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Reasons to be excited for the CAR conference

By Jaimi Dowdell,  IRE Training Director

If you're still debating whether to head to Phoenix next week for the computer-assisted reporting conference, I want to give you a few reasons why you should make the trip.

  • The people. I'm not ashamed to admit that I wouldn't be where I am in my life or my career without the fabulous people many lovingly refer to as NICARians. This group includes folks from around the world and they come from news organizations large and small, new and old. They are supportive, energetic and a blast to be around. I recommend getting to know them as they are a valuable resource.
  • New (to us) sessions. Hey, we're journalists, we tend to warm up to new things slowly. This year we have a session of lightning talks with Derek Willis as the ringmaster. The schedule is set and I'm anxious to hear five minutes of delicious material from the likes of Brian Boyer, Sarah Cohen, Bill Alpert and more.
  • In addition to the lightning talks, Jennifer LaFleur has also organized a session where you can meet with CAR experts on topics ranging from the economy to the Census. Got a question? I have no doubt that the wisdom in the room at CAR speed dating will be able to help. Better yet, Jennifer has promised snacks.
  • The session I'm most excited for doesn't come from a journalist at all. Joe Epps, a professor at ASU and founder of Epps CPA Accounting is set to explain how reporters can use forensic accounting techniques. He plans on discussing records we should request and methods we can use.
  • Open source madness: There's nothing that makes me salivate more than free stuff and we've got it at the conference. This year there are more classes and sessions incorporating open source software than ever before.
  • Sessions to help you juice up your Web skills. Panels will help you unlock Google secrets with Nora Paul, discover stupid Web tricks with Ben Welsh, find free online applications with Neil Reisner, learn how to tame feeds with Nils Mulvad and more. There are also classes to give you hands-on experience in scraping the Web, building a Google map, figuring out programming and much more.

This is just a taste of what's to come, and in my opinion, it looks very good. I can't wait. If you have any questions about how CAR can help you, how you can get the most out of the conference, or why you should think about going, feel free to drop me a note at jaimi@ire.org. The skills that I've learned from previous conferences and the chance to get to know so many wonderful and intelligent people have helped me in so many ways - I have no doubt you can benefit as well.

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