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Five things I learned at my first CAR Conference

By Amanda Nero

The CAR Conference came and went much too quickly. Luckily, it’s nearly impossible to walk away from the conference empty-handed. Whether it’s technical skills or a deeper understanding of the data community and its importance, hopefully you walked away with a memento to remember the conference by.

Here are some conference takeaways from a first-time CAR Conference attendee:

1. Victor Hernandez and Mike Reilley have an app for everything. During their session, “30/60: Thirty of the best free data storytelling tools in sixty mins,” they introduced 30 free tools worth checking out for advanced and newbie journalists. Typeform, a cloud-based app for creating surveys, and Banjo, a real-time event detector, are just a few notable examples.

2. Journalists have a responsibility to protect endangered data. David Herzog, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, moderated a panel of mostly non-journalists who do their part to protect data in the Trump era and beyond – but they need journalists’ help. If you are working with or come across a dataset you wouldn’t want to see disappear, archive it or find someone who can. Preservation is key for the future of data reporting.

3. GIFs are an insanely useful way to present data visualizations, and they’re not that hard to make. Lena Groeger of ProPublica showed how easy it is to make a GIF with Photoshop and from the command line. The options for making GIFs and the possibilities to get more people interacting with data visualizations on social platforms are endless.

4. Tableau is more than just a storytelling tool. Ben Jones from Tableau proved that you can use the data viz program to find stories in data, too.

5. Young data journalists shouldn’t be afraid of what they don’t know. Madi Alexander and Rachel Schallom, two recent college graduates and working journalists, reassured young conference-goers that no one is perfect when starting out. In the session “Jobs and career straight-talk,” Alexander, Schallom and a group of mentors talked about how being adaptable is just as beneficial as knowing every program and having every skill.

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