2020 NICAR Conference

Join IRE and NICAR in New Orleans, LA for our annual conference devoted to data journalism, March 5-8, 2020 at the New Orleans Marriot. Come and learn about tools you need to dig deeper into stories and give readers, viewers and your online audience the information they're demanding.

The Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference offers something for everyone, from beginners to those on the cutting edge of digital reporting. We'll offer everything from the basics on using spreadsheets, databases and online mapping to data visualization and the latest technological advances. You'll come away with story ideas, plenty of inspiration and tools to help you overcome typical data hurdles. Bypass the budget issues in your newsroom by taking hands-on classes in free software. Get a look at what the biggest names in data-driven reporting are using to make a major impact online. Learn from the best in the business in discussions and during hands-on training sessions.

The conference begins Thursday, March 5 at 9 a.m. and runs daily until 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8.

Share your ideas by Sept. 15: Use this form to share ideas, suggestions and other comments you think will help us plan the best possible conference. The only required field is your contact information (in case we want to follow up). No suggestion is too small. Just make sure to have your ideas to us by Sept. 15.

Subscribe to our email list for detailed updates: We'll let you know any time we make a major announcement, update you on the planning process and remind you of key dates/deadlines surrounding the conference. Sign up!

Additional details on the conference can be found here.

Time and place

Thursday, Mar. 5, 2020 - Sunday, Mar. 8, 2020

New Orleans Marriott
555 Canal Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130



Schedule details

  • Hands-on

    Interviewing your data with SQL *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    If you flip over pivot tables, but wish you had more data tools, this session is for you. Structured Query Language, or SQL, can help you use powerful filtering functions, find patterns in millions of records and join multiple data tables. 

    This class will be taught by two experienced data reporters and former IRE trainers, and materials will include the IRE data boot camp binder, full of exercises, cheat sheets and tips to help you boost your data analysis and storytelling skills. We will use a free database manager that can be easily installed and used on any computer.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training.

    Workshop prerequisites: The only prerequisites are a reasonable comfort level with using a spreadsheet. No previous SQL skills necessary.

    Studio 4 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Editing the data story *pre-registered attendees only

    Speakers: Jennifer LaFleur of Investigative Reporting Workshop; Maud Beelman of The Howard Center for Investigative Reporting

    Managing a data project presents challenges for any editor. No matter your comfort level with data, this half-day workshop will give you the foundation you need to help make sure your reporters aren’t running with scissors or spinning their wheels on data projects. Two veteran editors, Jennifer LaFleur of The Investigative Reporting Workshop and Maud Beelman of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University, will guide you through the ins and outs of data journalism from an editor’s point of view, including:

    *How to help reporters find focus for their data stories

    *Being skeptical of data and finding potential pitfalls

    *Verifying analyses and bulletproofing data stories and apps

    *Using data to find human sources and characters for stories

    *Planning the best data workflows for your newsroom

    No data experience is necessary for this workshop. Editors/producers and those interested in newsroom management are welcome. Please bring your own laptop.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    PyCAR *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    This hands-on workshop will teach journalists basic programming concepts using the Python language. The class, spread over two half-days, will introduce language basics and useful libraries in the course of a typical reporting project: scraping data from the web, analyzing a spreadsheet and visualizing the results.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training.

    Workshop prerequisites: Although the class is geared toward programming beginners, attendees should have familiarity with the command line and be comfortable with databases and SQL.

    This class takes place on Thursday, March 5 from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and continues Friday, March 6, 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (Registration for this session reserves your seat for both days of this workshop and attendees are expected to attend both sessions to complete the workshop.)

    Studio 3 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Upping your Excel game *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    If you've found yourself struggling in a spreadsheet, thinking that whatever you were trying to achieve seemed harder than it should've been, then this is the class for you. We’ll learn about various tools and functions in Excel that come in handy when you need to re-structure or otherwise get your data ready for analysis. We'll cover string functions, logical functions, date functions, reshaping data, merging data using lookup functions and perhaps a few other nifty tricks if time allows. We’ll do some “drills” introducing you to these concepts, then put your new skills to work in a sort of “scrimmage,” fixing up some real-life data. You’ll also walk out with practice data and a 30-page tipsheet that covers, in detail, everything from the class, plus more that we won’t have time for.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training. 

    Workshop prerequisites: You should have prior experience using Excel or Google Sheets, and be comfortable with introductory-level spreadsheet skills, such as sorting, filtering, SUM and AVERAGE functions, calculations such as percentage change or percent of total, and how to use pivot tables.

     

    Studio 2 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    First Observable notebook: Prototyping with polish *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Advanced

    Alex Garcia, Iris Lee, Ben Welsh and Aaron Williams teach you how to rapidly prototype a complex data visualization with JavaScript, D3.js and an interactive Observable notebook.

    This three-hour, hands-on course will show you how journalists are putting Observable’s powerful potential to work. Using nothing but your web browser, you will sketch, refine and publish an interactive graphic like one that appeared in The New York Times. Along the way, you’ll see how Observable’s groundbreaking approach to coding can help you be more creative, ambitious and efficient.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided. 

    Workshop prerequisites: If you’ve used JavaScript once or twice, have a good attitude and know how to take a few code crashes in stride, you are qualified for this class. If you’re suspicious and think we might be Internet hipsters, we welcome the challenge of winning you over. This stuff is cool.

    Studio 3 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Intro to R *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    We'll introduce you to R, a free, powerful open-source programming language that will take your data reporting to the next level. By the end of this three-hour session, you will be able to read data from common file types into R, clean and explore it, create visualizations, and make your entire data workflow reproduceable. We'll also talk about how to find help when you're stuck. 

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training. 

    Workshop prerequisites: This session will be most helpful if you’re comfortable working with data and you’re ready to take your skills to the next level.

    Studio 2 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Introduction to web development *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Beginner

    This session will introduce you to how the web works and the building blocks of web development: HTML, CSS and (a tiny bit of) JavaScript. By the end of the class, you will have built a simple web page and published it on the internet.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training.

    Workshop prerequisites: This session is good for beginners -- no experience necessary.

    Studio 9 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Statistics for journalists *pre-registered attendees only

    Speakers: Steve Doig of ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism; Holly Hacker of The Dallas Morning News

    Statistical methods can help you go beyond counting, sorting and filtering data to look at relationships, make predictions and level the playing fields. Statistical analyses can provide hard evidence to back up (or discredit) a theory. This master class will help you understand the concepts and methods most often used by journalists, including:

    *Linear regression

    *Correlation

    *Statistical significance

    *Describing and visualizing your data

    This master class is aimed at those already familiar with basic data analysis using spreadsheets and ready to add statistical analysis to their toolkits. 

    Please bring your laptop to the training. Before the conference, please install R and R Studio (free, open-source software) on your computer.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Mastering Google Sheets: Web scraping, running scripts and other tricks *pre-registered attendees only (Thursday)

    Skill level: Beginner/intermediate

    Google Sheets is more than just free spreadsheet software to organize and store data. This hands-on session will start with pivot tables and conditional formatting, and through examples, we'll also learn how to scrape data in seconds without code, automate menial tasks with macros, write custom spreadsheet formulas as well as how to send emails, geocode addresses, translate text and more – all through the power of Google Sheets. Come with a laptop and leave with the knowledge of a Google Sheets power user.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. You must have a Google account. Computers will be provided.

    Workshop prerequisites: You should be familiar with using spreadsheets and formulas.

    Studio 10 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Digging into data for stories: A crash course in Excel - *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Beginner

    Get started using data in your stories with IRE's original mini-boot camp. In this 7-hour, hands-on workshop, IRE’s experienced trainers will start with the basics of navigating Excel and using formulas, then walk you through sorting, filtering and aggregating data with pivot tables to find story ideas.

    You'll come away with a solid base for using data analysis in your newsroom, including how to find and request data, identify and clean dirty data, find story ideas and bulletproof your work. 

    We’ll also provide you with our detailed boot camp materials to help keep you on track long after you leave the conference. 

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training.

    Workshop prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this workshop and beginners are welcome. This workshop is good for those wanting to get started analyzing data for stories.

    Studio 2 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    First Python notebook: Data analysis on deadline *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    James Gordon, Cheryl Phillips, Andrea Suozzo and Ben Welsh guide you through a six-hour, hands-on investigation of money in politics.

    You will learn: 

    **just enough Python to execute an analysis with pandas, one of the most popular open-source tools for working with data tables

    **how to record, remix and republish your work using Jupyter, a browser-based tool emerging as the standard for reproducible research

    **and how these tools can increase the speed and veracity of your journalism.

    Along the way you’ll conduct your own investigation of California campaign donors using the California Civic Data Coalition’s open-source database archive.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided.

    Workshop prerequisites: If you've tried Python once or twice, have good attitude and know how to take a few code crashes in stride, you are qualified. We want you.

    Studio 6 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Election 2020 data *pre-registered attendees only

    Speakers: Carrie Levine of The Center for Public Integrity; Derek Willis of ProPublica

    This year brings important elections from local school boards to statehouses and the White House. This class, taught by two veteran political reporters, will help you gear up for Election 2020 coverage at any level of government, including: 

    *Tools and strategies for campaign finance data, from local to federal candidates

    *Following the money and the messaging from campaigns

    *Tracking the players beyond candidates, from super PACs to special interests and nonprofits

    *Story ideas to help you plan election coverage for your newsroom

    No previous data experience is necessary for this workshop, though familiarity with spreadsheets will help. Please bring your own laptop.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Writing the investigative narrative *pre-registered attendees only (Friday AM)

    You’ve gathered data, docs and human sources. Now it’s time to turn your reporting into a story — or a series — that packs a punch. If you’re new to investigative storytelling or a data nerd hoping to better blend numbers into compelling prose, this workshop is for you.

    Reporter J. David McSwane has worked in all media, always chasing that perfect marriage of investigative and narrative. Computational journalist Andrew Chavez will also lead some of the discussion. 

    Topics include:

    * Understanding narrative

    * Reporting for story: how to gather the details and scenes that will give your piece emotional power

    * Organization and framing

    * Self-editing tips and techniques: do you need this character, this piece of data?

    * Making the data work for you: adding scope and precision to a human story

    We’ll look at examples of successful stories, pulling back the curtain to see how they came together.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Studio 1 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    PyCAR (cont'd-Friday) *pre-registered attendees only

    This is a continuation of PyCAR from Thursday, March 5 for pre-registered attendees of this class.

    Studio 3 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    ArcGIS: From spreadsheets to StoryMaps *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Beginner

    Interested in mapping your data but aren't sure where to start? In this half-day workshop, we’ll walk attendees through an investigation into short-term rentals in New Orleans and their potential impacts on the community. Along the way, we’ll focus on the tools, workflows and best practices to help you transform public data into compelling maps and narrative stories. This workshop will specifically address:

    **Creating interactive maps directly within Excel from a spreadsheet of public data with ArcGIS Maps for Office

    **Publishing spreadsheet data as an interactive layer

    **Styling and configuring interactive maps with ArcGIS Online

    **Filtering, analyzing, aggregating and enriching geospatial data

    **Performing on-the-fly calculations and customization with Arcade scripts

    **Finding and using authoritative data from the Living Atlas

    **Creating interactive maps that fuse narrative elements and maps using ArcGIS StoryMaps

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training. Class attendees will receive free licenses of ArcGIS from Esri. 

    Workshop prerequisites: No data or mapping experience required.

    Studio 7 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Writing the investigative narrative *pre-registered attendees only (Friday PM)

    Speaker: Maria Carrillo of Tampa Bay Times

    You’ve gathered data, docs and human sources. Now it’s time to turn your reporting into a story -- or a series -- that packs a punch. If you’re new to investigative storytelling or want to up your writing game, this workshop is for you.

    Veteran editor Maria Carrillo has led some of the best narrative teams in the country. In this half-day workshop, she’ll cover the entire story lifecycle, from reporting to writing to planning for publication. Topics include:

    *Understanding narrative

    *Reporting for story -- How to gather the details and scenes that will give your piece emotional power

    *Focus and framing – Finding your way through all that material

    *Self-editing tips and techniques

    *Developing a story team -- How to get photographers, artists, designers, digital producers and editors unified behind a common vision

    We’ll look at examples of successful stories, pulling back the curtain to see how they came together.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Write better Python code *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Advanced

    You’ve written a few Python scripts that get the job done, but the initial euphoria has worn off. Your code is hard to read. Bugs are cropping up. And you can’t always explain your process or results to an editor — or yourself. There must be a better way, but the path forward is not clear.

    If you’ve had that itchy feeling, this three-hour, hands-on workshop is for you. This class will explore Python language features that will help you write readable, reliable and reusable code.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Attendees must bring a laptop and charger to the training.

    Workshop prerequisites: Experience with basic Python language features like variables, data types, conditionals and functions are required.

    Studio 9 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Digging into data for stories (cont'd-Saturday) *pre-registered attendees only

    This is a continuation of Digging into data for stories: A crash course from Friday, March 6 for pre-registered attendees of this class.

    Studio 2 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Exploring the tidyverse in R *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Advanced

    Learn how to use the tidyverse, a collection of R packages, to help you make your data journalism more efficient, stronger and more fun. Learn how to import, clean, analyze and plot data for your stories. If you want to modernize your R workflow with dplyr, tidyr, readr, ggplot2, tibble and purr, this class is for you. This workshop assumes some familiarity with R and RStudio, or programming experience in another language (e.g., Python or JavaScript), but will start from the beginning with tidyverse principles. 

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training. 

    Workshop prerequisites: You should be comfortable working with R and RStudio and be familiar with basic data analysis.

    Studio 7 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    First graphics app: Node.js in the newsroom *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Advanced

    Dana Amihere, Armand Emamdjomeh and Ben Welsh teach you how America’s top news organizations escape rigid content-management systems to publish custom graphics on deadline. 

    Take this six-hour class to get hands-on experience in every stage of the development process, writing JavaScript, HTML and CSS within a Node.js framework. You’ll start with data from a real-life Los Angeles Times analysis. You won’t stop until you’ve crafted a custom presentation and deployed a working application on the World Wide Web.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided.

    Workshop prerequisites: If you have a good attitude and know how to take a few code crashes in stride, you are qualified for this class. If you’re a little scared, that’s a good thing. You’re ready for this.

    Studio 3 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Finding and telling stories with earth imagery **pre-registered attendees only

    Speaker: Tim Wallace of Descartes Labs

    Satellites, planes, drones — thanks to these and other planetary-sensors, we know more about our earth, its oceans, landscapes and cityscapes than ever before. With heaps of new data and tools at our disposal, journalists are among the many people accessing this wellspring of source data and using it to show changes at global and local scales at an ever-increasing rate, from the disappearing polar ice caps to monitoring local port shipments.

    This workshop will provide an introduction to practical geographic journalism through concrete case studies. It will then offer tools and skills that can help you start infusing earth imagery into your stories. You will leave this workshop with a new way of thinking about earth imagery and how to use it.

    Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites but it would be helpful to have some experience with QGIS, bash (imagemagick, ffmpeg, gdal), and Photoshop.

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Mastering Google Sheets: Web scraping, running scripts and other tricks *pre-registered attendees only (Saturday)

    Skill level: Beginner/intermediate

    Google Sheets is more than just free spreadsheet software to organize and store data. This hands-on session will start with pivot tables and conditional formatting, and through examples, we'll also learn how to scrape data in seconds without code, automate menial tasks with macros, write custom spreadsheet formulas as well as how to send emails, geocode addresses, translate text and more – all through the power of Google Sheets. Come with a laptop and leave with the knowledge of a Google Sheets power user.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. You must bring your own laptop (no tablets) to this training and have a Google account.

    Workshop prerequisites: You should be familiar with using spreadsheets and formulas.

    Studio 1 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Practical machine learning for investigations with fast.ai *pre-registered attendees only (Saturday AM)

    Skill level: Advanced

    Get hands-on experience using this accessible, open-source Python library to classify images, text, and rows of data -- potentially saving you hours or days of work poring through the data. In the process, you'll also get a feel for the power -- and limits -- of machine learning.

    This session with John Keefe and Jeremy Merrill of the Quartz investigations team will introduce you to the concept of machine learning and several practical uses for it in your newsroom.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Computers will be provided.

    Workshop prerequisites: A Google (aka Gmail) account. Basic understanding of Python is recommended but not required.

    Studio 4 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Web scraping with Python *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Intermediate

    If you need data that's trapped on a website, writing some code to scrape the page could be your solution. This entry-level class will show you how to use the Python programming language to harvest information from websites into a spreadsheet. We'll introduce you to the command line and show you how to write enough code to fetch and parse web content. 

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided.

    Workshop prerequisites: This class is programming for beginners. Some basic familiarity with Python and HTML is helpful but not required.

    Studio 9 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Master Class

    CANCELED: Master class: Interviewing *pre-registered attendees only

    Speakers: Monica Rhor of Houston Chronicle; Audra Burch of The New York Times

    Learn how to master the interview to hold your sources accountable. This workshop will move from getting the interview, to conducting the interview, to capitalizing on the interview when it’s time to write. 

    This master class by investigative reporters Monica Rohr and Audra Burch is designed to teach you:

    *how — and when — to land a tough interview

    *how to prepare before an interview and also adapt on the spot

    *the power of silence

    *the power of sincerity

    *interviewing people who have been hurt, and interviewing the people who hurt them

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Interactive data viz with D3 *pre-registered attendees only

    Skill level: Advanced

    Bring your data to life with elegant and intelligent visualizations with the D3 JavaScript library. We'll start with some Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) basics and learn what makes the D3 library so powerful, then use real-world datasets to build your first D3 chart. We will build on D3 basics by exploring more complex chart forms, covering functions for fetching and manipulating data, and introducing transitions and interaction. We will write working code together, break down how some of our favorite examples of D3 charts work and practice reading documentation so you can gain expertise on your own.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. Laptops will be provided for the training. 

    Workshop prerequisites: Attendees should have some knowledge of HTML/CSS and JavaScript programming concepts. Previous D3 experience is not required.

    Studio 9 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Hands-on

    Practical machine learning for investigations with fast.ai *pre-registered attendees only (Saturday PM)

    Skill level: Advanced

    Get hands-on experience using this accessible, open-source Python library to classify images, text, and rows of data -- potentially saving you hours or days of work poring through the data. In the process, you'll also get a feel for the power -- and limits -- of machine learning.

    This session with John Keefe and Jeremy Merrill of the Quartz investigations team will introduce you to the concept of machine learning and several practical uses for it in your newsroom.

    Preregistration is required and seating is limited. You must bring your own laptop (no tablets) to this training.

    Workshop prerequisites: A Google (aka Gmail) account. Basic understanding of Python is recommended but not required.

    Studio 1 - 2nd floor

    2:15 pm - 5:45 pm

  • Master Class

    Master class: Getting ready to cover Census 2020 *pre-registered attendees only

    Speakers: D'Vera Cohn of Pew Research Center; Paul Overberg of The Wall Street Journal

    The 2020 census has already begun. In mid-March, it ramps up with a blizzard of millions of mailed invitations to respond. The data and story possibilities will follow almost immediately and continue through at least 2022. Are you ready? Especially if you have not covered a census, this workshop will prepare you to make a plan, gather the data, understand it and turn it into compelling stories.

    D'Vera Cohn and Paul Overberg have each been writing about the census since 1990. Dee, who covered census topics for The Washington Post before working for Pew Research, led five Poynter Institute 2020 census workshops for journalists over the past year. Paul led IRE-sponsored census training workshops and panels since 2000, and covered demographics for USA Today and The Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years.

    This three-hour workshop will include:

    *What numbers are coming when?

    *Census-speak: Concepts and definitions to unlock the data and avoid newbie errors

    *Geography: Understanding the "where" to find stories from neighborhood to national

    *Seven stories any newsroom can do

    *Examples of great 2010 census stories

    *How census numbers can be used on every beat

    *Making a newsroom plan: How to pick your spots and get outside help too

    Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

    Galerie 5 - 2nd floor

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm