— Nina Mehta

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Poynter

I wish I had drawn out my interpretation of my social communities before I installed the new Facbeook app, Social Graph. What this app does very well is show me how my facebook friends are connected and clustered.

I ran the app, took a screen grab and began to label the clusters. When I loaded the app again, my clusters looked different. In these screen grabs I did not include some of the outliers. Most of those people are friends I made while traveling. There are so many ways to interpret my social circles. The app is slow right now and it doesn’t tell a story. But I can do that:

My Social Graph

Ultimately, what I found is that my techno community links my high school and ancestry communities the most. Media and music are still the center of my social circle here. My current job at the Office for Women’s Affairs is surprisingly barely connected to anything at all. I have two London networks that don’t overlap at all.

My Social Graph

I can see that media and music are the centrally what link me to people and my professional communities. I have strong clusters in Indiana and San Francisco that thickly overlap with my Chicago community.

My Social Graph

I found many of the outliers here to have a specific ethnic quality in common. I also had an absolutely random seeming smattering of “indian people” from all over the country in that cluster.

Overall, I’ve learned that my music communities centrally have guided my social life. I have an enormous high school network, which makes sense because I joined Facebook as soon as I graduated high school. My Bloomington music community is tightly connected to my student media groups which then led me to my job at the Star, the news design community, my Poytner Fellowship and the cluster of friends in Indianapolis who worked at Rolls Royce.

Last year, friends from my San Francisco Tech and Techno Community went to India for a wedding. They stayed with my aunts, uncles and cousins and must have friended each other. There are enough people from my high school who moved to San Francisco, listen to Techno and work in Tech, so we can see those overlaps too.

I was surprised how few links there were between my tech communities and RockMelt, but then again it makes sense because I did not get the internship by knowing someone, per say (which is quite rare). There was a 6-degrees of separation alumni connection there.

I wish I could make some sense of the random smattering of Indian people. That cluster is concentrated with Indian people I know from all over the country and world. I guess we really are all family.

I would love to search for specific friends in this app. Still, very cool. This is also the first time I got to check off every category in my tags!

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Yes. Very useful.

Carrie Hoover asked a group of grads “is a journalism-centric education is still useful in today’s job market?” for a piece she’s doing for the Society for News Design Denver Conference. Here’s what I wrote back, the bottom bit is the most interesting.

I am grateful for every second of my journalism experience and opportunity. I tell people that SND raised me as a professional. There is no professional community that cares for students like this one does.

Journalism school has been an essential part of my growth and career development. I studied at Indiana University, in Bloomington. I had an opportunity to learn about working on deadlines, in teams, dealing with plagiarism, accuracy, content, design and other critical thinking skills. Because I studied journalism, I had an opportunity to start a magazine that won many awards while a student. Many people don’t get to be entrepreneurs any time in their life!

My journalism experience took me to London for an internship and then onto a job at the Indianapolis Star. But, those things are all the traditional path. Now for the good stuff.

I’m studying Human-Computer Interaction design at IU. With this degree I blend the what I’ve learned about people, technology and design. This summer I worked at RockMelt, a startup in Silicon Valley which is backed by one of industry’s most recognized investors.

I have no doubt that my journalism experience helped me get this opportunity. J-school and Poynter taught me to talk to people, but more importantly how to listen. When I am doing usability studies or interviewing people in our demographic, I have a better sense of what kinds of questions to ask and simply, I now know, just to shut up and let people talk.

After I do an interview or a study I go over the session with my team and do a writeup. I need to tell a story and I need to do it quickly. Why? Because we are a small, committed team with a never ending list of things to do, just like in news. I can handle deadlines, pressure and have learned to balance many projects at once that require real deliverables.

When I’m designing product wireframes, building the behaviors and describing the experience, I cannot write a long winded essay for our developers. I need to write concise but descriptive lines of text that are clear and succinct. We take these skills we have for granted.

On a higher level, journalism school prepared me to be a critical thinker and a hard worker. There is a lot left to be desired in J-Schools when it comes to designing classes for the future. It’s essential to teach the foundations of journalism but students need to be taught about the future, not the past.

Newspapers, radio and cable television should be taught in media history classes. Students should be taught to produce for and think about Mobile apps, Google and Apple TV, Ubiquitous Computing, Virtual Environments, Chat clients, Facebook, Twitter, Bloggers, GPS devices, etc. The list goes on and on. If the medium is the message, it’s time to open our eyes to all the new mediums.

We should have invented Twitter*. We should have invented RSS feeds. We should have invented Craigslist and Groupon and Youtube and the iPad and Google Search and Yelp. It’s okay to hire developers. It’s okay to take a risk. If people inside the news industry don’t change the model, people outside will.

*I think I had lunch with someone, somewhere during the last month and they said journalists should have invented Twitter. I don’t remember who or where, but I really want to give you credit.
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Gratitude. Gratitude. 21 cards later, I’m surely forgetting at least a dozen more people that I need to thank.  I really could not have done Poynter on my own–that’s kind of the whole point, right?

I took my indy.com editor out for lunch yesterday. She’s one of the main reasons I was so excited to come back. I’m such a millenial sometimes, I fit the description to the T. My editor send me a one-liner email telling me they’re excited for my return. I’m not sure why such a small thing made a big difference. But it did, it does.

I’m pretty lucky I had a job to come back to. Swinging 6 weeks out of work is not easy. I work for a pretty cool place that invested in my personal and professional growth.

I’m back now. Breaking into everything that’s changed over only a month and a half. New reporter, new marketing director, new general manager. I feel like everyone at indy.com was at Poynter with me. There’s more communication, better story telling, smarter visuals and different thinking all around. I have good thoughts about what’s going on here.

It’s tough times in parts of the J world. You have to find the people that will hear you, then speak up.

So far, it’s working.

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Dear Ron, Dear Mario, Dear Roy: Hey, thanks for Poynter.

Mario Garcia and Roy P. Clark  sit with the fellows in The Great Hall wrapping up the end of a great summer. Ron Reason (left), helped begin the fellows program is taking a photo Mario Garcia (center) and Roy P. Clark (right), Poynter’s founding fathers.

This was such a wonderful day. Ron spent a few days coaching with us leading up to a wonderful closing session with Mario. We then all gathered out on the floor and had a warm cozy campfire chat with Mario and Roy. We talked about the past, the future and really what we can be doing next. Mario’s advice: if you are just too scared to be making the move or next career leap, it’s the perfect time. If you wait for the right moment, it has already passed.

I hope this advice will stay with me. Thanks Ron. Thanks Mario. Thanks Roy!

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Jahi Chikwendiu over in Washinton at The Post did a fanastic session on photo journalism and storytelling. There’s something about people like him. We had a wonderful opportunity to talk about traveling and journalism. And how, as a designer, do you do it if you’re fresh out of college. Not quite ready to be speaking at sessions or redesigning papers. I’d say, the answer is being both a reporter and a designer.

Chatting with Jahi reminded me how much I love running around the world with my little backpack. A few days indebted to the showers and the fantastic discomfort that comes with being lost in a new place. Still planning that 2k10 trip to Brazil.

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I would love to do creative exercises in the newsroom.

Sara gave us an assortment of letter noodles. During a grids and type session we tinkered and spelled out little words. We then took those words and used them as a title for a magazine cover that we then designed. Worked different photographers and designers than usual. Allisence is a sharp one.

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Link: similie.mit.edu

Matt Waite came in from the St. Pete Times and spent some great one on one time with me talking data driven stories. So many opportunities, so many numbers. It reminds me of that Wired story in the End of Science issue that says sometimes you really have to start taking numbers and variables away to get a better picture. Gotta love looking for trends.

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I ran into someone from my high school today. She’s running for Miss Florida. We both studied journalism. Funny how different our lives our and both ended up in the U of South Florida dorms.

Small world. Both of us simltanously asked “What are YOU doing here?”

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Shan Carter over at the Times in NY did an excellent sessions on interactivity and user experience. Darla and I have been waiting and waiting for a this. Keep it simple, but sometimes use cilantro. Looking forward to the hands on workshop tomorrow in the lab.

Jan Leach (right) over at Kent State here is showing us the Journalist fight club. Jan’s been my guiding light through the world of copy editing. While at heart and experience I am a designer. Poynter decided, hey–Nina’s going to copy edit this summer. So I did and thanks to Jan, I have some idea of what I’m doing.

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Our friends at the St. Pete times had a session with the Visual Journalists (VJs). Each group of three selected a photo or painting to recreate. Here I am Matisse’s Jazz Icarus. The photo links to the original painting.

This was surely a test of patience and endurance. The whole project was done in 90 minutes and I was awkwardly and unnaturally laying like that for about an hour. I’m wearing black napkins on my feet and hands, a blazer on backwards, a dress over my head and an apple is cut in half to make the heart.

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