News sources to learn what is happening in China

The two main sources I use for my blog posts are Sina Weibo and South China Morning Post.

With over 500 million users on it, Sina Weibo is a good place where you can learn what is going on in China and what Chinese people are talking about. It was launched in 2009, and has been growing fast during the past three years. On Weibo, People are always discussing about breaking news, especially those that mainstream media do not report because of censorship. I found their hot topics page very useful. On this page you can search for news either by content (social, financial, political, sports, fashion, entertainment, etc) or by date. I like using Weibo because information and news are updated very fast on it, and you will get to know what is going on even before you hear from any news media.

South China Morning Post is the first and one of the most famous English-language newspaper in HongKong. The newspaper is published in HongKong and not directly controlled by Chinese government, so that it has less bias when reporting news in China. The home page is clear and the sections are easy to follow. There are very few advertisements since it charges about $2 a week for subscription. There is also a Chinese-language website for the paper, but the contents are not as good as in the English version, which is what I hope they could improve a little bit.

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Telling stories with data visualization

Data visualization is now broadly used in online news articles, either as a side bar or to tell the story on its own. Here I picked three data visualization examples to see how they are used by journalists to tell thorough stories.

How Some Nonprofit Groups Funnel Dark Money Into Campaigns is an investigation by Propublica, showing how much money nonprofit groups are spending on elections instead of on social welfare. There is a related story based on the visualization, arguing that those groups do very little to justify the subsidies they receive from taxpayers, but put the money into political races. I think this piece is telling good stories because the data is sorted and organized in several ways, so that reporters can find different angles to write stories on how the groups are funneling the dark money. The structure is also very clear with the use of timelines and percentages. It is quite easy to compare between groups in different perspectives.

Where Congress Stands on Guns is also a good example of data visualization that I found tells good stories. They basically put members of Congress on a scale from 0 to 100 to show their attitudes on gun control. I like the use of members’ photos and how they are distinguished by party (blue and red). One can click on every member’s photo to check more individual information. Also the readers have the choice to show the chart by party, chamber or state.

Another one I found interesting is Government spending by department, 2011-12: get the data. Unlike the other two which include links/assortments/searching functions, this one is simply an infography. I like it because it is very visualized. You can tell the major information at the first glance. It directly shows 2011-2012 UK government spending by department. The only thing I think they can do better is to take off some detailed information and make another simple one for readers who only want to get a broad idea of how the money is spent, since the font size is a little bit too small to read.

Mapping as journalism

Is mapping journalism? I would say yes.

Although mapping is always used as a tool or just inserted in the news reports as a supplement, I consider it to be journalism. I think it does the same as what infographics and charticles do.

This is a good example telling disparities in popular vote versus seats won by state in 2012,  and did a compare with that in 2010. Explaining this by mapping, I think, is more visual than telling it in long articles or by simply listing numbers.

Also, here is an example of how mapping can tell more than traditional news reports do. I think mapping is a good way to tell stories in new media era. It does not require a big space, yet can give a lot of information.

One thing I found interesting: in this case, Mark Newman draw a series of maps to show 2012 U.S. presidential election results. It shows that if you use different measures when making the map (by population cartogram or by state or by county, etc), you will get the maps slightly different. So how to keep the accuracy of mapping in journalism might be what journalists need to concern about.

Storify: aggregating the news

Today we have Josh Stearns, reporter of Free Press, as a guest speaker to talk about how he curated his “Tracking Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests Around the Country” story on Storify.

Stearns sees Storify as a journalism tool which is built on traditional journalism structures. Whether the journalist is doing quick reporting on breaking news events or any sort of long-form reporting, he or she can amplify and network that with elements from the social web using Storify.

As Stearns pointed out, Storify is not only a place where you can do research and gather information, but also what you can use to find the right people on the ground to talk to.

Here is a link to his blog post about rethinking curation and participation when using Storify as a journalism tool to create news stories.

Combine your interests with career

Last Friday, Rachel Kossman, a recent graduate from Northeastern University, came to the class as our first guest speaker.

After graduation, Kossman started as a website editor and content contributor for TechTarget, where she built up work samples and learned about coding and SEO. However, writing technical articles is not what she feels interested in. After having traveled outside the country for a while, she started her travel blog, continued working on it, and sees travel writer as a dream.

I think Kossman’s experience tells us that we should try our hands at a variety of working places, to gather experiences and to learn useful skills. Meanwhile, it is key to find out what we are passionate for, where we have the potentials, and link it with our career path. It might take us a long time preparing, but it is worth a try.

Also, I think that having a professional personal website and putting our bio, resume, as well as all the works on it to show people who we are and what we are capable of is a terrific idea.