This is another post republished from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. I added a few links that were not in the original. While the specific examples might be outdated, the general point still applies. This was published originally July 5, 2005. I have already republished a subsequent Training Tracks post that referenced this one.
You’re reading this online, so you have some understanding of the importance of computers in our lives. Unfortunately, too many of our colleagues aren’t doing enough to recognize the importance of computers in our profession.
The past two weeks, I have spoken at two outstanding journalism conferences: The South Asian Journalists Association meeting at Columbia University in New York and the National Writers Workshop presented by the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I don’t just speak when I go to conferences. When I’m not speaking, I listen to the other speakers. I’m listening to tips to make me a better journalist, listening for tips to cite in my training or writing for journalists, watching other speakers’ presentation techniques to steal some ideas if I can.
I heard lots of helpful tips at both gatherings. I might pass some of those tips along in a future column. For now, though, indulge me in a rant about a couple things that disturbed me.
At the SAJA conference, I sat in on a session on investigative reporting, led by a New York couple, Tom McGinty of Newsday (and formerly on the staff of Investigative Reporters and Editors) and Jo Craven McGinty of the New York Times. Tom asked the audience how many use spreadsheets regularly. A few hands went up, not even one-third of the journalists in the room, I’d guess. I think you’d get the same response, if not less, in most gatherings of journalists.
This is 2005. Public records are stored electronically. If you can’t access and analyze records, you’re not a competent reporter. I’m not saying you need to be a full-scale computer geek. I’m certainly not. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that I haven’t developed my computer skills further myself. But I can and have written page-one stories based on computer analysis of data. (more…)