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Archive for October, 2007


Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Have you heard of ZIPskippy?

I have to give my friend Grace the hat tip for pointing out this site to me. This site is AWESOME.

I plugged in my zip code, 47904. I learned a lot about my neighborhood I never knew. Including how my neighborhood (one of the downtown zip codes) stacks up to others in the area. Just as an FYI, 47901 is the main downtown zip code and 47906 is West Lafayette, which is where Purdue and most of the Purdue students faculty live.

ZIP Skippy 47904 neighbors

This looks like a great tool to quickly assess how different areas of the community stack up. There’s a disclaimer that though this is census data, it’s just a sample. So I probably wouldn’t rely too heavily on it as a source. But it’s very useful for me to assess the different school communities/neighborhoods. Right now pretty much what I have to go on is anecdotal, what the DOE puts out and what I’m able to cull from other sources/data in a disaggregated way.

This information, presented in such a readable format, though? Seriously gold mine. Check it out.

As an aside, would this be a great project for a news organization to undertake? Or even just to link to. Lots of papers break things down by neighborhood. This could add another layer to that beyond the news and photos typical of those sections.

A few entirely random thoughts that sum up today

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I don’t have anything profound to say today, but there are several random things floating around my head that I figured I may as well share. Feel free to add your own. This could be a fun game.

  • UPDATE, I forgot the most important lesson of today. What happens when you go to make cop calls and get a busy signal. You hang up and finish calling the rest and then head back to the busy number? What happens when that number still rings busy. And half an hour later? Still busy. So, then you call the city (housed in the same building), and guess what, it’s busy? Well, I decided something was up. But since I couldn’t just call down there to find out, I did what any enterprising, curious reporter would do. I walked there and found the IT director. Something was majorly up, apparently there was a huge statewide phone outage. Our police, city and the two city school districts both went without phone service until about 3 p.m. as did several other businesses in our community. Just goes to show, there really will never be a true replacement for face-to-face, shoe-leather reporting. There’s no way I could have worked that story through the phones.
  • Over the past few weeks I’ve done two different stories involving outages with two different phone companies. In light of this, I really think phone companies need to evaluate their media relations. Neither of the phone companies made it easy to a) locate a media representative, b) locate any live person, c) get a phone number that didn’t start with 1-800 and end with my hanging up after getting stuck in a loop of computer mis-guided menus. To sum up my editor’s response to the first of these stories, “The phone company doesn’t have a phone number on its site?!” And then a laugh and attempt to prove me wrong, as if I would seriously admit both my computer savvy and Google prowess had let me down without first ensuring it was worth throwing in the towel. I’m just saying. In both cases, I now have the phone number, name and e-mail of the person I need to talk to should anything else arise. But why make it so difficult?
  • I learned a new word today: akimbo. Apparently it means to put your hands on your hips and bend your elbows. (Think annoyed teenage girl yelling, “But mooooommmm!”) I’m only including this here because I told my editor I would blog about the new word I learned. lol. He used it to describe the “sassy” pose one of the girl’s auditioning for the Purdue Play Boy edition had in her photo.
  • This story, which I first saw on Romensko (and first commented on in my education tumblelog — which is off to a good start, thanks for asking) makes me nervous about ever writing about the ISTEP or other major tests. The reporter wrote a light feature about the testing and inadvertently included the essay topics that many students hadn’t yet written about! Now all the kids have to retake the test. Although, reading his explanation, I’d have to say I do understand he didn’t know he couldn’t include the topics — and really he shouldn’t have been let in the classroom and the teachers and administrators should have flagged it for him not to repeat test questions. Still, I’m not sure I like his defense. I think he’s trying to point fingers by his blog post, and really what it boils down to is, yeah, that’s hella embarrassing and really messes with a lot of kids, but take responsibility and go ahead and say, “I screwed up.” Not doing so is just as embarrassing.
  • I have decided that while I could work the 6 a.m. shift, as in I am capable of waking up, getting dressed and being at work to start posting and picking up cops stuff from overnight, I reaaallly don’t envy the guys who have that regular shift. Yes, it would be nice to have a set shift that didn’t fluctuate from 8 to 4 through 3 to 11 virtually every day depending on meetings and assignments, and getting off (theoretically) at 2 p.m. is so appealing. But if a wonky schedule and a few late nights a week is the price to pay for getting to work during daylight hours, it’s worth it for now. I am way too tired to actually do anything with the rest of today. And as I told the business reporter when he came in at 7:30 a.m., I’m too young to be up at 6 a.m.
  • That’s all I can think of for now.

Slam Poetry: Scratch & Dent Dreams

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I love slam poetry.

There’s something about the economy of words and the emotional performances that just make it an amazing art form.

I know this has nothing to do with journalism, but this piece seemed worth sharing. FYI, if you’re interested his name is Eric Darby.

True story

Friday, October 12th, 2007

A quick post before I head off to work.

In a meeting yesterday, one of the older (possibly oldest?) members of the assembled group brings up this off-topic point:

“Has there ever been any consideration given to putting the online folks in the newsroom? I know this building is old and doesn’t suit itself well to that, but it just seems like being close together there’d be more synergy and collaboration.”

I was both intrigued and excited to hear someone else thinking like this.

But the idea was shot down almost as quick because other areas of the paper also utilize the online dept. (which is currently a floor above the newsroom) and because the online people are more techies and personalities don’t mesh with the word folks in the newsroom. True story. I can’t remember the exact words, but those were the reasons.

At least we do work a lot with the online department, and are probably more aggressive and progressive in that area than many papers our size. But still. Ugh.

An education tumblelog?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

I’ve stumbled — ironically, I supposed — upon a few tumble logs before. The idea fascinated me, but given my preponderance of communication methods (what with Meranda Writes, del.icio.us, twitter, facebook, aim and gmail statuses, to name a few) I never actually created one.

Until now: stumblEDucation.

I’ve been thinking for several weeks about how I would like to create an education blog to complement my beat coverage and stories. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was kind of shot down for my perceived lack of time to keep it. Enter the tumble log.

Basically, a tumble log is just a quick-hit collection of entries. Could be completely random snippets of conversation or links or photos or videos or quotes you come across and want to post. Its format is both more restricting and yet more free than a traditional blog.

Here’s the rub: Because it’s not a sanctioned work blog, I’ve decided I’ll stick mostly to larger education issues and stories I come across that I want to note or think are interesting. I’ll pretty much stay out of my local beat unless it’s something I think would have mass appeal. This way, I’ll look at it more as a catalog of interesting education-related items and less an extension of my paper’s newshole, which again because it’s not part of the paper, it isn’t. This catalog idea was part of what I wanted to accomplish with the blog I pitched.

I don’t know how successful I’ll be. I have a feeling as time wears on, I’ll settle into a routine of what gets posted and what doesn’t, or I’ll find it too restricting to actually be useful to me.

But I have a feeling, this is a better method of sharing with the world the education stories I’m reading and topics I’m researching than tagging them education on my (quite disorganized) del.icio.us list. It’s also a more effective presentation for this with less work and upkeep than a real blog.

At least this will satisfy my desire to collect the cool stories I read in one location. And then, if I ever do get that blog, I’ll be able to easily port this habit. Or who knows, maybe I’ll decide the tumble log was the way to go all along.

QOTD: It does not matter how slow you go … do not stop

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

“It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.”
— Confucius

IndyStar: Life on the edge

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

The IndyStar has a great package about life in the city’s most crime-ridden apartments. Life on the edge is a three-part series, with today kicking it off. I can’t wait to read the next two.

IndyStar package: Life on the edge

This is an immensely important topic and the writing by Matthew Tully is exceptional. I love the way he repeatedly makes his point using short sentences that all end in “the Phoenix”, dropping these lines in for emphasis throughout.

Here’s the basic outline of the first part of the series just based solely on this effective writing tool.

  • Talking about the gun-fights that keep a woman and her nephew awake at night, the writer makes the point: This is life in the Phoenix.

  • Explaining how it came to be, section-8 housing is largely to blame according to the article: This is the story of the Phoenix Apartments.
  • Talking about the criminals harbored there and the daily cop calls: That’s life at the Phoenix.
  • Discussing the failed initiatives of a former mayor: The Phoenix is a mess.
  • Following from the failed programs he details the sorry state of the current complex, the roaches, bullet holes and crumbling sidewalks for a start: This is the Phoenix.
  • Showing the complex to the State Rep. who initially thinks the cut grass is a sign nothing is wrong but gets schooled pretty quickly: Another day in the Phoenix.

The second story also uses dates and lines taken from police reports to break up the story of how crime-ridden the area is and the police struggle to calm it. This tool makes the story not only more credible but more readable.

I should also note, as anyone who clicked through has already seen, this is a multimedia presentation. And the designers well anticipated my questions. I’m not from Indianapolis, and aside from the visits I’ve made down there since moving here and the stories I read in the Star, I don’t know much about the city itself. I’d never even heard of this place before. As soon as I started reading… I wanted to see where it was in relation to the city and what it looked like. The additional graphs of census data shows the dramatic shift in the make-up of the population since its hey-day. Finally, the video ride-along with police gives you a taste of the problems the officers are up against.

I’m looking forward to the next two installments.