Your chance to attend #NICAR14: Digital First Represents


Every winter, hundreds of data journalists gather to share ideas, stories and techniques from the bleeding edge of investigative reporting, data visualization and the development of news applications. Those who attend Investigative Reporters and Editors’ annual Computer-Assisted Reporting conference include the brightest and most generous minds pursuing data journalism for the best news organizations in the world.

This winter, you have a chance to represent your Digital First newsroom and join them in Baltimore.

Ask any journalist who has attended the conference (colloquially referred to as NICAR, for the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting, a part of IRE), and she or he will tell you the experience has proven invaluable year after year. But no matter how much you want to learn a difficult new skill, like SQL or web scraping, paying to get to a conference can be another challenge altogether.

With that economic reality in mind, over the summer, we created the Digital First Represents program to send journalists from our newsrooms to high-value conferences to learn and share knowledge. We are sending five journalists from across the country to ONA13 in Atlanta in a few weeks and two more to SND in Louisville. And now we want to choose three more from three different newsrooms to go to NICAR. These three will be awarded with registration to NICAR14 and hotel lodging during the conference in Baltimore, Feb. 27 to March 2.

We’re not just looking for people who want to go and eat crabs and pit beef and drink Natty Boh. We’ll consider people of any experience or skill level who are eager to learn. We want to send people who want to participate in the DFM data journalism community. We want to help our journalists who are desperately trying to learn specific skills or pursue stories that could benefit from the wisdom and training they’d receive at NICAR. Each entrant in the contest will pitch a data-driven project that they will complete and publish after the conference, using techniques they learn in Baltimore.

We want people who recognize the value of strong, investigative journalism and the smart use of data in reporting and who will share what they learn with their colleagues. We are looking for ambassadors who can bottle up the tips and excitement at NICAR and bring that back to their newsrooms. Each of our three winners will be expected to live tweet at least two NICAR session and to contribute at least two blog posts here on about what they learned at the conference.

NICAR14 will take place at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, from Feb. 27 to March 2, 2014. For more information, check out IRE’s website.

This contest is only open to journalists who currently work in a Digital First Media newsroom and have done so for at least one year. First, fill out this form declaring your intent to enter the contest by Nov. 30. You then have until Dec. 13 to finish all the requirements below.


  • Must be a current employee of a Digital First Media publication
  • Must be a member and active participant in the data journalism email discussion list. If not yet a member, you are welcome to join now by emailing Tom Meagher at
  • Must complete at least one, pre-approved online data journalism course, which could include: Knight Center for the Americas’ recently concluded Introduction to Data Journalism course, Alberto Cairo’s “Data Visualization,” or Responsive Web Design For Journalism, which should come online in the next week or so.
  • Demonstrate an interest in data journalism in current work
  • On the entry form, pitch in 400 words or less a significant data project you want to undertake with the knowledge you hope to pursue at NICAR

The deadline to complete your entry is Dec. 13. From the entrants who complete all of the requirements, our judges will select three winners. The judges committee will consist of Tom Meagher, data editor at Thunderdome, MaryJo Webster, data reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Mandy Jenkins, interactives editor at Thunderdome.

The winners will be announced in mid-December.

If you have any questions about the entry process, the contest, NICAR or IRE, leave a comment or email Tom Meagher at

Registration and hotel lodging in Baltimore will be paid for all three winners, but travel expenses will not be covered by this program.

We will ask each entrant to request permission for travel expenses from her or his editor first. While you may receive a few requests for travel expenses, we will only be sending three employees. If chosen, they will be in Baltimore from Feb. 27 to March 2.

Digital First Media journalists interested in data journalism or NICAR14 should email Tom Meagher at if not already a member of DFM’s data journalism discussion group.

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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