Panel Teaches Journalists New Online Tools
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The latest digital tools for environmental journalists are DocumentCloud and Google Ocean and participants at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Miami got a quick course on using these tools during a Saturday morning panel session.
DocumentCloud in an online catalog of user-uploaded documents that can be annotated, organized, shared and published. It is free to use.
“Our biggest competitor is highlighters and Post-Its, but you can search those,” said Amanda Hickman, program director of the website.
The site is mostly geared toward news organizations that have formal newsrooms, but is slowly becoming more freelancer-friendly.
“It’s increasing its use as a research tool as time goes on,” Hickman said.
Once a single document or a set of documents are uploaded, the user can interact with them in multiple ways. They can organize a group of documents by date, share them with outside experts, and link to portions of the document in the online version of a news article.
“”You’re inviting your readers to fact check,” Hickman said. “You’re letting them in on the story. It makes it more engaging.”
She emphasized that the documents uploaded should mostly be source documents in order to prevent any violation of copyright laws.
The second tool introduced during the session was Google Ocean, an extension of Google Earth. Users can access this portion of Google Earth by zooming in until they see the water’s surface and then pressing shift and the down arrow key together.
As users move around underwater, they will encounter white dots that represent stories that have uploaded by the Sylvia Earle Alliance. On the alliance’s website, users can also access the stories by searching for specific topics.
“It’s growing,” said Charlotte Vick, Google content manager of the Sylvia Earle Alliance. “This year we are moving into Spanish, French and Portuguese.”
Vick also took session participants through a general tour of Google Earth.
“There are tutorials for virtually anything and everything you want to do,” Vick said. “If I can do it at my age, you can definitely do it.”
She recommended that users visit Google’s LatLong blog is they had any further questions.
Dan Fagin, moderator of the session and an associate professor at New York University, reminded the audience to be careful about using the material they found, but to also actively use there tools.
“It’s somewhat of the Wild West, but the sensible rules of the road should apply,” Fagin said. “Don’t be afraid to plunge in and find new ways to tell stories”