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Here's your NICAR24 Lightning Talks lineup

The results are in! Here's the lineup for Lightning Talks at the NICAR24 conference in Baltimore next week, in speaking order:

1. Your own worst enemy: How to organize your work so your future self won't hate you | Justin Myers, Chicago Sun-Times

You might have been here before: trying to pick apart some old analysis or script, wondering in anger what kind of jerk designed it this way — only to realize that jerk was you. I've been in that situation, too, and over the years I've found some ways to be kinder to the ever-present coworker known as My Future Self. I'd like to share some of them.

2. Visuals are data, too! | Brenna Smith, The Baltimore Banner

Too often, visuals are afterthoughts in stories. However, the emergence of visual forensics as a storytelling technique has changed that narrative, putting visuals front and center as key investigative findings. In this Lighting Talks session, Baltimore Banner reporter and former New York Times Visual Investigations fellow Brenna Smith will walk you through how to take an analytical approach to visuals, proving that newsrooms across the country can produce "visual investigations" without a New York Times budget.

3. Datasette Enrichments: Run bulk operations to enrich your data | Simon Willison, Datasette

Datasette Enrichments is a new tool that lets you take a table full of data and "enrich" it in various ways — run geocoders to populate latitudes and longitudes, clean up data with regular expressions and, most excitingly, pipe that data through GPT-4 (or GPT-4 Vision) with a prompt to extract or transform data. I'll demonstrate the feature in action and show how you can use it to process thousands of rows of data in all sorts of interesting ways.

4. Wait…who funds you? Finding out (on deadline) | Kyle Spencer, Reporting Right

Bad faith organizations with anti-democratic aims abound. But sometimes — and that’s by design —they can be hard to identify, which means you may be validating and/or legitimizing a group with radical goals (accidentally). How do you tell your readers who is behind the groups you quote, mention or allude to? This Lightning Talks session will give reporters and editors an easy 5-step process for figuring out what a group/nonprofit/think tank etc. really stands for — and who funds it. On deadline!

5. When charts lie | Todd Wallack, WBUR Boston 

Graphics are an essential tool for data journalists. But it's also easy to mislead readers — either by mistake or on purpose. I'll highlight some common ways charts can trick the eye.

6. Expand your sourcing horizon | Jui Sarwate, CBS News and Stations

Learn about the different ways you can reach a variety of sources using X (Twitter) lists, connecting to sources through non-profits and by just cold emailing/calling by the bucket-loads. 

7. How to take PDFs from strangers | David Huerta, Freedom of the Press Foundation

I'll be demonstrating the use of Dangerzone, a new tool actively developed by Freedom of the Press Foundation. Dangerzone allows journalists to create a malware-free copy of PDFs that may otherwise contain malicious code.

8. Follow the commodity then follow money: uncovering stories through commodity and supply chain data | Christopher Lambin, Global Witness

There is an array of data that can help investigators map the flow of physical commodities around the globe, including freight tracking, customs records, and satellite imagery. This presentation will explore how we can combine these sources to examine supply chains while investigating environmental harms, human rights abuses and sanctions evasion.

9. How to solve a murder while watching the World Cup | Catherine Rentz, independent journalist

I started building this database during the Women's World Cup (soccer!). It looked at what bad guys did as the evidence implicating them in violent crimes lay untested for decades. The results were frustrating: wrongful incarcerations and preventable violent crimes. Many jurisdictions have collections of cold case evidence like this that have remained "off the books" and untested for decades. Before long, I came across something shocking that led to a break in a 1983 unsolved murder of a college student in Baltimore County.

10. Do you know who runs your elections? | Michael Beckel, Issue One

There are more than 10,000 chief local election officials across the country. Monitoring them all would be a Herculean effort. Monitoring those is a key state or region is feasible — and necessary in understanding election administration challenges in 2024. Issue One's blockbuster analysis of Western states found that 40% of counties in the West have new chief local election officials since 2020 — and that the officials who left these positions took with them more than 1,800 years of combined experience. There is no better time than now to start getting to know your local election officials in your area!

Lightning Talks, a series of 5-minute talks at NICAR selected by the community, has become one of the most popular sessions at the conference. This year, you can attend the big event on Friday, March 8, from 5 - 6:15 p.m. in the Harbor Ballroom. 

After Lightning Talks, please stick around to remember Philip Meyer's legacy and help us congratulate the 2023 Philip Meyer Journalism Award winners.

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