Journalism is an art that requires practice. I tell students it is a muscle, and like athletes they are training.
Yes, this means endless writing, but it also means feeding the curiosity that comes so naturally to all journalists. You wake up with questions, ask more questions throughout the day and even when you drag your sorry self to bed… still, more questions.
Learning more about where you live, and the people who make up your city is a way to start answering these questions.
At the same time, journalists are always curious about new tools to find and tell sotries.
The training in journalism never ends – reporters who have been in the business more than a decade will remember ‘training days/courses’ (I was once sent on a fabulous week-long course in D.C. called ‘Managing the 24/7 newsroom’ at the American Press Institute).
These days, however, skills are self-taught, or learned through support networks with colleagues who have figured out something new and are willing to pass along the knowledge.
When I ask journalists (and communications professionals) what they’d like to learn next, they often tell me they’d like to become more comfortable with ‘Big data.’ To them I say, roll up your sleeves and get started. It’s time to work some muscle. You have to just do it. (Getting comfortable with spreadsheets is a start.)
If you live in Ottawa, there’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Ottawa and its migration patterns, while working with data. Datafest Ottawa is the brainchild of Louisa Taylor, a fantastic journalist I was fortunate enough to work with at the Ottawa Citizen.
Don’t be nervous, it’s called a hackfest and I’ve been to a few: storytellers are just as valuable and welcome as those who are coding and visualizing a dataset.
And yes, you will learn something – and have stories to tell.