“You’re going into journalism? Now?” “they” asked. “What can you do with that?”
I’ve always answered that I’ll figure something out, that the Web is to journalism’s benefit, not its detriment. That there’s got to be something to this programming journalism thing I enjoy so much.
I finished my last final today. Counting down to it was scary — then what? Jazzed after days and nights of the recent computer-assisted reporting conference, chatting amongst my people, learning, geeking out and talking about how we can improve journalism everyday, I wondered what was in store. Would that feeling of elation disappear as quickly as it began? Would I find a place to practice my passion?
The answer is this: I’ll be an intern this summer working with Ben Welsh and Ken Schwencke, aka “the geek squad,” aka the data/news applications team at the Los Angeles Times. (Read my interview with Ben and Ken that I did for my “Data Delvers” series.) They’re part of the data group over there.
I’ll avoid a laundry list of names, but this also includes veteran computer-assisted reporter Doug Smith, a masterful researcher and storyteller. The position duties entail many aspects of helping to build data-driven applications and projects. This is a group I’ve long admired; they are at the forefront of the data journalism field. Whether the applications are based on databases having to do with crime (Homicide Report), where to get local vegetables (Farmers Markets) or based on intense research within their own archives (Hollywood Star Walk), the team’s products always ooze creativity and attention to detail. Reporters, CAR specialists and Web developers all work together to create the best possible product for the news consumer.
I couldn’t be happier, or closer to living my dream.
“They” told me to go where I would learn the most, where I’d get access to the people doing what I want to do. Well, here it is.
I’ve spent so long looking for my people. We are the ones who make up NICAR-L, we are the true journogeeks who wear the badge with pride.
You may not know this, but I had a kidney transplant nearly four years ago. We held a commemorative service on the first anniversary of the transplant. I had a dear friend of mine, and former music teacher, Lois Guderian, sing “Corner of the Sky” from the Broadway musical Pippin. I’ve been humming it a lot recently, thinking of this verse:
“Every man has his daydreams,
Every man has his goal.
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul.
Thunderclouds have their lightning,
Nightingales have their song,
And don’t you see I want my life to be
Something more than long….
Rivers belong where they can ramble,
Eagles belong where they can fly.
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky.”
So, that’s it? Time to rest on my laurels now? Heck, no. This is permission to truly begin, to take my ideas to a place where the results will be used in a way that matters. To learn from those doing some of the best work in the field. To explore and push and prod the world of journalism together. This is the moment.
Will it be hard? Sure, but the best journalism and life experiences come from challenges.
Allow me to quote from another musical, this time Funny Girl:
“But whether I’m the rose of sheer perfection,
A freckle on the nose of life’s complexion ,
The Cinderella or the shiny apple of its eye,
I gotta fly once, I gotta try once,
Only can die once, right, sir?
Ooh, life is juicy, juicy and you see,
I gotta have my bite, sir.”
Indeed. This blog won’t change much, and I’ll continue to write as often as time allows. The issues that come along with data reporting and presentation will only become more evident as I dive into the “real world.” And hey, maybe you’ll see a few more California references.
Get ready West Coast, I’m on my way!