Digital Tool Tuesday: Resistance is futile — you must learn Excel

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Journalists attending an APME Newstrain workshop last month were getting a crash course in using spreadsheets to tell stories and reveal information from public records.

The workshop, led by Michael Berens at the Chicago Tribune, reminded me that all journalists should be able to grasp the basics of Excel and similar spreadsheets.

But why should features journalists do the same?

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Digital Tool Tuesday — The List App

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.49.03 PM

The tool: The List app

What is it? An iPhone app for creating lists. It’s designed as a marketing tool for celebrities and brands (“The Office” writer B.J. Novak is one of the developers). But it could be a great tool for repurposing copy for the social media audience. It’s also great for extending the life of evergreen packages or finding a new audience for your recipes. You can share your lists on Twitter and Facebook.

How does it work? Download the free app (only available through iPhone) and sign in. Much like Facebook and Twitter, you can follow and be followed by folks. It’s pretty easy to create a list using the handy dashboard.

Make your list. Each item can have a photo, a comment (which can include a link). Your headline and read-in also can include a link.

Examples: PBS created a list to complement “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” episode on Barcelona. the Washington Post posted a list of “Creepy Internet Rabbit Holes.”

Digital Tool Tuesday — Tableau Public

Data visualization using Tableau.

Data visualization using Tableau.

The tool: Tableau Public

What is it? Some elegant interactive tools are being made using the Tableau Public tool, which is available at no charge. It’s free data visualization software that — with a little tutorial — you can build interactive maps, tools and other cool stuff.

How does it work? Using a data set you get (or building your own on Excel), building a graphic that tells your story well.

There’s almost too much here to digest (for quickie graphic tools, try canva.com) but if you have an enthusiastic journalist who wants to dabble in data, let them play around with this.

It’s pitched to investigative reporters for serious projects, but think of the way you can use it to round up restaurant inspection reports, compare school data, or even create.

There is a resource page to view videos that show you how to use the data or how to navigate the dashboard.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Disaster tips

Lead image from "The Flood: What We Saw" published at thestate.com

Lead image from “The Flood: What We Saw” published at thestate.com

Last week, my state gurgled under 20 inches of rain, roads buckles, dams split open, and at least several neighborhoods in my city were under water.

I’m no longer with The State, so I wasn’t able to discern the thinking behind its disaster coverage. But from my point to view it was stellar, with constant live updates paired with great individual storytelling opportunities with words, video and photos.

I thought about what digital tools might be helpful for getting through a disaster, and am sharing some good practices that you might employ if you have a similar situation.

Find more tips and links in this Dart Center guide.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Newsletters

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

Newsletters are the new black and white and read all over.

While social media networks continue to dominate news readers, newsletters are quietly grabbing fans, niche by niche.

Take Lena Dunham, of “Girls” fame. This week, she launched Lenny, a weekly newsletter that promises to be “a snark-free place for feminists.”

Newsletters bring customized content to readers. They arrive in an inbox, but they aren’t intrusive. You can sell them through sponsorships. They are easy to measure. They get traffic for your stories.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Facebook features for journalists

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

While Facebook tries to dominate the universe even more with its implementation of Instant Articles, it is throwing journalists a small piece of the social network with two new initiative, Mentions and Signal.

Facebook Mentions allows verified journalists (along with celebrities and other public figures) to broadcast live to his or her Facebook followers. It’s a good branding tool to show your readers how you’re covering the news or event.

First, create a professional Facebook page, much like you do with your personal account. The difference is that a Page allows you to get followers, who can see your activity and posts.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Snapchat feature

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Have you tried Snapchat yet? Still don’t understand it?

Here’s a new reason to check it out? Incredible selfies.

One of Snapchat’s quirky features is the ability to write on top of the photo or video, or add emoticons or scribbles.

Now you can add special effects to selfies you take within the app. The feature, called Lenses, activates while the camera is open. Play along to create rainbows pouring out of your mouth, hearts on your eyes, and other whatnots.

Now why would you even consider such a selfie? To help promote a weird story or a columnist who is ready to cover something live.

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