CJA focuses fall on multimedia trainings

The Chicago Journalists Association continued its lineup of activities this fall by hosting two hands-on workshops for professional and aspiring journalists.

SPJ Digital Trainer Mike Reilley takes attendees through data scraping during the Oct. 14 workshop at Columbia College Chicago. Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

An Oct. 14 session at Columbia College Chicago centered on a variety of Google tools, while a Nov. 4 event at DePaul University taught the basics of podcasting.

“We had such a good response for our social media workshop earlier this year that it made us want to offer more trainings,” said CJA secretary and associate board chairman Stephanie Choporis. “When the Google News Lab opportunity came our way, we couldn’t pass it up.”

Former LA Times reporter and chicagotribune.com founding editor Mike Reilley led the training and guided roughly 30 attendees through Google Earth, Trends, Fusion Tables, mapping and image verification. When fact-checking photos, he recommended examining license plates, similar photos and how long they have been circulating.

Reilley also devoted a section of the presentation to data scraping and introduced Tabula, a tool that helps extract data from difficult documents, such as PDFs and scanned pages. When seeking stories, he advised the crowd to approach data the same way journalists approach sources: ask who, what, where, why and how.

Just three weeks later, CJA held its first podcasting workshop, co-led by Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson and NBC-5 anchor-turned-podcaster, Anthony Ponce.

“Several students were telling us that they had a growing interest in podcasts, but their schools unfortunately didn’t have the equipment for them to experiment,” Choporis said. “So, we wanted to offer a really hands-on workshop where students could learn to create podcasts with minimal tools.”

Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson (left) and Backseat Rider creator Anthony Ponce (right) help a student create a podcast demo during the Nov. 4 workshop at DePaul University. 
Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

About 25 guests, including journalism professors from nearby colleges and universities, came out to gain content tips and create podcast demos. One key takeaway was a smartphone is essentially all that’s needed to create a podcast.

Ponce said he initially started his Backseat Rider show with only an iPhone but eventually upgraded to a professional recorder and started placing lavalier microphones near his passengers.

For those looking to seriously pursue podcasting, Meyerson suggested using more professional gadgets, such as an XLR connecting cable, a Bluetooth keyboard and an external battery for one’s smartphone. He also recommended Audacity as a free audio editing software.

Other good podcasting practices include teasing clips of interesting content that will be introduced later, avoiding unidentified sounds at the start of a show and choosing a name that hasn’t already been taken by another podcast.

Aside from CJA’s annual awards dinner, Choporis said both workshops attracted the largest crowds the organization has seen for events in recent years.

“We even had folks come in from out of state to attend these training sessions,” she added. “That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. And it just further confirms my notion that we’re offering something valuable.”

Although CJA will be taking a break from events until 2018, Choporis said she already has some ideas brewing. Most recently, the group held its 78th annual awards dinner at the Union League Club of Chicago on Friday, Nov. 10.