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Author Archives: Julie Schwietert Collazo

Fact-checking workshop at CUNY on August 2

Just announced!

I’ll be teaching a class about fact-checking at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism on August 2. More information and registration are here.

Resources: Digital Archives

American Prison Witness Archive: Spearheaded by Dr. Doran Larson of Hamilton College in New York, the APW is the first known online archive to feature the writing of incarcerated people and “contributions by correctional officers, prison staff, and prison administrators, thus creating a true meeting place and venue for comparative expression by and study of all of those who live and work inside American prisons.”

Darwin Manuscripts Project of the American Museum of Natural History:
“On this site, you will find the world’s first & only large collection of full colour, high-resolution images of faithfully transcribed Darwin manuscripts,” writes David Kohn of The American Museum of Natural History. The “DARBASE,” as it’s called, “catalogues some 96,000 pages of Darwin scientific manuscripts… currently represented by 16,094 high resolution digital images. Thus far 9,871 manuscript pages have been transcribed to exacting standards and all are presented in easy to read format.” The database is a work in progress.

Freedmen’s Bureau Project: This just-launched archive promises to be an incredible, crowdsourced/crowd-built archive of African-American history. From the website: “To help bring thousands of records to light, the Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and the California African American Museum. Tens of thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply log on, pull up as many scanned documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.”

Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera Archive of Princeton University: Latin Americanists will particularly enjoy this trove, which is described by the university as follows: “The bulk of the ephemera currently found in the Digital Archive of Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera was originally created around the turn of the 20th century and after, with some originating as recently as within the last year. The formats or genre most commonly included are pamphlets, flyers, leaflets, brochures, posters, stickers, and postcards. These items were originally created by a wide array of social activists, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, political parties, public policy think tanks, and other types of organizations in order to publicize their views, positions, agendas, policies, events, and activities. The vast majority are rare, hard-to-find primary sources unavailable elsewhere.”

Library of Congress: Looking for archival material on practically any topic? This should be one of your initial points of departure. There are photos, letters and other documents, sound files, and much much more in this extensive online archive.

Mexican Digital Library: Like most, if not all, of the online archives listed here, the Mexican Digital Library is an ever-evolving online repository of materials that, in some cases, are centuries old.

New York Public Library’s Digital Projects: From the literary to the ultra-niche (theatrical lighting; historical menu collection), the NYPL’s digital project archives are a treasure that can generate dozens of story ideas and serve as a research resource for many others.

Flickr’s The Commons: The online photo sharing/storage service, Flickr, has an ever-growing Commons that is not only useful for journalists and editors sourcing images, but also for research purposes. The Commons includes some impressive national and international partners, including Smithsonian and Cornell University Library, as well as some more obscure and unexpected members, including state and federal governments of Latin American and European countries.

This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have a suggestion to add, please leave a comment below so I can update this post. Thanks!

Typical Days? A Look at My Busiest Week Ever: Monday

People often ask, when I’m sitting on panels or giving workshops or talks, what a “typical” day is like as a freelancer. The great thing–for me, at least; for some people, it can be maddening–is that there’s no consistent structure. There’s always researching, writing, reading, taking care of my kids, and, hopefully, taking a shower, but outside of that, all bets are off and the ratios of some of these things against others shift from one day to the next.

A few weeks ago, some friends said they’d like a peek at my daily schedule, such as it is. I decided, what better time to indulge them than during the busiest week of my life?

Here’s how Monday went down:

7:00 AM:
Wake up. Make oatmeal for oldest child, pack her lunch, and help her get ready for school. Take a quick shower, dress, pack my own backpack (laptop, agenda, book to read on train, journal, pens, press card, business cards, wallet, iPhone).

7:40 AM: Leave home and walk to school.

7:53 AM: Arrive at school, drop daughter off, make a donation of books to school’s used book drive. Walk to neighborhood coffee shop to work until it’s time to leave for a meeting in Manhattan.

8:05-10:32 AM: Work at coffee shop. Check bank accounts and note paid invoices. Send outstanding April invoices to five clients. Check and respond to email. Send an email to an editor with a list of upcoming articles. Check Facebook and Twitter for my own accounts and for Cultures & Cuisines, a website I’m launching with Christine Gilbert on Friday. Prep rest of the day’s to-do list and make note (mental and otherwise) of article deadlines this week. Read Mexican and Puerto Rican newspapers online. Download most recent version of the outline for the workshop I’m teaching with Conner Gorry at CUNY School of Journalism on Friday and save it on laptop for our 11:30 meeting. (Tickets are still available, by the way!)

10:32 AM: Leave coffee shop and get on subway. Head to Manhattan. Read Chester Himes interviews on the train and marvel how much and yet how little the publishing industry has changed since the 1940s, especially for people of color.

10:49 AM: Get off train in Times Square. Walk to bank to get replacement bank card for Girl Scout account and make a deposit for cookie money!

11:30 AM: Walk to NYPL. Meet Conner. Decide that we should change venues and work in a cafe across the street. Work on refining the outline for our How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly) workshop. Make a list of action items for each of us to follow up on before Friday.

1:15 PM: Leave Manhattan and head home. As I walk home from train, Francisco calls to say that we’re having an unexpected guest coming over for a light lunch at 3 PM. The apartment, he says, is a mess.

1:40 PM: Home. Francisco gets ready to go pick Mariel up from school. I put water on to boil–pasta’s always an easy lunch!–and start straightening up. We change the other kids’ diapers, get them dressed, and I vacuum.

2:00 PM: Francisco straps on his rollerblades and zips off to pick up Mariel. I add the pasta to the water and prep toppings.

2:37 PM: Francisco and Mariel arrive home. Orion falls asleep. I call a PR person to request photos for an article for The Latin Kitchen.

3:00 PM: Guest arrives. Lunch is served.

4:00 PM: Guest leaves. Francisco takes Orion and Mariel to the playground. Olivia naps. I work on action items for the Cuba workshop: finding and sending some photos to Conner; cleaning up our list of resources so that the formatting is consistent; pulling the email list for the participants to send them an update message about materials they should bring. I also draw up an evite for the May 24 dinner for Cultures & Cuisines and start working on the guest list. I follow up on a last-minute article opportunity, sending materials an editor has requested for a time-sensitive piece.

6:00 PM: Francisco and kids return home. Two oldest kids go into bathtub; Francisco starts cooking dinner. Mariel gets out of bath and we start homework. She goes to visit a neighbor. I play with “the littles,” submit the Girl Scout cookie order, and plan pick up with the troop co-leader.

7:10PM: I feed the littles.

7:30 PM: Mariel comes home and eats dinner. I make a cocktail and, of course, drink it.

8:00 PM: Start to get kids ready for bed, helping them brush teeth, choosing books to read, and getting them into bed. Read books. Talk. Do a last round of milk for the two youngest. Lights out by 9:00 PM.

8:20 PM: Francisco leaves to do some errands: grocery store, post office, pick up keys for a friend who needs him to let in guests while she’s out of town.

9:00-10:20 PM: Wait for Orion to fall asleep. I fall asleep in the process, waking up when I hear the wind blowing over a container in the kitchen.

10:20 PM: Wake up. Kids all asleep. I wash bottles and prep them anew, wash dishes, put away food, make Mariel’s lunch for tomorrow, and set out breakfast items for the morning.

10:30 PM: Francisco comes home. We talk and catch up and plan how we’re managing the rest of the week.

11:00 PM- 1:30 AM: I continue working on the Cuba workshop materials. Orion wakes up and has a stuffy nose so fusses. I bring him out to the living room to sleep and fall asleep with him around 2:00 AM.

Last Call! Tickets for “How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly)” Available til Thursday

This Friday, Havana-based journalist Conner Gorry and I will be co-facilitating “How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly)” at CUNY’s School of Journalism. You can register for the full-day workshop here.


Online Professional Development Resources for Writers & Journalists

I love school.

I have always been a sit-at-the-front-of-the-room kind of student, thanks, no doubt, to my parents, who were the first in their respective families to go to college. They always impressed the importance of education upon my brother and me, and did everything within their power to provide us with the best educational opportunities possible.

As an adult, I’ve missed classroom learning. I earned my MSW at NYU more than a decade ago and started a PhD in Spanish when we lived in Puerto Rico. I did not finish it because we moved and because, on a deeper level, I was frustrated with the disconnects between academe and “the real world” and wasn’t sure how to resolve those tensions.

I’ve never stopped learning, of course, but when I say I’ve missed learning, I mean I’ve missed the structured guidance of a professor and the collegiality of a classroom of learners with a purpose. It was for this reason that I enrolled in two short courses through edX, both of which I’ve just finished, and one of them for credit.

edX, as you probably already know, is a platform for “MOOCs,” massive open online courses, in which student enrollment is unlimited, all teaching is conducted online, and students do coursework on their own time, rather than a prescribed meeting hour, with a new unit of information delivered each week. Some courses are for credit, others for audit. edX MOOCs cover a vast range of topics–from marketing to DNA methylation data analysis (no, I don’t really know what that means)–and are offered by instructors from a number of different institutions, from the small New York private college, Hamilton, to large universities like UC-Berkeley. There are also courses offered in other languages, with instructors representing a variety of colleges and universities around the world.

The pros and cons of MOOCs are parsed endlessly in think-piece articles, but as Doran Larson, the instructor of “Incarceration’s Witness,” one of the courses I just completed, wrote, “One great advantage of a MOOC is that it can operate like a small, living gallery with an open running time: people can enter and visit, take the time to explore and read and view, and wander back to things they want to study more closely….” I found his course, as well as “Journalism for Social Change,” offered for credit through UC-Berkeley, worth the time I invested in them, and saw right away how they could be valuable continued learning resources for writers and journalists who can’t/don’t want to/aren’t able to take a course in a bricks-and-mortar classroom.

In addition to edX and similar MOOC platforms, there are numerous resources you can access–many of them for free–for the benefit of professional development. The list below is short, but each offers a breadth and depth of online learning opportunities (as well as some offline opportunities, too) that I think you’ll find useful:

Poynter: An institute that describes itself as the “world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies,” Poynter has more than 250 free or low-cost courses to sharpen students’ journalism skills. Formats include self-directed study, group seminars, and webinars, and topics include everything from how to conduct interviews to how to use Snapchat. You can review the full list of courses here.

Reynolds Journalism Institute: Hosted by the Missouri School of Journalism, the Reynolds Journalism Institute hosts webinars and other events that are open to registrants not affiliated with the school. Past events have included how to report on science beats more responsibly and effectively and free speech. A list of upcoming events can be found here.

PBS MediaShift: Dubbing itself as “media training for the digital age,” MediaShift, a project of PBS, hosts “series of live online media trainings… in partnership with top journalism and communication schools.” Most of the trainings emphasize digital reporting skills, and cover such topics as iPhone audio reporting. Unlike many of the other resources listed here, these courses, most of which are just one hour in duration, are not free.

Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma: A project of Columbia University’s Journalism School, Dart is an invaluable resource, especially for journalists working in/covering conflict zone issues and other trauma-oriented beats. Though Columbia and Dart are based in New York City, Dart often holds events in other locations, as well as online webinars. A list of upcoming trainings and events is here. Under its “Resources” section, journalists can also find a wealth of self-directed courses on the subjects related to trauma reporting. These can be found here. International Journalists’ Network is another useful resource (in full disclosure, I write for the site), particularly for those writers and journalists interested in and/or covering international beats. While the site itself does not host courses or trainings, many of its articles fall under the heading “journalism education” and include announcements about and links to other training opportunities.

Science journalist Kat Friedrich shared the following resources:

Women’s Coding Collective
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at The University of Texas, Austin

Have any other resources I’ve missed that you’d like to recommend? Please mention them in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.

How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly)

Tickets are now on sale for the workshop “How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly),” which I’ll be co-faciltiating with Havana-based journalist Conner Gorry at the Cuban Art Space in New York City on April 27. You can learn more about the workshop, which is intended for professional journalists and journalism students, and buy tickets here.

Register Now

We are also working with Tracie Powell of All Digitocracy to make the workshop available via webinar for those who are not in New York City. Details will be posted about the webinar soon.

BinderCon LA: A Review

I’m just back from Los Angeles, where the second iteration of BinderCon was held this past weekend on the campus of UCLA. Described by organizers Leigh Stein and Lux Alptraum as “[a] symposium to empower women and gender non‑conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers,” and by male trolls on twitter as a “militant” man-hating mafia (no, really), BinderCon included keynotes, panels, workshops, speed pitch sessions, and plenty of time for socialization.

I’m a pretty critical person. If you know me, you might consider me to be the most critical person you know, and I’m ok with that. When I criticize, it’s because I really believe things and people can be and do better. But even I can’t find anything to criticize about this conference. In fact, of all the conferences I’ve ever attended–and I’ve been to a lot–this one is, hands-down, the very best, and here’s why:

1. It is extremely well-organized.
If you ever attend a conference and pay close attention to the organizers, they always look harried and frazzled and seriously stressed, and there is inevitably something that goes wrong. This wasn’t the case at BinderCon. Stein and Alptraum were always busy, but they were focused and present and had clearly prepared so well that I, at least, wasn’t aware of a single hitch. This is likely due to the fact that they had assembled a team of volunteers and arrived on-site a day before to train them. No doubt there were a hundred other actions taken behind the scenes to make sure that things ran smoothly, and that’s what a great conference should do: seem almost effortless from the vantage point of attendees.

2. It makes the conference accessible.
With ticket prices over $100, organizers knew that the conference wouldn’t be financially accessible to everyone who wanted to attend, so it made scholarships available. Twenty-two of the participants were scholarship recipients.

3. It sets a tone for attendees.
I’ve been to plenty of conferences that felt like a loosely held together jumble of presentations, all to be passively sopped up by attendees. At BinderCon, participants were invited to engage repeatedly, and in multiple ways. For one thing, they all agreed (by virtue of being there) to a code of conduct, which established an atmosphere of collegiality and respect. Organizers made a phone number available to which participants could send a text if they experienced a code of conduct violation. But the tone-setting went beyond that, and was reinforced in multiple ways via multiple media. Inside the conference agenda, participants were encouraged to be friendly (engaging other writers), responsible, and bold, owning their own space and sharing of themselves generously with others, engaging in challenging conversations, and taking breaks if necessary. More than one participant took to twitter to remark on how easy it felt to connect with other attendees, even though they typically found networking events and conferences socially challenging.

The atmosphere of active attendee engagement was also a core feature of panels and workshops. Many workshop facilitators engaged participants not solely through Q&As, but other exercises. The assumption was that everyone had something valid and valuable to share, and I suspect most attendees would agree that their “take-aways” were all the richer as a result. Because I was a panelist, I know that the BinderCon organizers who handled programming planning specifically set out to create this type of environment; it didn’t happen by accident.

4. It wasn’t intended to just inspire.
One of the common features of conferences is that you feel energized by attending– by connecting with like-minded folks who share your interests and by the new knowledge or skills you’ve acquired–but one of the things that typically occurs is that you leave without a sense of how you can apply these things in your life at home. Facilitators and planners were required to create actionable, resourceful take-aways for participants, actually useful tips, strategies, or information that could be applied after the conference ended.

5. Its values were reflected in every aspect of planning and programming.
From the bookseller to the photographer on hand for headshots, supporting women and their work was a value that was evident the entire weekend.

6. Keynotes were conversations, not speeches.
Two of the three conference keynotes, including the first one of the weekend, were conversations, not just speakers pontificating about their own ideas. To me, this was one of the single-most effective ways of establishing a sense of what participants could expect from BinderCon. It was incredibly refreshing to have two powerhouse people in conversation rather than one person plucked from a speakers’ bureau, reading prepared remarks they’d probably read a hundred times before.

7. There was actual diversity in every room.
Lots of conference organizers–like lots of publications–say they want diverse attendees. Far fewer conferences actually DO have diverse attendees. BinderCon could (and should) be a role model in this regard. If you’re a conference organizer, you don’t have to guess at how Stein and Alptraum brought together a diverse spectrum of women and gender non-conforming writers; Alptraum explained the process in this piece she wrote for The Advocate.

8. The conference managed to provide value to writers at various stages in their careers and in various genres.
If you’re not a writer, you might not realize just how much a feat that is. But from inviting writers and editors to host topical tables during a networking lunch (an essayists’ table, travel writers’ table, and freelancers’ table were a few among them) to organizing and offering speed pitch sessions in which writers could connect with editors from magazines as well as literary and screenwriting/TV agents, there really was something for everyone at BinderCon.

9. It provided practical added value.
A few weeks before the conference, after seeing the agenda, I tweeted to organizers that the only thing that might please me more would be if someone was on-site to do headshots for writers. And don’t you know it, they were actually already in the process of identifying a photographer to do just that? A local professional photographer came in on Sunday for headshot sessions (plus free make-up, provided by Glam Squad), offering free headshots… or $25 for non-watermarked portraits. It was a deal.

10. Everything started and ended on time.
Do I even need to say how amazing that is?

The next BinderCon will be held in New York City in November. Learn more here.


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