NYT’s “Snow Fall”-like South China Sea multimedia story

2013 10 25 spratleys2

Online today: a “Snow Fall“-like New York Times Magazine multimedia feature on the South China Sea.

The piece uses an in-depth, narrative text story about a visit to a Filipino outpost to examine how China and other countries are vying for control in the resource-rich area.

There are videos, images, sounds, maps (like the one above), and more. Very much worth checking out.

UPDATE: Here’s how the story appears in today’s International New York Times.

2013 10 25 south china sea

A round-up of some of my recent Quartz stories

Just briefly, I wanted to share some stories I’ve written for Quartz of late:

Self-Promotion: My NewYorker.com Story is on the Site’s ‘Most Popular’ List

2013 09 22 nyer

I’m delighted that my recent NewYorker.com story, which I mentioned earlier, has made it to the site’s “most popular” list; the piece has been shared one thousand times on Facebook and has been Tweeted sixty times.

The list is visible on the right side of the home page, pictured above.

What I’ve Been up to This Summer

2013 08 22 bloombergdotcom

I’ve had quite a twelve months.

After completing an intensive nine-month master’s in business and economics journalism at Columbia in late May, I embarked on an equally memorable, though shorter, experience: a ten week internship at Bloomberg News‘s headquarters here in New York.

I finished at Bloomberg last Friday. It was a fantastic experience.

This recent BBC video provides a look the Bloomberg HQ as a workplace.

And embedded below — and online here — is an overview of Bloomberg’s operations.

I worked on the Emerging Markets team, assisting with coverage of everything from debt markets in Argentina to global currencies to equities in Mexico.

Here are links and snippets from just a few of the stories I worked on:

China Out of 10 Biggest Stocks as PetroChina Ousted:

Chinese companies have dropped out of the ranks of the world’s 10 biggest stocks by market value for the first time since 2006 amid a cash crunch, slower growth and the biggest U.S. stock rally in a decade.

Give Us Your Real Dollars for Our Fake Dollars: Argentina Credit:

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s wish of being able to print dollars is coming true as the central bank begins issuing dollar-denominated certificates today that trade in pesos.

Slim’s Frisco Surges as Gold Mine Strike Ends: Mexico City Mover:

Minera Frisco SAB, billionaire Carlos Slim’s gold and silver mining company, gained the most in two years after saying the government intervened to help end a strike at its biggest mine.

‘Fragile Five’ currencies unravel as developing economies suffer:

Emerging-market currencies are trailing their peers in advanced economies by the most since 2009 as a global recovery eludes countries from China to Brazil.

While helping out on stories like these was excellent training, perhaps my most instructive experiences came during the interactions I had in the newsroom with some truly top-notch reporters.

The timing of the internship worked well, too: This year at Columbia, I studied corporate finance; financial accounting; the history and future of journalism; computational journalism; and more.

And this summer at Bloomberg, I was able to put what I’d just learned to practical use in a fast-paced, competitive, collaborate environment where news moves the market in real time. In short, it was the perfect way to spend the summer.

So, looking ahead: What’s next for me over the coming twelve months?

Stay tuned.

Jim Stewart on the NYT’s Future Following the WaPo Sale

2013 08 11 wapo front page

I was lucky enough to study with Jim Stewart at Columbia this year, and I always look forward to reading his New York Times column, called “Common Sense.”

In his stories, Stewart often examines complex business and economics issues by focusing on facts and evidence and questioning conventional wisdom.

His latest column, which ran Friday, is especially intriguing, as it concerns the current profitability and long-term prospects of The New York Times, his very employer.

Following Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post, Stewart asks: Would the Sulzbergers, the family that owns the Times, ever sell the paper?

The family says the NYT isn’t on the block, and Stewart highlights an important point — one which is often overlooked when people make assumptions about the newspaper industry: The Times, unlike the Post, is making money:

That The Times and its controlling family would be among the last survivors should come as no surprise, since it is the strongest of the great newspapers journalistically, and it is profitable. The Times has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes since 1918, including four this year, more than any other newspaper. A week ago, The Times reported quarterly operating earnings of $77.8 million, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

By contrast, The Washington Post’s newspaper division had losses of $53.7 million last year, with no end in sight.

With the Post owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, “In stark financial terms, The Times is now a minnow in a sea of sharks” compared to companies like News Corporation, Facebook, Google, and others with huge market capitalizations, Stewart writes.

He continues:

Nearly everyone I spoke to this week praised The Times for what it has done with its resources. In contrast with Mr. Graham’s comment that he had no answers, The Times has articulated a strategy that addresses many of the pressing questions facing newspapers, and it seems to have been yielding results.

And:

Like The Post, The Times has tried to improve profitability by reducing costs, including the size of the newsroom. But that can go only so far before it begins to affect the quality of the news operation. It may be even more difficult if, as expected, Mr. Bezos invests in The Post’s national news operation. “The likelihood is that The Post and The New York Times will be competing head-to-head in a way they haven’t since the days of Abe Rosenthal and Ben Bradlee,” both legendary editors of The Post and The Times, Mr. Jones said.

The column is worth a read.

Meanwhile, for more on the WaPo sale and what it all means for the economics of journalism, see:

Bezos Paid 17 Times Adjusted Profit for the Washington Post

Bloomberg reports today:

Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post may look like a steal, yet it came at a rich valuation that newspapers such as the New York Times Co. (NYT) may only dream of obtaining.

The founder of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) plunked down $250 million for the Post newspaper division, about 17 times adjusted profit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That multiple implies a valuation for the New York Times of about $4 billion — more than double its current market value. Major metropolitan newspapers should fetch 3 or 4 times profit, said research firm Outsell Inc.

“Bezos paid a friendship premium of $200 million here,” Ken Doctor, a media analyst at Burlingame, California-based Outsell, said in a phone interview. “There are a handful of news brands in the world that will merit some kind of premium over the usual multiple, but the multiple over the multiple here seems really high.”

3 Digital Tools I Used to Write my Master’s Thesis

In April, after more than six months of work, I submitted the thesis I wrote for my master’s in business and economics journalism.

At more than 11,000 words and 41 pages long, it was the longest story I’d ever written.

I interviewed dozens of people, analyzed hundreds of pages of court documents, submitted and tracked multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, read several books on my topic, and composed perhaps twenty drafts of what became the final piece.

I’ll tell you more about the story itself in the weeks and months ahead, I’m sure. For now, though, I wanted to share the top three digital tools I used to organize my writing and research.

1. For writing: Scrivener

2013 04 24 scrivener

I’ve been using the Writing app Scrivener since 2007. It’s less a word processor than a tool for organizing all sorts of digital materials and creating an environment where you can more easily produce text.

I made ample use, for example, of the folders shown on the top left corner of the image above. These folders allowed me to organize various snippets of text; keep running lists of items to investigate; maintain outlines and timelines; and more. I could always keep my main draft open and navigate, with just a click, to another item — as opposed to having to open several Word files and toggle between them.

When conducting interviews, I also relied on Scrivener’s split screen function. I kept my questions in the top pane and typed my sources’ answers in the bottom pane as we chatted. Scrivener also has an excellent full screen mode, which is helpful when you simply want to focus on the text.

The Mac version of Scrivener is $45. For more information on the app, here’s a detailed review of the app’s many features. And here’s a post about using Scrivener for dissertation writing.

2. For organizing data: Excel

2013 07 27 excel mac

Excel? You better believe it. I used spreadsheets to keep track of:

  • Court materials — I listed dates of various documents, their titles, a description of contents, URLs if they were online, and even the files’ location on my hard drive.
  • Sources — I kept track of names, job titles, contact information, and more.
  • Timeline — My story spans several years, so I used a simple timeline to keep track of the chronology of events. This was helpful when it came time to construct my narrative.

Excel is part of Office for Mac. Microsoft’s home and student version is $139.99.

For more, see this overview of Excel for journalists.

3. For bookmarking: Pinboard

2013 07 28 pinboard

I bookmarked hundreds of items online while researching my story, and Pinboard was a huge help. The Web-based bookmarking site is a kind of “antisocial social bookmarking” service.

That is, Pinboard offers all the benefits of social bookmarking, like the ability to access your saved sites from any browser or computer. But unlike many such services, Pinboard allows you to keep your bookmarks private.

You can also assign your bookmarks tags, so they’re easily sorted by keyword, and use a browser bookmarklet to quickly save a site and apply a label like “read later.” So as I came across various news accounts, books, interviews, and other materials online, I simply added a bookmark in Pinboard and could later go back and filter the sites by keyword.

Pinboard is bare-bones, fast, and easy to use. It was approximately $9 when I signed up last year, I seem to recall, and now costs $10.16. This is a one-time fee that rises as more people join the site.

So those were my top three digital tools: Scrivener, Excel, and Pinboard.

What about you? Have some favorite apps for writing or data organization? Let me know on Twitter or leave a comment below.