CMM Special Series: What Do Student Journalists Want to Learn More About Journalism? (Part 7)

During his recent efforts to help plan programming for the fall 2015 ACP/CMA National College Media Convention — the world’s largest annual gathering of student journalists and their advisers and profs — David Simpson wanted to hear more from the students themselves. Specifically, he was curious: In these changing times, what do potential student attendees want to get most from a journalism conference experience? So Simpson, a revered veteran journalist and director of student media at Georgia Southern University, reached out to me with his student-first query. I in turn reached out to the summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellows — an elite crew of current and recent student journalists.

For this CMM special series, 14 Fellows offer their perspectives, ideas and advice centered on a single question: What topic, tech tool, news beat, skill-set or current event would you love to learn more about, lead a session on or help debate during a journalism convention? Their answers run the gamut — touching on everything from science journalism and Snapchat to sexual assault coverage and workflow management.


What Do Student Journalists Want to Learn More About Journalism?
Part 7: ‘How to Present Data in the Most Compelling Way’

By Nizia Alam, University of Texas at Tyler

Summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow

Data journalism and interactive multimedia projects are two topics I would love to learn more about at an upcoming convention. Having these two skills is essential for success in media today.

1) Data journalism. Let’s face it, data is confusing to understand. That’s why it’s so important for journalists to break it down and analyze it to make it accessible to readers. This comes in the form of data visualizations like maps, charts and graphs in text or video form. A few recent examples: an animated data visualization focused on military and civilian deaths in World War II; The Harvard Crimson’s interactive map and story on the geography of Harvard University student-athlete recruitment; and a USA TODAY feature on student debt.


Colleges and universities have tons of open data that student media outlets can take advantage of including crime numbers, faculty salaries and budgets. But knowing how to present data in the most compelling way is a skill that many student journalists still don’t know or haven’t yet mastered.

2) Interactive multimedia projects. Knowing how to create interactive multimedia projects is a related skill that would also directly benefit a student journalist. One highly successful project in this area: NPR’s “Life After Death,” which combines audio, visuals and short text to tell the story of the Liberian village Barkedu in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak. I remember plugging my headphones in, listening, swiping through each slide and feeling as if I was almost there in the village.


The combination of multimedia elements perfectly captures the sights and sounds of the village and the tragedy residents there are still grappling with. In that vein, learning how to code, creating a site and putting together a project like “Life After Death” would be invaluable. But staffers at many college media outlets don’t know where to even begin when it comes to creating something similar. To that end, a workshop outlining the steps to create a multimedia project would be highly beneficial for all convention attendees.

Nizia Alam is a senior journalism major at the University of Texas at Tyler. She previously served as editor-in-chief of the Patriot Talon. She is also a summer 2015 CMM Editorial Fellow. 

Check out other parts of this CMM special series

Part 1: ‘The Interesting Important & the Important Interesting’ by Danielle Klein, University of Toronto

Part 2: ‘Best Practices, Pros, Cons & Even Some Mistakes’ by Emma Discher, Tulane University

Part 3: ‘Fresh Ideas & Fresh Blood’ by Sami Edge, University of Oregon

Part 4: ‘The Way We Edit & Upload Stories’ by Ali Swenson

Part 5: ‘So You Want to Make a Tabloid Newspaper?’ by Claire Dodson, University of Tennessee

Part 6: ‘An Independent Student Newspaper?’ by Kyle Walker, University of Tulsa

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