Just before SXSW began, we were able to persuade Aron Pilhofer, the Director of Interactive News at NY Times, to visit with us on March 8. I have known Aron for a few years and have been fascinated by the work his group produces. He has visited with us in the past, sent people from his department to speak to our students and even allowed me to visit his group in NYC for a week so I could do a research project (the result of which has recently been published in the ISOJ Journal). We are very fortunate to have him as a friend to our program, because his group is doing some of the most progressive work in data journalism. It was appropriate that he would be our first speaker in the series.
We set up the day so that he could work with my grad class first, doing a workshop on data journalism. But, instead of engaging technology, the workshop was more conceptually focused. After giving his Beautiful Data presentation. he broke the class into two groups and had them conceive of an interface that could accompany the NY Times series 36 Hours In... The travel series focuses on what one can do when visiting a city at different times during the day. However, the series is archived online in article format. It is very difficult to search for specific items of interest, like all breakfast places or things to do in the afternoon, etc... So, the students, using the very low-tech tool of a flip chart, designed their own ideas for how that interface should be developed.
After a delicious BBQ dinner, Aron gave a presentation that we opened up to more students in our program. You can see the entire presentation below. The students really enjoyed hearing about his experience in developing his department, which now also includes social media. They were able to ask questions about careers, skills and the future of media. It was a great day, and we are very grateful that Aron took his time to share with us.
Stay tuned for my next post on our visit from Thomas Levine of Scraperwiki.