Just One Thing: A Year in Review, Part 2
Appreciation of usefulness and bar-raising at the end of a long, complicated year
As we did last year, we’ve asked a couple of dozen people from all around the news-nerd community to tell us about one thing—article, feature, app, tool, or something else entirely—that they loved in 2015. This week, we’re publishing their responses, from interactives to project management software.
Alexandra Kanik, PublicSource
Just loved this: Inheritance, from Frontline.
Julia Chan, The Center for Investigative Reporting
This simple Marshall Project interactive showed how emojis can change the tone and context of a message. It helped hit home the larger question of whether or not emojis could or should be used as evidence in a criminal case.
Gurman Bhatia, Palm Beach Post
I want to give a big thumbs up to efforts by several publications for the various project around police shootings. Chavi Gourarie (@chavarisa) of CJR has compiled a list of the same.
Alan Tan, The New York Times
I think this was my favorite thing to come out of The Upshot: The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares
Nieman Lab had a longer write-up about it, but it was just such a simple approach to orienting parts of an article around where readers were from. (Not just the map at the top either, but throughout the piece.)
Ashley Wu, Knight Lab
I found Eater’s One Night in Kachka especially awesome, published in June. I think it’s a beautiful and fun way of showing how this particular restaurant runs. It has both data and personality, which is often a tough combination to get just right. I also love how each little section is shareable and how elegantly the story mixes different multimedia.
Alison Benjamin, Frontline Club/Frontline Freelance Register
I started using Bower as a package manager in early 2015. It saved me loads of time.
Jason Santa Maria, Vox
Fontstand. A wonderful win for designers: try out some of the best fonts for one day for free. Typeface designers get paid; you get to easily try-before-you-buy. Oh, and students get a free $10 credit. Everybody wins.
Joe Germuska, Knight Lab
I’ll call out a weird little tool that I learned from Livia Labate at SRCCON: Shoutkey is a handy short-term URL shortener for getting something easy to “shout” across the room, or, actually, just to “move” a page from your phone to your computer or vice versa.
Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab
I haven’t had a chance to use it in production yet, but I’ve enjoyed playing around with RINGR, a new interview recording app developed by radio veteran Tim Sinclair. The concept behind it is simple: bringing the sound quality of the radio double-ender to smartphones. You do an interview with someone with both of you using the app; RINGR records both sides of the conversation using each phone’s microphone and instantly merges them together so you both sound great—or at least much better than recording over the phone network.
What interests me about RINGR is less the app itself, which is well executed, than the idea that we’re seeing a new generation of tools to make audio and podcast recording much simpler. The weird assemblage of Skype, Call Recorder, GarageBand, Mp3Tag, iTunes, and whatever else you use to produce a podcast is aching to be simplified.
Working and Learning
Kaeti Hinck, INN
Before shutting down in October, the Ada Initiative released a number of open-source guides for running diverse, accessible, and welcoming events. These resources are super helpful and a good reminder that it takes serious work to host an inclusive, safe event.
Speaking of inclusivity, I also loved Mandy Brown’s post about building an inclusive culture at Vox. These things are hard, and we need to do them anyway because it’s right. Let’s all strive to do better in 2016.
Tiff Fehr, The New York Times
I have had any number of people explain closures to me and I use them daily. But some of the finer details didn’t fully sink in until reading this post. It’s a marvel of code explanation that I aspire to match…at some point.
Liz Danzico, NPR
Aleta Hayes. Unexpectedly, at a media event at the Stanford d.school this year, we found ourselves dancing. No matter what this group of assorted media people thought about dance before, this was immediately different. Aleta Hayes, instructor, taught us how to use our physical presence and body language to communicate, working individually, with partners, and in groups. Guiding us through sweaty, intense sessions with complete strangers, she taught us about leadership and collaboration. And that collaboration — in media or anything else — is just as much a physical exercise as it is an intellectual one.
Sarah Moughty, WGBH
As I was trying to decide my favorite thing of this year, I went to my This.cm page to remind myself what I bookmarked — and then I realized that actually This.cm is one of the things that brought me the most delight in 2015. Even if I don’t share anything, I always open the email to see what other people have found interesting. I’ve uncovered new-to-me writers and publications, amazing visualizations and interactive projects, and best of all, at least five thought-provoking, charming, enraging or enriching links every day. (Full disclosure: Its founder Andrew Golis is my former boss, but he has no power over me anymore. Unless he shares a really good link.)
Other Discoveries and Delights
Alyson Hurt, NPR
I’ve loved seeing all the experimentation this year with grid maps (hexmaps, square tiles, circles) — as singles, small multiples, animations and the like. I know this isn’t at all a new thing, but it feels like it’s been a particularly big year for the non-geo map.
Not to mention the corresponding News Nerd Twitter fun-having with these things.
I feel like I’ve seen more in-house or commissioned illustration work online in the past year or so, both paired with text stories and woven into larger projects. Just this week: ProPublica’s illustrated project with Susie Cagle.
So beautiful to see news orgs investing more in illustration to tell stories in new and interesting ways, as well as the increased prominence of non-fiction graphic novelists and comics artists. Heck, the last two news apps interns on NPR’s Visuals team have been illustrators.
Latoya Peterson, Fusion
What did I love about 2015? Honestly, it’s Miguel’s album “Wildheart.” I spent all of my summer writing and building to that fabulous soundscape. But techwise, the best thing I discovered this year is Business Card Reader Pro. It’s an app for iPhone that automatically scans business cards and adds them to your contacts. I meet a lot of people every year so this is major. I’m also playing with OnePageCRM and Cloze to see which of the two is going to be my contacts management system in 2016.
Alexis Lloyd, The New York Times R&D Lab
One of my most delightful online companions in 2015 is the strange and hilarious @TVCommentBot. In our research at The New York Times R&D Lab, we’ve been exploring the evolution of human relationships with bots as well as looking at potential new affordances of neural networks. @TVCommentBot combines the weirdness of neural net-generated language with more traditional strategies for generative texts in order to create an insane media commentator. In addition to the uncanny, funny, and accidentally insightful television captions that it weaves throughout my Twitter feed on a daily basis, this lovely bot has saved my sanity during many hours-long presidential debates.
We've baited the brogrammer out here with dead shark. The laptop is bound to come up to eat. pic.twitter.com/FZnTosglpY— TV Helper (@TVCommentBot) December 16, 2015
Derek Watkins, The New York Times
I’ve really enjoyed all of the astronomy news this year, and especially have been admiring my colleague Jonathan Corum’s elegant presentations of the imagery: Pluto and Charon, Rosetta’s comet, and Ceres.
Guardian US Interactive Team
He just wants his turn on the toy pic.twitter.com/XRW1MrzEBZ— Animals Being Jerks (@MeanAnimals) December 4, 2015
Dev in @BBCNews
Occasional enemy of the American people. I run @niemanlab at Harvard. Proud Cajun. I love @leahalexis + @dashiellbenton.
journalism + design + code at @reutersgraphics. ex: @httweets @journalsentinel @pbpost @poynter @columbiajourn. Tell me a story 💭. gurmanbh[at]gmail[dot]com
Director of Audience @MotherJones ‣ Board member @AAJA ‣ Advisor @coralproject ‣ Former Digital Editor @reveal @cironline ‣ 4evr @ONA #digitalwomenleaders
Part designer, part educator, full-time dog owner. Chair @svaixd. Creative director @NPR. Bobulated.
Graphics at @nytgraphics. Formerly @GuardianUS & @columbiajourn
Tiff Fehr is an assistant editor and lead developer on the Interactive News desk at The New York Times. Previously she worked at msnbc.com (now NBCNews.com) and various Seattle-area mediocre startups.
Joe Germuska is the Chief Nerd at Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, a community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces. Before joining Knight Lab, Joe was one of the founding members of the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. In his free time… who are we kidding, Joe doesn’t have free time any more because he’s also enrolled in NU’s Masters in Product Design & Development program.
Graphics editor, @nytimes investigations team. Open sourceror
Kaeti Hinck is an editor at The Washington Post, where she leads an award-winning visual journalism team and explores the intersection of technology, design, and narrative. Before joining the Post in 2016, she worked as design director of the Institute of Nonprofit News. At INN, she helped design and build open source products to support independent publishers. For more than a decade she has been exploring the power of visual communication and technology in newsrooms. Outside of work, you’ll likely find her reading under a blanket, searching for the perfect breakfast sandwich, and spending as much time in the woods as possible.
Alyson Hurt is the graphics editor at NPR, serving on the Visuals team (formerly News Apps + Multimedia). Previously at the Washington Post and the Arizona Republic. Graduate of ASU’s Cronkite School and Georgetown’s CCT program.
Alexandra Kanik is a data reporter for CityMetric where she analyzes data and writes about housing, transportation and other city issues. Previously, she was a data reporter for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pennsylvania.
Chief Design Officer @axios. Previously @nytlabs. Curious about weird spaces where people & technology collide. She/her.
Exec director, digital for @marketplace, formerly @frontlinepbs. Smoking them all with intellect & savoir-faire.
I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess. (But why choose?) Always: @Racialicious. Latest: Deputy Editor, Digital Innovation for @ESPN ‘s @TheUndefeated.
words & graphics @nytimes @nytclimate ✨✨✨✨✨ Formerly: @GuardianUS
Head of design and graphics at VICE News
Designer by day, designer by night.
Product design lead at ACLU. Formerly: NYTimes. Slytherin!
Graphics editor @nytgraphics. Map maker and geographer.
Ashley Wu is a senior at Northwestern University, studying journalism and Spanish. She is a student fellow at Knight Lab, most recently the graphics intern at the Los Angeles Times, and is involved with a medley of publications on Northwestern’s campus.