And the #NICAR14 Digital First Represents winners are …

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In September, we kicked off our contest to send three journalists from Digital First Media papers to learn data journalism skills from the best in the business at Investigative Reporters and Editors’ 2014 Computer-Assisted Reporting conference in Baltimore.

Today, after our contestants completed dozens of online classes and pitched the investigative projects they hope to pursue, we’re ready to announce the winners of our Digital First Represents #NICAR14 contest.

We received 18 entries from reporters and editors in every cluster of the company. From the Los Angeles Area News Group to New England, enterprising journalists with great ideas threw their hats into the ring.

We expected a lot from the folks who entered this contest. We asked them to jump through hoops that would introduce them to some of the training and support that our company and other journalism organizations can offer.

1. They all had to join our data journalism discussion group, which now numbers more than 100 members from every DFM state and cluster. (If you’d like to join the conversation, email data editor Tom Meagher at tmeagher@digitalfirstmedia.com)

2. Everyone had to complete at least one online class in data journalism. Many took more than one class. For some, it was an afternoon of interactive mapping with CartoDB. For others, it was a weeks-long statistics class from Udacity or an introduction to databases on Coursera.

3. For our judges, though, the most important requirement was that every entrant had to pitch a project they want to pursue with the skills they hope to learn at NICAR. Because the stories haven’t run yet, we can’t tell you too much about the winners’ projects, but rest assured, they will chronicle their reporting process here on InsideThunderdome as their projects develop.

Enough throat clearing. You’re probably only reading this to find out who won the contest. So who did we decide on? Without further adieu…

Lindsey Anderson, Las Cruces Sun-NewsLindsey Anderson is an education and border reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News. Her favorite stories to cover include issues kids face in southern New Mexico, from teen pregnancy to educational disparities. She graduated from American University in 2012 and has a very expensive travel addiction.

Sean Adkins, York Daily RecordSean Adkins is a business reporter with the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Since joining the Daily Record in 2000, he has covered the utility industry, including Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, real estate, retail and tourism. His digital and print beat reporting and investigative work has won several awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz SentinelJason Hoppin is a reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, covering the county and the environment in his hometown. Formerly at American Lawyer Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he has covered a number of beats in his career, including crime, state and federal courts, health care, politics and government at all levels. (And he still wants to try his hand at sports).

The winners were selected by our panel of judges, which included data editor Tom Meagher, interactives editor Mandy Jenkins and St. Paul Pioneer Press database editor MaryJo Webster.

For each of the winners, Digital First Media will pay for the #NICAR14 conference registration and lodging. They (or their newsrooms) have to foot the bill for their travel to Baltimore. In return, the winners have some responsibilities. They will tweet several of the conference sessions. They will write about what they learn at NICAR14 for InsideThunderdome.com. They’ll also go back to their newsrooms and share their newfound knowledge.

Most importantly, the winners will put their new data skills to immediate use as they pursue significant, data-driven investigative projects in their newsrooms. After those stories run, they’ll show their work by writing about how they did it for InsideThunderdome.com.

NICAR 14 will be an incredible learning opportunity for these three DFM journalists. It’s regrettable that we can’t send more of our colleagues with great data reporting projects in the works as well. But we are confident that we count on Lindsey, Sean and Jason to channel their experience into some really compelling work that we can all learn from.

Digital First Media journalists who plan to attend NICAR 14 through other means, leave a comment on this post with your Twitter handle so we can add you to our DFM staff at NICAR14 Twitter list

Tom Meagher

By Tom Meagher

Tom Meagher is the data editor at Thunderdome, leading a team of journalist-developers who build interactive web applications, support computer-assisted reporting projects in local newsrooms and offer training in data analysis and visualization.

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