Category Archives: Uncategorized

She’s The Boss: Female Media Entrepreneurs of Color Share Their Stories







The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education recently hosted a Twitter Chat with a group of female journalists of color who took their entrepreneurial dreams and turned them into reality. This panel of journalistic businesswomen included: Bobbi Bowman, (left) a former editor for The Washington Post and USA Today, who made the leap into entrepreneurship when she launched the hyperlocal news site, The McLean Ear, which later became McLean Patch; Kelly Virella, a former investigative reporter and editor who is about to start a long form digital magazine called The Urban Thinker, (right); Tomoko Hosaka, Chief Operating Officer at Plympton  (parent company of Rooster, a reading app that picks books for users and delivers them in installments to mobile devices; Karen Lincoln Michel, who blogs at A Digital Native American and is former president of Unity Journalists; and Marisa Trevino, creator of LatinaLista, a news portal for the Latino community. Here are their insights via storify.– Staff Reports



Success in journalism, according to my mother

By Crystal Garner, DJTF Intern

No one knows the ups and downs of my journalism journey quite like my mother, Mary.

Granted, she isn’t a news veteran or a tech mogul, but the things she’s told me as I’ve walked this path have helped me achieve a lot as a young journalist.

Like many of you, I had people in my life who tried to discourage me from becoming a journalist. For example, one high school official made years of confidence in my decision to study journalism vanished like magic with a short conversation.

I was young and fragile, and my aspirations were met with laughter.

It was Mom To The Rescue with the encouragement I needed. She said I would excel as a journalist. Not to sound like The Waterboy’s Bobby Boucher, but “mama’s right.”

Because I think that Mom’s wisdom can help you too, I’d like to share some of it. Here is some of her best advice:


1.  Be assertive or aggressive or aggressively assertive.

Contrary to what people  say, I don’t believe that journalistic opportunities  knock. You have to do the knocking and open the door. Sometimes you even have to pick the lock or kick the door down. Or slide someone on the other side a fiver.

I say all that to say this: You have to be persistently assertive. When I was a freshman in college, I was offered an internship opportunity at Voice of America in Washington, but my academic advisor told me to turn it down.

I took it anyway. I believed that if the employer who selected you believed I was capable of doing this, then I was. It was unpaid, but I learned a lot and made life-long contacts. I even turned the experience into an article for USA TODAY College, highlighting the struggles of not being paid.


During my sophomore year, I was offered a generously paid summer internship with NASA in their communication office. My advisor told me to turn it down and wait until my junior year. Once again, I took the opportunity and it opened many doors for me.

Now I’m not saying that you should ignore your advisers, and neither is Mom, but if you’re going to make it in journalism, you have to be assertive…and the internship market is where it starts.

(And on another note, I don’t understand why advisers discourage freshmen and sophomores from taking internships anyway. Have they seen the business lately? Don’t they know that you need as much experience as possible in this market?!)


2.  Say “yes,” man!

If you are familiar with the film Yes Man, you know where I’m going with this. Up until now, I’ve said yes to every opportunity that could positively affect my journalism career, no matter how big or small. As a result, my resume does not come close to covering all of  the experiences I’ve had.

I would never encourage anyone to overload themselves, but having a substantial amount of experience and experiences at an early stage in your career catches the attention of recruiters’ and employers’ and shows your determination.

The tricky part is getting yourself plugged into early opportunities. It is like the catch 22 of establishing credit:  You can’t get credit without a credit history, but you need credit to establish one.

From starting a blog or a magazine to pitching stories to  student media outlets, If no opportunity presents itself, create one  and say “yes” to yourself,

Patience is also important.

In high school, I interned at the local newspaper in my hometown. Most days, I was asked to take on the tasks of writing obits and lunch menus. It wasn’t the most exciting thing, but I seized the opportunity and patiently waited for other assignments, which did come.

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3. Use “No” to grow.

Whenever I apply for a development opportunity and I’m not selected, I like to find out why and make the necessary adjustments. I then re-apply.

For example, I applied for The Society for Professionals Journalists’ “Will Write for Food” program, and I was rejected. I was accepted the following year. I applied for the Online News Association’s Student Newsroom and got rejected, but I was welcomed into the program the next year.  I submitted an application to be involved with NABJ’s Multimedia Student Project…you get what I mean.

Many opportunities are offered annually or bi-annually, so you have ample  time to prepare. I like to say resumes, cover letters and personal statements are like wine. They get better with time.

You know NPR, The Washington Post and NBC open their internship applications during the same time period each year, so take your time and do your research early on. Perfect your application materials ahead of time. There is no greater satisfaction than turning in an impressive application. Recruiters and employers do notice.

It’s not so much about hearing a “no,” it’s how you use that “no” to your advantage.

There is no perfect path, and there is always room to grow as a journalist. You just have to put your best foot forward. Or as Mom says, “You just have to believe that you can do it!”

Why Journalists Should Care About Today’s Net Neutrality Ruling


Photo by Steve Rhode, via Flickr.

Internet service providers, like Verizon and Comcast, can give preference to some content owners over others or block them, a federal appeals court ruled this morning.

Quite simply, this means Internet service providers can pick and choose the content consumers see and how they see it. The ruling, Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, is a setback to what is more commonly called, “net neutrality,” the principal that Internet service providers should enable equal access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

The court states that the Federal Communications Act does not allow the FCC to force internet service providers to make their networks open to all.

Why should journalists and journalism organizations care?  For independent or small-scale content owners, this ruling means it will be that much harder to reach the consumers they’re targeting. For news organizations, already strapped for cash, this means either now having to pay to play on the information super highway in order to reach consumers, or worse,  having your content blocked because the Internet service provider favors another company over yours.

“This ruling means there is no one who can protect us from ISPs that block or discriminate against websites, applications or services,” according to media advocacy organization Free Press in an email blast about the ruling. Free Press has been warning of the threat for more than a year.

The court did allow that Internet service providers will have to disclose their practices to users. During the holidays, Republican members of Congress announced plans to update the federal communications law by offering a more modern one that takes into account the changing media landscape, they said.

Congress first passed the Communications Act of 1934, which created the FCC to encourage and regulate electronic communication in the United States; the law was revised in 1996. Signed by then-President Bill Clinton, the initial purpose of the current law was to deregulate the converging broadcast and telecommunications industries.

Under a more modern communications law, Congress could give the FCC power to make and enforce rules that would require telecom companies to keep their networks open. Or Congress can bend to the will of the telecom lobby and allow the court’s ruling to usher in a new era of unequal access to the internet. Public hearings on this matter promise to be top news in months to come.

UPDATE: This afternoon Comcast released a statement that the cable provider would continue to play by open internet rules, at least through 2018, per an agreement it made with the government when it merged with NBCUniversal.

Note: This story is developing; it will update once I read the ruling further. 

Tracie Powell is co-chair of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force. She writes about the media and media policy issues. 

Best of DJTF Blog: Resources To Build That Perfect Portfolio Website

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post is from DJTF immediate past chair Benet Wilson, who posts tips on how to build a professional online portfolio.  It originally ran on July 5.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information. Enjoy!

As preparation continues for this year’s National Association of Black Journalists Annual Convention and Career Fair, I can feel the excitement and preparation that is taking place.  One of the key items you need to have in time for the convention is an online portfolio where potential employers can see your work all in one place.

Michelle Johnson, Associate Professor of the Practice, Journalism at Boston University, NABJ Educator of the Year AND one of my digital journalism heroes, did a workshop at the 2011 Philadelphia convention –The One-minute Media Mogul: Creating Online Portfolios — that is my go-to resource.  When I got laid off in October 2011, Michelle was one of the first people I called. I wanted to get her notes from her great presentation so I could create my own portfolio.

She kindly gave me permission to share them, so here they are, as promised. I’d love to hear from you on which site you decide to use, and send links to see what you came up with.  Thanks!!

For Building a Free/Low-cost Portfolio or Website (for setting up a “self-hosted” version of WordPress)

Tips: Creating an Online Portfolio Using WordPress
WordPress is not just for blogging! It’s a full-fledged “content management system” that you can use to build a web site. With just a few tweaks, you can easily and quickly launch your own site. See these articles for details:
CUNY: Creating a Top-Notch Journalist Portfolio

How to Build a Distinctive Portfolio Site vs hosted WordPress

“Self-hosted” WordPress tutorials:
How to Install WordPress
Installing Themes
Setting up WordPress as a CMS (videos) Tutorials/Help
If you are using the free version of WordPress, look here for tips on how to configure your site: Support

Embedding documents
Do you want to embed : - Need to embed a pdf of your resume? Try scribd. – Similiar to Scribd.
Tutorial: How to Embed PDF, Spreadsheets, etc. into WordPress
WordPress Plugin: Google Doc Embedder (Note: this works only for the self-hosted version of WordPress, not the free version.

WordPress Themes (aka templates) Theme Showcase:

Note: The themes below are for “self-hosted” WordPress sites. You cannot install your own themes on the freebie sites available at

Graph Paper Press: Great templates for photographers, visual types
Gabfire: For creating a news site. My personal favorite. Tip: Click on “Wordpress” in the navigation bar first to filter out other formats. vs.
This article compares the two.

Best of DJTF Blog: Twitter: Avoiding The Pitfalls and Building Your Brand

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post lists tweets from attentees of the Region 1 Conference who tweet their thoughts and reactions about a panel on brand building.  It originally ran on May 2.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information.


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Andy Carvin, senior social media strategist at NPR, with his Knight-Batten Award for being the [Twitter] DJ of the Arab Spring revolution.

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Best of DJTF Blog: Tools to Help You Tap Into Your Inner JournoGeek

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post is from DJTF immediate past chair Benet Wilson, who highlights 10 digital tools to help bring out the tech savvy journalist in all of us!  It originally ran on Sept. 28.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information.


Earlier today, DJTF Co-Chair Kiratiana Freelon and I did a presentation - Tools to Help You Tap Into Your Inner JournoGeek   – at the NABJ Region 1 conference. We went pretty fast, so below are some of the tools I highlighted.

  1. Storify - a storytelling tool that uses Tweets, Instagram/Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and links to tell a story. You can see the stories done by NABJDigital here.
  2. HootSuite - I use this tool to handle my myriad Twitter accounts. I love that I can use HootSuite on my laptop or as an app on my iPhone and iPad. I can shorten links, schedule tweets and keep up with up to five accounts for free.
  3. SoundNote ($4.99) – this iPad app allows you to take notes and record at the same time. And if you need to check on something that was said, just tap a word and the recording goes right to that section.
  4. RebelMouse - this curation tool calls itself “your social front page.”  It allows you to connect your social media accounts, including  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram and show it off on a beautiful page. The feed can be embedded int websites. Check out my RebelMouse page here. And see how Al Jazeera America used it for a series on fast-food workers here.
  5. Timeline JS – this is a simple to use, yet striking timeline creator. You can use media including Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and other things to power your timeline. The Denver Post used Timeline JS as part of their coverage of the Aurora movie theater shootings.
  6.  Flipboard/Pocket - If you are a news junkie and have an iPad or iPhone, you need to have Flipboard. This app allows you to create a customized digital magazine of your favorite publications and blogs. Mine is a mix of journalism, tech and aviation/airline stuff. If you want to save a story to read later offline, save it on the Pocket app.
  7. iTalk (free or $1.99 for Premium) – we all know the built-in iPhone recorder is crap. iTalk allows you to record at good, better and best levels, with no time limits. With the free version, you can email smaller files, but need to download a program on your laptop to upload larger files. With the paid version, you can send the file to Dropbox or share it on SoundCloud.
  8. iPrompt Pro – this is a great app for multimedia journalists because it turns your iPad or iPhone into a teleprompter (although I don’t recommend it for the iPhone).
  9. Clear Watermark ($1.99)/Text on Photo – Both of these apps allow you to apply a watermark on your photos or video while out in the field.
  10. Apps Gone Free – every day, this app offers for free between 4 and 10 apps. Be warned – you will see a lot of crap (photo editing productivity, games, to-do lists, etc.), but there will be some gems. I found SoundNotes, iPromptPro and Clear Watermark wth this app.

Best of DJTF Blog: Open discussion: Separating your personal and professional life on social media

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post is from former DJTF intern Ameena Rasheed, who opens discourse on journalists having separate social media accounts personal and professional use.  It originally ran on Feb. 13.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information.


Having separate professional and personal social media profiles is one of the first signs of mental illness. Ok, not really, but the stress of juggling several social media accounts is enough to make anybody go crazy — especially me.

There are some social media websites, such as LinkedIn, that cater to one’s professional network and nothing more. Other sites like Twitter and Facebook are not as clear. Platforms like those are used in various capacities, both professional and personal. For early adopters of social media, like myself, having social media began first as a leisurely activity, long before I ever thought about having it used as a vital part of my career.

It wasn’t until around 2010, when I started using social media to tell stories. In the fall of 2010, I took an online journalism course. While I was in that class, I fell in love with digital storytelling. I was forced to use platforms like Twitter and Facebook as reporting tools, which ended up leaving little room for me to be reckless on social media.

I could have created separate accounts just for that one class, but who has the time for that! I wanted my professor to take me seriously, but I didn’t want the hassle of juggling several accounts. Also, as a journalist I think that having separate accounts for your professional and personal lives might become a little confusing for those who follow your work. In my eyes, it splits your following and I would just prefer to send people to one place for each platform that I’m on. Plus, I have been to enough IRE functions to know that nothing is “private” on the web. If I’m trying keep certain thoughts and events of my life unknown to the greater public, I should keep certain things to myself.

On my accounts, I try to do a healthy balance of lifecasting, sharing my life, and mindcasting, sharing my ideas and the work of others. One of the best pieces of advice I received was about how to share content via social media was from founder and CEO of brand development company Medley Inc., Ashley Small.

She told me to think of three positive things that you want to be known for, three negative things you don’t want to be known for and then filter your content by what is on those lists. I think that NABJ member and Fox 26 news reporter Isiah Carey does this perfectly.

Of course, everyone doesn’t share my sentiments. NABJ-ers, what do you think about having separate accounts for personal and professional use? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Best of DJTF Blog: Kiratiana’s Mini Kickstarter Guide

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post is from DJTF co-chair Kiratiana Freelon, who explains how kickstarter campaigns can bring one’s dream project into reality.  It originally ran on Nov. 15, 2012.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information.


When it came time to publish my second travel guide, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London, I didn’t have enough money to do the research, and pay an editor, designer and proofreader. So how was I going to fund this project? Thanks to new crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo a lack of money can never prevent a dream project from coming to fruition.

I decided to use Kickstarter to help me fund my dream of publishing a Multicultural London e-book.

Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?

Having funded more than 10 Kickstarter projects, I always knew that I wanted to use the Kickstarter platform. When I was researching other platforms around May of 2011, IndieGoGo appeared to be the lesser platform, the one that people used when they didn’t to get accepted to Kickstarter. It was for people who were too scared to do the ALL or NOTHING model. But I have come to respect IndieGoGo in recent months.

To use Kickstarter, you have to propose a PROJECT, which pretty much eliminates non-profits and trips. With Indiegogo, there is no specific type of campaign you must have to raise money. Anything goes. Indiegogo also allows you to raise funds and keep some of the funds if you do not reach your goal. Another plus for Indiegogo – it’s open to international people. As of now, Kickstarter is only open to the United Kingdom. Now I think the platforms are equal to each other and Indiegogo might have even passed Kickstarter as the most respected platform.

How Much?

Your decision on how much money to raise will be the most important decision of your campaign. Obviously, everything starts with the question of how much your project needs. But if your documentary or book needs $50,000 to complete, will you go for that?

Kickstarter says the average pledge is $70. That means for $50,000 you would need 714 pledges. A documentary that I’m working on, Fast Dreams needs this amount to be completed. Unfortunately the director, Harry Davis, is not a super networker (no Facebook or Twitter) and with me having tapped my own network for Kickstarter, our ability to raise $50,000 is limited.  To fundraise for a campaign so large, we would have to make it go viral. When I thought about my own Kickstarter, I knew that there were about 80 people out there willing to support me.

When calculating money, also think about the fees (5% on Amazon Payments and 5% on Kickstarter) and the few people whose credit cards will not go through. So the $6,000 just became $5,500 after all the fees.

How long?

Kickstarter recommends that you do 30 days or less to keep the momentum going through a campaign. I chose 35 days just to give myself a little leeway. If you look at the chart below, I did not really do anything for the first five days. It finally took a friend to push me to start campaigning the day before memorial day weekend. If you have the supporters and really push your campaign I don’t think it will matter how long your campaign is (30-60 days). But do you REALLY want to be doing a Kickstarter campaign for TWO MONTHS?! No.

The campaign went nowhere when I didn’t do anything for the first five days.

The Video & Description & Prizes

I spent more than 20 hours creating the video, description and prizes. For $6,000 everything had to look GREAT. When Kickstarter first began, many of the projects only had pictures. These days all successful projects have a video that describes their project. When you are creating your video, make sure that it can have a use after the Kickstarter project. With a little tinkering, I may be able to use my video as a trailer for my new book.

Creating prizes that were worth their value was very important to me. I had no intention of using Kickstarter for people to GIVE me money. I would offer them something of value you return.

$10 got you the book.

$25 got you the book and Black Paris Guide

$45 got you the book, Black Paris Guide AND PDF.  Okay I’ll admit that one was priced slightly more than it should have been priced.

Do you see a pattern?

Having a spread like this gives someone, no matter what their financial situation, the opportunity to pledge to your campaign. A young person out of college can pledge $10 and your mother can pledge $500.

The Strategy

 I had a relatively simple strategy to jumpstart and sustain my campaign.

1)   Call my relatives and closest friends to personally ask for pledges.

2)   Develop an email campaign for my friends, family and acquaintances.

3)   Reach out to travel bloggers for support in the campaigns with blogs.

4)   FACEBOOK and TWEET it to DEATH.

The last one is what would really put me over the edge. In hindsight, I really wish I had focused on number 3 more. When I posted something about the campaign on the Racialicious blog, it started to go viral.

Facebook versus Twitter

Before I began my campaign I knew that I wanted to use twitter and Facebook to promote it. I also wanted to see if I could leverage my twitter following (about 3,500 at the time) to support the campaign. So I did the following:

1)   Encouraged celebrities to retweet the information about my campaign. While I am sure that this generated more awareness for the I could not find any connection between these tweets and pledges.

2)   Changed my twitter bio to reflect the twitter campaign. (Insert screen shot).  I was surprised by the impact of this relatively simple action. I received at least a dozen tweets from people who didn’t follow me telling me how cool the project was. Yes, twitter bios are extremely important.

3)   Near the end of the campaign, I DM’d my best followers to they could tweet out the message below. Once again, I did not see a direct connection between any tweets and pledges but I am confident that twitter helped to increase the awareness of the campaign.

Now your use of twitter could also depend on the type of project you are proposing. Nick Disabato publishes a quarterly magazine about design and technology and he’s raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter. According to my twitter chat below with him, most of his campaign promotion is split between an email campaign and a twitter campaign.

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The Facebook Campaign

My Kickstarter campaign did not jumpstart until I launched it on Facebook. Obviously the easiest thing you can do is post it on your wall. Just doing that will not work. If you follow the steps below, I will guarantee you that your Facebook friends will start to pledge.

1)   Create an event for your Kickstarter campaign. When you create an event, make the duration of the event, the duration of the campaign. Then INVITE everyone from your friend list to the campaign. Once you finish inviting them, then start posting into the Facebook group about your Kickstarter. I found that when ever I posted or sent a message to this event, people ALWAYS started to donate.

2)   Send a Facebook message to 200 of your Facebook friends (Believe me people will be mad at you.

3)   Post your Kickstarter project on your Facebook page and tag about 15 of your closest friends. This will help it to go viral and friends will start posting the project on their pages.

4)   Tag anyone when they pledge to your campaign. When someone pledges to your campaign, give them props by tagging them in a Facebook Thank you post.

5) If I were launching a Kickstarter campaign today, I would use Facebook promoted posts to launch and sustain my campaign. Remember, people won’t give the first time they see the campaign. But after several viewings, they will probably do it.

The Email Campaign

Another important part of your campaign will be email. You MUST have an email campaign in which you send out multiple emails. I used Mailchimp to develop a nice looking email campaign.

1)   Send your email to your closest friends and acquaintances.  I sent an email to about 350 people. I sent the email twice to this list, but looking back I think I could have sent out one more email.

The Blogger Outreach and PR Campaign

This is something that I really wish I invested more time and energy into. I reached out to a few bloggers to blog about my campaign and they did as you can see here, and here. I think that their blog posts helped to raise awareness of the campaign but I can’t determine if it led to pledges. But with your fundraiser, you need awareness because on average, a person will not take action until they have seen something seven times.

It wasn’t until I did a guest post for Racialicious that I saw how reaching someone’s audience could help my campaign. It was only until then that I really saw my kickstarter go viral. I started to see new people that I didn’t know before pledge to the campaign.

The Final Product

After four months of researching, writing and fundraising for the book, I finally published it last week. Thank you to all of my Kickstarter funders, many of whom belong to the NABJ for helping me reach my 2012 dream.

Multicultural London

After five months of hard work (with the Olympic and Paralympic Games thrown in there), I finally published my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London

Spotlight’s On: Trina Chiasson


Trina Chiasson, CEO and Co-founder of InfoActive

The future of data journalism is looking brighter than ever. InfoActive, a data visualization upstart is turning data into eye-catching visuals to be used in stories. Co-founder and Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow Trina Chiasson designed this data graphics tool to help take professional data collecting and usage to the next level.

Tell us about InfoActive.

A little over a year ago, I started a web startup that simplifies the process of creating interactive info graphics with live data. We’re building a software in the form of a web application that is a self-serve platform that people will be able to use to import data and help them tell visual data-driven stories. We’re also working with the Reynolds Journalism Institute to do some research on how newsrooms use data visualizations.

What made you start your company?

I started InfoActive because I was having a hard time making data driven stories myself. Most data tools weren’t built for design and most design tools weren’t built for data. There was a gap in functionality; it required going through lots of different steps, and it was really difficult. At the same time, I’ve spent a lot of my life and my work on the web. I thought there should be an easier, simpler solution that takes advantage of the interactivity of the web. So I thought it would be fun to build it! I started playing with some code and talking to people to about it. Then, it started gaining attention, traction and interest.

Who are you targeting?

We’re definitely working with a lot of data journalists. They have a huge need for data visualization and it’s a difficult thing for small newsrooms to invest the time in creating the best graphics. There’s also a big need in nonprofits and academics institutions. Students need this as well. There’s also a big need amongst marketers, advertisers and companies that are trying to present information to their clients about campaigns they’ve been running. So, there’s a pretty wide variety of people who see value in this tool.

How is data collected?

Data is collected in so many different formats. It’s being collected automatically through analytics, online surveys and different social networks. We’re finding that a lot of organizations have data that they’re collecting [through] these different formats, and often data journalists are collecting it through governments that are getting much better about collecting data about their populations. There are also different data sets to work with, and it can be very daunting [to sort through]. For someone using the application [InfoActive], they would start with an existing data set that they have from any one of these sources—and sometimes they’ve collected data too using survey tools to collect information about their audience. Then they would import these data sets into InfoActive’s platform. Our platform programmatically looks at the data and then draws visualizations that make sense. You work with text blocks, interactive filters and different charts to organize the visualization story.

What are your future plans for InfoActive?

We’re expecting to launch a public beta in March. People will be able to login, try it out and create an infographic. For more advanced usage, there will be a monthly subscription cost. After we launch in March, we have a few stretch goals that we’ve hit through our Kickstarter campaign. Those include new visualization charts, an icon library, and analytics on how people interact with infographics. We plan to launch an API so people can connect their custom data streams to different infographics and build new ways to use our platform. The API is a way to enable developers to hook into our platform in more robust ways and create their own connections to our platform. For example, if they have their own custom data stream and they want to fuse that into infographic templates, the API would be a place to do that.

On December 18th, InfoActive’s Kickstarter campaign generated nearly 5 times its pledge goal of $12,000. Chiasson talks about her excitement about the campaign and launch, “I really appreciate all the support we’ve gotten so far. It’s been really amazing to watch customers get involved in the process and see the product evolve because of that. I’m really excited for all of the new supporters that we have through the Kickstarter campaign and to launch our public beta in March.”

To learn more about InfoActive, visit : 

Sadiyyah Rice is the digital intern for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, recording secretary for the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and producer and editor for Higher Education Channel Television (HEC-TV).

Why NABJ Members Should Apply For Google Fellowships


Bartees Cox, Jr. is Director of Media Relations at Public Knowledge, which works on technology and media policy in Washington, DC.

Where to start? First I must tell you that I didn’t wind up becoming a journalist. But like others, I understand the reasons people want to join Google Policy and Journalism fellowship programs, and who they are when they leave them.

Not only is it a major accomplishment to be chosen, it is an affirmation of the path that the potential journalist, policy maker, or entrepreneur chooses to take. I’ll tell you a little bit about why I think it’s important that we see more men and women of color apply for and complete these programs.

It’s an incredible opportunity to align oneself with the country’s brightest and most forward thinking. It’s also a chance to work for a premier organization in a new city, surrounded by brilliant people. But more important, it’s a chance for people of color to let their voices, ideas and stories get heard in the ongoing conversation about the changing media landscape, technology and innovation.

I don’t have to tell many of you that people of color are underrepresented, uncommon and non-existent in journalism and technology circles. Undoubtedly, the lack of diversity in technology and media are problems spiraling out of control as we swiftly move into the digital age. New policies, legislation, and technologies are made for everyone in America, so everybody’s voice should be taken in account before decisions are made, right?

Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly how it is right now. There simply aren’t enough people of color working on these issues. And the people that create rules might not be the most connected to common folks, let alone people of color. What happens when the laws that govern the next 100 years of innovation and technological advancement forget about us? Or the stories written about the impact of new technologies don’t express our ideas?

Now, I know I’ve painted an incredibly stark picture of what the country could look like with a lack of diversity in technology. For those of you that know me personally, you know that this is one of my favorite subjects. But there is hope.

Programs like the Google Policy and Journalism Fellowship are absolutely invaluable to helping to address this deficit. The fellowships are one way for minorities to introduce themselves to a new world of ideas and pressing issues. Whether it’s writing about or advocating for telecommunications, privacy, patent policy or copyright reform, our voices are needed and our stories are critical to shaping balanced and effective conversations leading to change.

The best part about this is that organizations, legislative offices, newsrooms, and regulatory agencies across the country want people of color. As a person who works in this space it always amazes how many students don’t take advantage of the untapped, well-paying and incredibly rewarding line of work that is technology policy and journalism. The Google Policy and Journalism fellowships are a fast track to getting a foot in all of the right doors. I strongly encourage you to apply. You will be very surprised to see how many of you are chosen.

And finally, how do you apply and what exactly does Google want?

Google Policy Fellowship

We’re looking for students who are passionate about technology, and want to spend the summer diving headfirst into Internet policy. Students from all majors and degree programs who possess the following qualities are encouraged to apply:

  • Demonstrated or stated commitment to Internet and technology policy

  • Excellent academic record, professional/extracurricular/volunteer activities, subject matter expertise

  • First-rate analytical, communications, research, and writing skills

  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and efficiently, and to work smartly and resourcefully in a fast-paced environment

Fellows will receive a stipend of $7,500 for 10 weeks during the summer of 2014 (June-August). Exact dates of the fellowship will be worked out by the fellow and host organization.

Google Journalism Fellowship

We’re looking for students, based in the US, who are passionate about journalism and the role that technology can play in the industry and the pursuit of their craft. Students from all majors and degree programs who possess the following qualities are encouraged to apply:

  • Demonstrated or stated commitment to journalism – especially in the fields of data driven journalism or freedom of expression online

  • An interest in exploring and creating business models to help the industry in the digital age

  • Excellent academic record, professional/extracurricular/volunteer activities, subject matter expertise

  • First-rate analytical, communications, research, and writing skills

  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and efficiently, and to work smartly and resourcefully in a fast-paced environment

  • Applicants with some experience with HTML, Javascript or another web programming language and experience with Microsoft Excel or a database system is an advantage.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $8,000  for 10 weeks during the summer of 2014 (June-August) and a travel budget of $1,000.

The Fellowship will start on June 9, 2014 with the first week at Google in Mountain View, California. Fellows will join their host organization on June 16 2014 and finish on August 8, 2014.

Work hard!

Bartees Cox, Jr. is Director of Media Relations for Public Knowledge, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that works to preserve the openness of the Internet and the public’s access to knowledge; promotes creativity through balanced copyright; and upholds and protects the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully. Bartees joined Public Knowledge as a Communications Associate in August 2012 after interning with Free Press as a Communications and Policy Assistant. While at Free Press he worked on media ownership, spectrum policy and municipal broadband issues. Prior to joining Free Press, Cox was public relations intern at Crosby-Volmer International Communications, The Urban League and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. His passion for intellectual property and media reform stem from watching minority communities’ ability to succeed lessen due to lack of broadband-based technologies and services. Bartees received a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Oklahoma where he was a Gaylord College fellow. He serves on NABJ’s Communications Committee.