BlogNashville Day 1

Just a heads up that I’m at the CARR Training being conducted by the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. This is cool – everybody is logged in and bloggin’ that they’re here. The night went well – had a big-ass Papa John’s pizza with my sister and brother-in-law. Slept soundly in their quiet neighborhood.
The next two days are about how sort and extract data from government databases for basic research. This workshop has been offered to tons of professional journalists so it is great.
(later, that night)
Today went well. The first half of the day was basics in using Excel – review for me since I became an Excel whiz during my time as a cubicle drone. The Excel training was taught by Mark Tapscott from the Heritage Foundation. Other attendees include Kevin (formerly The Homeless Guy now blogging (homefully) at Nashville Is), Michael from NapBlogger, Doug Petch, Blake from Nashville Files, Eric from Classical Values and Natalie from News 2, Sybril, Kent, Kristin, Cecelia, Jay, Raleigh, Christopher and a bunch of others.
The training we received today has been offered to mainstream journalists all over the country on how to use statistical reporting and computer reporting to get behind the opinions and find out what is cooking in the numbers. David Kamin from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities took us through going to the Social Security Administration’s website, pulling off the data and showing us how and why there are crisis points at 2017, 2040 and other specific dates (on both sides of the Social Security argument). I almost understand it better and it seems that the arguments over numbers come down to the issue of counting the interest income in the trust fund in the calculations (or not) or passing the numbers as a portion of GDP (or not).
The end of the day wound up with Kirk Johnson from the Center for Data Analysis showing us how to navigate the US Census site as well as the stats from the Labor Department.
I really appreciate the ‘non-partisan’ feel of the proceedings, the mission of these folks is that education – of anyone – on how to go get the numbers and run them for yourself can only help strengthen the overall debate.
I skipped out on dinner tonight to dine with my sister and brother in law. The bento box is settling – chased by a mint-chocolate-chip milkshake.
Tomorrow’s offerings are on scouting out databases online, the importance of integrating reporting and analysis in the newsroom, descriptive stats, pivot tables (always a mind-bender) and a briefing on correlation and regression analysis.
Total egghead stuff!
A few of the participants are professional journalists trying to bring the impact of ‘new media’ back to their own newsrooms and classrooms. It is the future of journalism – not a replacement for it – but an extension of it. If I can run the numbers for the President’s Social Security reform plan and understand the proposal on his side as well as the drawbacks, I can make a better decision instead of thinking If Bush says it, then it must be wrong.

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