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CNS: Becoming a cartographer

bird-friendly coffee map

I created this interactive map using TileMill to show locations of bird-friendly coffee farms. TileMill is an application you download to your computer and use to code maps with many styles and zoom levels. The application uses a mixture of HTML, CSS and its own CartoCSS, a cartography-based CSS.


from French, cartographie, meaning chart

This was my first time using the program, and there was a slight learning curve, but I’m excited to use it again.

TileMill has different styles than Google Maps and allows for more customization. You can add several layers of data into TileMill. The mapping software allows you to pinpoint specific locations with geocoding. You can choose icons and customize the styling of tooltips that appear if you hover over the icons.

There have been very advanced maps made using TileMill. Check some out in their gallery.

CNS: Charting Maryland casino revenue

Gross Revenue at Maryland Casinos

I created two charts that track Maryland casino revenue, using Highcharts. The website offers demos that make it easy to learn and make your own charts.

Highcharts uses JavaScript to make the charts interactive, clickable and add more data. You can create various graphs, including:

  • line charts
  • area charts
  • column and bar charts
  • pie charts
  • scatter and bubble charts
  • dynamic charts (like updating stock market charts)

It’s very easy to make your own chart using Highcharts’ documentation. You can change the axes, legend, symbols and more. They have several options and make the JavaScript simple.

The best feedback an intern could receive

Are you on the Takoma Park beat? Will you be writing all these stories?”

I had no idea I was speaking to an intern.”

When I first contact a source for a story, I usually don’t tell them I’m interning.

I don’t consider it lying. I get better responses if I act as a professional journalist. When I told sources in the past that I was a student or intern, they often refused to speak with me or answer my questions fully. So in order to report accurately and completely, I just don’t tell them I’m an intern.

I email or call a source and explain that I’m reporting for The Gazette, or my past internships, and continue to interview them. Most times, the interview goes well. I get the information and quotes I need for my story and I thank the source.

Sometimes, a source will ask if I’m on the Takoma Park or Silver Spring beat. If I’ll be covering stories like the one I interviewed them for. If they should contact me with story ideas.

Read More…

An intern’s response to the selling of The Washington Post

Photo from

Photo from

As an intern, I get to experience office life and newsrooms. I am in the thick of it — reporting on deadline, finding sources on my own and bugging them until they get back to me, suggesting enterprise stories, messing up and having to write corrections, and learning about topics as I go.

Sometimes, I also experience the business world first-hand. Like yesterday’s selling of The Washington Post and newspapers under the Post-Newsweek Media umbrella, including where I am currently interning, The Gazette.

I saw something on Twitter about The Post being sold and was just about to read the article when the entire staff received an email to meet in the conference room. At 4:40 p.m. we were given the news that The Washington Post, and The Gazette, was being sold to Jeff Bezos, the founder of, for $250 million.

After the meeting, I listened to employees’ reactions, a mixture of shock, uneasiness and excitement for the future. Would there be more layoffs? How could they continue producing a great product, a great newspaper, with fewer people? How exactly would the papers change?

Then I went back to Twitter. Many people responded with humor.

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Reporters and gifts

This past week at The Gazette  I experienced a case of real-world journalism ethics in my reporting.

This week I had a great interview with a source on Thursday. The source was very kind and offered to buy me Chinese food for lunch during the interview. My journalism ethics hairs stood on end and I had to respectfully say no and explain why I could not accept gifts. The source seemed confused, but let the interview continue.

On Monday, after I finished writing the article, a photographer had gone out to take photos of the source for my story. The photographer brought back an envelope from the source, who he said had told him I had left something behind. I am pretty thorough and check before I leave anywhere, so I was expecting it to be another gift.

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Fourth week at USA TODAY

Last week was my last one at USA TODAY. Here’s a recap:


I wrote a tip list for the USA TODAY interns Tumblr about business cards and free deals.


Vine vs. Instagram? Instagram vs. Vine?

Alex,  the social media marketing intern, and I had a video sharing platform debate on Vine and Instagram. The debate is silly and was really fun to film. It’s been incredible to be able to experiment and try out these platforms. We were allowed to be goofy, show our personality and experiment with new social media.

Check out the debate:

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Reporting reactions of DOMA and Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court

On June 26, 2013 I was a mobile multimedia reporter for USA TODAY, covering reactions to the gay marriage decisions. I got to the Supreme Court at 8:30 a.m. and began reporting.

  1. Heading down to the Supreme Court to cover reactions to the #gaymarriage decision today. Follow my & @alexlaughs tweets, Vines & Instagrams
  2. Throughout the day, I used Twitter, Vine and Instagram to report on different aspects of the story and share instantaneously with the newsroom and the public.

Third week at USA TODAY


I met with the science writer, Dan Vergano, and we discussed his upcoming article about summer stargazing for USA TODAY Weekend. I am writing the sidebar for the article, so check back for the article!

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Second week at USA TODAY

Has it been the second week at USA TODAY already?


Monday my editor went over my story ideas and helped me flesh them out to become broader, more suitable for a national audience. I am still fleshing out the ideas.

I also added some Google+ users to the USA TODAY Google+ account. And I had my second experience with Pinterest. I first used Pinterest at WTOP when I was adding to their Friday Freebies board. Today I added a bunch of pins to USA TODAY’s Great American Bites board and Daily Snapshots board and created a StudioA board.

I also brainstormed with another intern what kind of social media we could produce for Father’s Day. We liked a history focus — where does Father’s Day come from? The brainstorm session turned into a photo gallery outlining the history of Father’s Day.


Tuesday night, after interning and scheduling lots of posts on several social media sites, I was invited to attend the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame Award Dinner at the National Press Club, in D.C. I was awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of Washington, D.C. (SDXDC) Scholarship. It was very exciting to attend the dinner and network with journalists and media professionals in the D.C. area.


Wednesday I researched LinkedIn and USA TODAY’s audience on LinkedIn. I made an Excel spreadsheet that compares several media organization’s frequency and type of posts. It was interesting to compare other organizations and find ways I can improve my LinkedIn posts for the specific USA TODAY audience.

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