, women take on more "office housework" than men across workplaces. Newsrooms are no different. A disproportionate number of women volunteer for these jobs and a disproportionate number are also asked to do them. Refusing to do them can be tricky, but taking on these little, seemingly invisible "non-promotable" tasks hurt women's careers over time, research says. The good news is there many things we can do together and individually to make sure our workplace is more equitable to women. Ready to hear how?

1
votes

Check in on your neighbors

Sometimes the best stories can be found in data from outside your state or country. Maybe you can't find those public datasets. Maybe your FOIA request will take another year. Maybe there are privacy laws blocking the publication in your region. When you're reporting, don't forget to look at data from outside your region's boundaries. Often the data you need comes from just next door.

9
votes

What Rocket Science Can Teach Us About Designing for Humans

NICAR-L and News Nerdery are fantastic, but in 5 minutes, I'll show you what NASA can teach us when it comes to how people process information and interact with tech. Hear about how putting people in space has resulted in great advice for the newsrooms of Earth, such as pointing out missing data, labeling things clearly, and handling the regret of pushing the wrong button.

5
votes

Source protection, journalist protection: the why and how of malware-resistant anonymous tiplines

Targeted malware attacks on journalists, communications metadata that burns sources--a secure tipline workflow is important, but can be challenging to implement. Freedom of the Press Foundation discusses SecureDrop, an open-source whistleblowing platform in use at newsrooms worldwide, and looks ahead to better tipline tooling for newsrooms.

3
votes

Mind Your Priorities!

Editors calling for your attention. Colleagues coming over to chat. “Bombshell” news alerts and the never-ending Twitter scroll. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for avoiding distractions and focusing on your priorities so you get your big projects done.

14
votes

Fade In: What Data Journalism Can Learn from Screenwriting

How do screenwriters jam-pack information into a film? They plant clues for suspense, set up discoveries for surprises, build up anticipation, and more. By establishing these narrative rhythms, they help us understand complex stories and keep us engaged. Data journalism shares a similar goal. Borrowing from film examples, we’ll learn the different ways you can dive into a data dump and emerge with a compelling story.

2
votes

No, Nora – everything is DATA!

Nora Ephron is my hero, and her famous quote "everything is copy" always resonated with me, but there was something missing. Basically, I'll be talking about how to develop a data mindset so you can't stop thinking about it. Alternatively titled, "How I can't stop thinking of story ideas, even on my days off."

4
votes

Data gamification: a nerdy way to improve data accessibility

We compiled census track data (mostly) to create a game that can pick the best city that fits you and our audiences loved it. Here's how we did it, along with five other data games that we like.

4
votes

50 shades of poverty or measuring the unmeasured

I'd like to share the experience of 2 years of Internews data journalism fellowship I am mentoring in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, with the focus on eradicating the poverty and increasing the wellbeing. During this time, we had to get pretty inventive about how to measure poverty and how to prove the limited access of poorer people to education, health, clean water, etc with data. From using the straightforward data of the poverty levels, incomes and expenses, we have made our way to be using the proxy data of cancer registration by regions, domestic violence by the status of the abuser and the number of guests at the wedding. Since only when it's measured, can we call to action. More about the program:https://datajournalism.internews.org/kyrgyzstan

2
votes

The hidden complexity in the way we represent big numbers, and how it drove me crazy

The task was simple - come up with a function to format monetary values regardless of language and currency, so stories can be automatically translated into other languages. It ended up requiring a giant spreadsheet and taking us nearly four months to get teams in different countries to sign-off. And it’s still not done. The reason: news bureaus in each country care about different things, and over the years, have modified the standard style guide in small ways. I’ll walk through the unexpected complexity of this problem and show some simple tricks that can let you bypass this quagmire while using Google Translate.

3
votes

You’ve paid off your student debt, but what about Technical Debt

Design and coding decisions that make sense when you want to get something out the door quickly, can lead to lots of unnecessary work later on when you are scaling up the product. That’s called technical debt, and it’s a subject engineers and product managers in tech companies pay a lot of attention to. We should too. I’ll explain what technical debt is, and the myriad ways it eats up our time, and finish with five tips to minimize technical debt in our day-today routine.

1
votes

John Snow and the Broad Street pump

In London, 1854, a doctor called John Snow did something we'd today recognise as data journalism. Tens of thousands were being killed by cholera, which had no known cure, and, worse, nobody knew how it was being transmitted. Some people thought, correctly, that it was transmitted through germ-infected water, but the theory wasn't well accepted. When people started dying at one location, Broad Street in central London, Snow started plotting their deaths on a map, which ended up showing that they centred around a water pump. By showing this pattern the handle of the pump got removed, and the deaths stopped as people moved to different water supplies that weren't infected. I'll tell the remarkable true story of Snow's data-led investigation.

2
votes

The Fool's Journey: Giving Journalism a Tarot Reading

See what a pack of 78 fortune-telling cards from 18th century Europe can explain about the past, present, and future of journalism (and no, the fix isn't an overpriced candle).

17
votes

Easy ways to become more secure online in under an hour

I recently realized how *much* information about me was online, and I panicked. So, from experience, here are the easiest ways to become more secure and encrypted online quickly. (Some you can even do while I give this talk.)

4
votes

Let's solve tooling together!

For years, the NICAR community has worked hard to build open source solutions to common problems. But today, too many good tools are dying on the vine of GitHub, with no technical support and no easy way to bring open source solutions to newsrooms at scale. In this talk, News Catalyst will pitch a new vision for NICAR's open source community that fosters adoption across more newsrooms, including those that do not have the technical capacity to run self-hosted tools. Let's empower each other to do better journalism through better technology.

19
votes

Investigating our own institutions

It's our jobs to analyze the data about governments and corporations but why not ourselves? Let me tell you what you can be doing and what happened when I studied pay equity throughout my own organization.

2
votes

Why news nerds should be running your newsroom, and the role YOU can play

Whether you know it or not, news nerds are already making journalism work differently by supporting peers, leading unionization drives, and shifting cultures on their teams and beyond. In five minutes we'll sound a call to lead broader change before everyone is burned out by news cycles, swallowed up by hedge funds, or spit out by toxic organizational cultures. It's time for us to use our power and make this shit better.

1
votes

Practical Spells for Computer-Assisted Muggles

How you can use a Bluetooth wand to turn off your lights and turn on your TV.

4
votes

How intersectional identities can deepen investigative reporting

Woman. Person of color. Mom. Immigrant. Queer. We're many things at the same time. How can we harness the many dimensions that form us and bring it all into our reporting? How can it shape our stories for the better? How can we use our multiple identities to shape, frame and contextualize our narratives? Intersectional identities can be a gift and a power to newsrooms and it's time that newsrooms value that power. In this lightning talk, I'll take you through examples of work done by folks who are part of many marginalized groups and the power of their work in connecting and uplifting communities through their journalism.

3
votes

Local Councilors' Michelin guide

Local councilors spend money most often in restaurants. With our taxes! How to collect information about restaurants from receipts for legislative activities, and then present them to readers easily and cheerfully. We made a mini search engine optimized for mobile. Make sure to check this restaurant search box when you travel!

9
votes

Breaking into Data Journalism: All The Best Early-Career Advice I Ever Got

Does the word “networking” strike fear into your heart? After learning to navigate the wild world of professional webs on my own, I’ll share what I’ve learned about networking—where to find people, tips for getting responses, questions that solicited helpful answers, and other logistical advice—and the best early-career advice I have collected by talking to data journalists at Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle, and more.

7
votes

Life Lessons from Filing 75,000 FOIA Requests

In February, MuckRock turned a decade old, having helped requesters in all 50 states and from all walks of life open up government in ways large and small. Before I started it, I had only filed three requests — none of which went anywhere. Our success rate has gotten quite a lot better, even as we've faced everything from lawsuits and jail threats to confronting how careless transparency can cause real harm. From the challenges of growing a small organization to understanding how our biggest fans can be our greatest challenges, I'll share what I've learned along the way that goes beyond request tactics to the life lessons with which everyone grapples.

2
votes

Coding Newcasts!

When you think of coding and journalism, you might think about formulas in spreadsheets, scraping websites, tapping into an API to help you find information for your stories. But, let me introduce to you another side of coding and journalism - the automated control room.Until fairly recently, in the world of broadcast journalism, it required a lot of humans to put together a live studio newscast. You needed someone to mix the audio, a character generator, someone to coordinate video servers, someone who is handling the line cuts, etc But, thanks to technological advances in the video world, and a lot of code, it is now feasible to automate these roles.As someone who has been doing this job of automating newscasts, show you how code is changing your broadcast colleagues are presenting the news. And, how we attempt to code all this when breaking news happens!

5
votes

Lightning Strikes from the Ground Up

No matter where you are in the org chart, you can change your organization for the better. Learn how to make your workplace more thoughtful about equity, hiring and diversity. Plus, get tips for creating change in small ways, whether you’re just starting out or if you just don’t want to get worn down.

4
votes

Machine Learning: Sweet (and Potentially Evil) Magic

A whirlwind tour of the uses and abuses of machine learning in journalism. Too lazy to read a document dump? Keen on invading the privacy of The Entire American Public? Computers are here to help! We'll dive into the ways data science can lend a hand while keeping you from becoming Very Bad People.

1
votes

Open data for the masses: how open source can bring together multiple people and investigate millions

Think of open data on millions of companies, public payments and Brazilian politicians. But all in horrible formats to read and that make your computer go crazy and stop. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Even more so if you are a data noob. So we solved that with the easiest solution: use the mathematical theory of graphs to create quick and accessible visualizations of all the relationships in huge databases and package all that with Python and Java. Find out how the CruzaGrafos project uses open source tools like Metabase and Python code for cleaning, visualizing and crossing data. And little of real life: how we deal with difficulties in organization and research. Each one in the team helps and complements each other, as long as there is a global vision of the project. We have been working since last year and the project will be launched in June, by Abraji.

5
votes

Empowering the public with (less) disparate data

How ProPublica made a searchable database from nearly 180 lists of "credibly accused" priests in the Catholic Church. Learn how beneficial it can be to convene disparate pieces of information in a centralized place, and ways to navigate the challenges of incomplete and inconsistent records.

0
votes

End of an Era - End of Lockups

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Commerce and Bureau of Economic Analysis will effectively stop providing data to journalist on an embargoed basis on March 1. Proposed talk would be to describe "Lockups" and explain why this change is so significant.

0
votes

Building a community of data journalists from the ground up

As one of the first data journalism students at my university, what started as a few nerds in a small classroom has become much bigger than I ever imagined. Learning to network as a journalist, particularly as an investigative data journalist, is my greatest treasure and most valuable skill. I'll share how we grew these communities and what I learned from growing journalism communities at college, in building a coding curriculum for j-schools, and finding my place in international data journo communities. Networking is the most crucial tool in our toolbox!

2
votes

Rerouting the cartogram

Displaying multidimensional data on cartographic map is tricky business, even more so when datasets span years or even decades. The Pew Research Center digital team came up with an engaging solution to help users dive into complex datasets: a 3d-accelerated gridded world map that dynamically reassembles itself into scatterplots, small multiples, and more. Take a look: https://www.pewforum.org/essay/a-closer-look-at-changing-restrictions-on-religion/

9
votes

25 newsrooms, 1 baby data journalist

My job is to support more than two dozen newsrooms to build data journalism capacity. After less than a year, I want to share everything I've learned because it's making me hopeful for the future of lonely coders.

5
votes

What is 996ICU and why it matters a lot

A "996" work schedule refers to an unofficial work schedule (9 a.m.–9 p.m., 6 days per week) that has been gaining popularity at least in China. People started a GitHub account to unionize people to fight the schedule. 250,000 coders started the project and an "anti 996" license was created. However, it stopped updating for months. What happened and why you should care?

5
votes

Curling lessons for data journalists

As a former amateur curler and a member of the second-place team in the 2014 Fairbanks Curling Club Rookie Spiel (a.k.a. the Big Lebowspiel), I'm completely and totally qualified to teach you, a data journalist, about the sport known as "chess on ice." Even if you've never heard of "the beautiful game", this five-minute talk will capitalize on what you already know — data — to teach you about "Canada's pastime". Synergy!