Live from Loyola

At this moment, I’m in the computer lab of the Monroe Library at Loyola University. This is a very cool library – ethernet ports all over the place, artwork, it’s fabulous, nice lighting, it’s perfect.

I’m here to deliver a presentation on RSS feeds and digital voice recorders as part of the computer workshop (still at the conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists) I’m listening to a couple of presentations first, and here are the highlights….

First, Jay Perkins (Professor, Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University), is giving a demonstration of how to use Access database software to find correlations between big Lousiana polluters (from EPA’s TRI database) and Louisiana campaign finance data (from the state Board of Ethics).

Jay says, “Once you learn how to do this kind of thing, you can have a lot of fun.” He’s showing us his site Dallas Money Trail, a work in progress. He’s showing how this site can be a tool for ongoing monitoring and coverage. Definitely a departure from the one-shot news story approach, this is an example of how to expand the definition of journalism.

Jay also says, “Start thinking outside the box – what can you do for the reader with data that you can’t currently do otherwise? Look at the data that’s available and think creatively about what you can do with it.”

Victor Dricke of the Nuclear Regulatory commission also explained to us how the NRC publishes daily reports of plant status and events via its Web site. “Our content is pretty technical, lots of engineering jargon,” Dricke said, “so it may be hard to understand. That’s where I come in. Call me, and I’ll help translate the jargon for you.” That’s a nice bit of synergy – I wish more agencies and organizations that publish geeky content offered that sort of support for journalists!

Links from Amy’s talk

Here are the sites I recommended to the session attendees:

  • RSS Primer for Online Content Publishers
  • Feed Demon, an excellent RSS feed reader – it’s free
  • Newsgator is a feed reader (not free, but pretty cheap) that plugs into Microsoft Outlook
  • Google News, is a news aggregator – they collect news feeds from thousands of sources supplied via RSS. This is the kind of place where, if you publish news online, you want your feed to be picked up.
  • News Is Free is an excellent aggregator of thousands of news feeds from all over the world.

REMEMBER: Raw RSS feeds are UGLY! Don’t be dismayed by this. All you need is the URL at the top of the feed’s Web page, and that’s what you subscribe to in your feed reader.

…I went over lots more, but these are the crucial things that people from the session will need to pursue this exciting way to publish and receive information online.