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Conversation Among Crafts

Conversation Among Crafts

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Conversation Among Crafts: User Comments

Tuesday, February 25
3:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Murphy Hall room 100

On February 25, 2014, over 30 communication professionals and students attended the latest in the Conversation Among Crafts series. From journalists to corporate communication professionals, wrangling user comments is a challenge for all content creators and managers.

Panelists included:

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Conversation Among Crafts: Public Records Access/FOIA

On Sept. 17, 2013, more than 25 journalists, data researchers, students and interested citizens filled Murphy 100 to talk about public records access and the Freedom of Information Act as part of the first Conversation Among Crafts of the 2013-2014 Nora Paulschool year. The event, sponsored by the Minnesota Journalism Center (MJC), showed the power of public data and the importance of information access.

MJC director Nora Paul began by giving context about public records access and its importance in journalistic work. As with all Conversation Among Crafts events, the event begins with a panel of speakers who share how they use data access in their everyday work.

MaryJo WebsterMaryJo Webster, computer-assisted reporter at the Pioneer Press, began the discussion sharing how she uses public data in her investigative reporting work and some frustrations she runs into accessing this data. “You have to keep calling,” she says of some requests. “We work in a cycle where news is hot for 10 minutes and we assume we’ll get information quickly.” But not when it comes to data requests. “[Because requests take so long] its’ easy to let them slide.” Webster shared a recent project from the Pioneer Press where they created an interactive map of crime statistics by neighborhood. “You need to make large amounts of data easy for the public to understand,” Webster says of the map. “You can’t just give the public a big spreadsheet, it needs to be digestible.”

Next, Matt Ehling, founder of Public Record Media, shared his experience taking lots of government documents and making the information readable to a mass audience. Matt EhlingPublic Record Media’s mission is to pursue government data through open records requests. “Even just putting documents in a chronological order can help the public understand them.” Ehling also does work with the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI), which works to do advocacy to keep the Minnesota Data Practices Act open and to help educate on its importance.

Next, designer, engineer and data researcher Tony Webster spoke about some of his recent projects, which used government data to create apps for citizens. His work includes MplsHealth, a searchable database of Minneapolis food code violations; TowText, a service Tony Websterthat sends text messages as a car is towed using live data feeds; and HeroJobs, which sends a text message to veterans every time a job is posted that is similar to their military skills and is in their area. Webster said his goal is not to expose the government, but to make the data useful and understandable. “My hope is to enable citizens and to do things that help solve problems.”

Lastly, Janet Hey of the Information Policy Analysis Division of the Minnesota Department Janet Heyof Administration shared her experiences on the flip side of the other speakers as her department helps fulfill requests and provides assistance to individuals about Minnesota’s data practices act. “I help the government understand what their obligation is and I help the public understand what their rights are,” she said. “The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the law and exercise those rights.”



May 2013: Crowdsourcing: A Conversation Among Crafts

The final event in the Conversation Among Crafts series convened on May 14 with a discussion on Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing allows reporters to gather sources, ideas and content from a large group of people, whether that be the general public or fellow reporters. Crowdsourcing uses a “crowd”-mentality and the power of many to solve a problem.

In this event, Michael Caputo talked about how the Public Insight Network at American Public Media allows reporters to solicit the general public to gather sources and story ideas.

Philip Sellew, Associate Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota described his project, Ancient Lives, which translates papyrus scrolls with the help of people around the globe to solve the puzzle. He even had the group doing some live updating during the event.

Noah Skogorboe of the Minnesota Historical Society also did some live updating and showed the attendees how they can participate in a crowdsourced project in Australia, while sharing the MNHS's plans to digitize Minnesota's newspaper archives.

Over the past academic year, in addition to talking about crowdsourcing, we've held conversations on interviewing, data visualization and web analytics. Each panelist has shared unique experiences and interesting perspectives on the topics, and provided the basic for some fascinating conversations.

The Minnesota Journalism Center would like to thank all of the panelists who so graciously shared their time with us, and to all the attendees who participated in these Conversations Among Crafts.

February 2013 - A Conversation Among Crafts: Web Analytics

The popular Conversation Among Crafts continue in February with a diverse crowd gathering to discuss web analytics. While the basics of web analyticsinvolves the collection and analysis of Internet data to provide insight into a site's readers, customers, prospects and the information they seek. In this Conversation Among Crafts however, the professional panelists went far beyond the simple "how many hits did I get?" to share their work with public opinion mining, affinity strings and audience analysis as a basis for developing new editiorial products and search-informed content creation. The expert panel included: Ravi Bapna, Board of Overseers Professor of Information and Decision Sciences, Carlson School of Management and Academic Director, SOBACO, Social Media and Business Analytics Collaborative, University of Minnesota, Chris Cook, Planning and Strategy, Mobile, Target Corporation, Kristi Jensen, Program Development Lead, eLearning Support Initiative, and Denise Olszewski, Digital Project Manager, Star Tribune.


December 2012 - A Conversation Among Crafts: Data Visualization

The December Conversation Among Crafts inspired attendess as they learned about unique and cutting edge ways of using data to tell a story or display information. The expert panel included Daniel Keefe, McKnight-Land Grant Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota and director of  Interactive Visualization Lab (IV/LAB), Jennifer Jevnisek, Environmental Scientist, Braun Intertec Corp., Alan Palazzolo, Interactive News Developer, MinnPost, and Jason Voiovich, Director of Corporate Marketing, Logic PD.


April 2012 - A Conversation Among Crafts: Interviewing

Interviewing techniques are among the most important skills a journalist must hone.  But journalists are not the only professionals who rely on skillful interviewing.  On April 10, 2012, attendees heard about interviewing skills as practiced by an oral historian, a social security fraud investigator, an executive headhunter and a labor law specialist.  Panelists included T.J. Conley, labor and employment lawyer, Jay Brunn, fraud investigator for the Social Security Administration, Lars Leafblad, principal, KeyStone Search, and Deborah Locke from the Minnesota History Center who has been conducting oral history interviews in Minnesota and Canada with members of the Dakota Nation.