Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Archive for the ‘Definitely not Illinois politics’ Category

It’s that time of year again…

leave a comment »

No, I’m not talking about March Madness. Or baseball spring season. Or the NHL playoffs, even. No, March is that special time of year for college students where we all must get our resumes, cover letters and Web sites together for those prospective internships or job openings. This semester is almost half way through, and after I’m finished, I won’t be attending school for the first time in 15 years. Scary.

Anyways, I have a new resume. Big deal. But I finally transferred it over to Adobe Illustrator (from inDesign), which I actually own. I should have done this long ago. But now that I have, I no longer have to rely on university Mac computer labs to edit my resume. That is certainly a sigh of relief.

I also have to edit my Flash Web site and develop a new cover letter. Conversely, I have edit this blog and all the other pages I operate. I like being all techy-savvy, but, boy, is it a pain editing every page…

Of course, the internship is long from over. But before I know it, I’ll be entering the “real world” unemployed and hungry for work. And no school to look forward to. It’s natural, but it’s still taking me by surprise.

Anyways, I’ve got to run. Be on the look out for big things in the near future. Hopefully.

Image posted by Flickr user Charles_Williams. It is used under a Creative Commons license.

Written by csessig

March 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

How an hour committee delay works in your favor

leave a comment »

Not much happens on time in the Capitol. And committee meetings are the worst. Fifteen-minute-plus delays aren’t uncommon in committees, which can be frustrating. But the longest delay I’ve had to endure so far this session was during today’s criminal law committee, when I waited roughly an hour.

But it worked in my favor and in a big way. How you ask? Because a completely random–and awesome–person was in the Capitol on Wednesday, making his rounds around the same time the committee was scheduled to start. Who? Hockey legend Stan Mikita. Being a diehard fan of the Chicago Blackhawks–where Mikita spent his entire career–my dad always ranted and raved about Mikita’s career. I, consequently, grew up a fan of Mikita’s, even though I missed witnessing his career by nearly 20 years. My dad always talked about him and Bobby Hull, another Blackhawk legend. Hull and Mikita. Mikita and Hull. Ask any Blackhawks fan, and they’ll concur.

So while I was waiting for the committee to start, I wandered around the Capitol in hopes of running into him. He was scheduled to have a meeting with Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno, so I staked out in front of her office. I was there with Sean, another reporter and Blackhawks fan, and eventually we saw him coming up to her office. So I got to meet him. Cool. I asked him what he thought the chances where that the Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup this year. He said they have as good a chance as any team. Equally as cool.

Apparently he was there lobbying for a bill that deals with cable. That’s about all I know. I didn’t have time to ask because I had to run to the committee before it started. Of course I had plenty of time because the meeting didn’t start for other 30 minutes. But I can’t complain because the delay helped me meet a hockey legend.

I had to ask him for an autograph, even though I looked extremely out of place (not like there were many people around). I had him sign a copy of the day’s Senate schedule. Real classy, huh?

Yeah, this is totally geeky. But Mikita is a big deal for hockey fans. Numerous hockey sources put him among the top 20 greatest hockey players ever. And the Sun-Times recently listed him as the greatest Blackhawks player of all time, ahead of Hull.

And as they note in the article, his No. 21 jersey was the first number retired in franchise history. And now that number is plastered on my otherwise completely normal Senate calendar.

Of course hockey still doesn’t matter as much as baseball, football or most other sports in Illinois. But maybe that will change if the Hawks win it all this year…

Image posted by Flickr user Francesca…. It is used under a Creative Commons license.

Written by csessig

March 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Google declares Living Stories a success

leave a comment »

Almost two months ago, I blogged about an innovative news-gathering format being tested at Google called Living Stories. At the time, the New York Times and Washington Post were experimenting with the format. Well, a few weeks back Google declared the experiment a success and opened it up to the public. Specifically, Google is open-sourcing the code, allowing developers to create their own “living stories” using Google technology.

As I noted when I first blogged about it, Living Stories has a lot of potential. It basically allows newspapers to create a web site for specific issues they cover extensively. Along with written stories, newspapers can add images, links, timelines and more to the web page. The advantage of the technology is basically being able to store all of this content into one place. Navigation is also a snap, allowing for an easy, and informative, reader experience.

From Google:

The basic idea of a living story is to combine all of the news coverage on a running story on a single page. Every day, instead of writing a new article on the story that sits at a new URL and contains some new developments and some old background, a living story resides at a permanent URL, that is updated regularly with new developments. This makes it easier for readers to get the latest updates on the stories that interest them, as well as to review deeper background materials that are relevant for a story’s context.

The Post, for instance, put together a number of interactive stories, including one on area schools. The Times covered the N.F.L. playoffs. Basically any issue or topic that a newspaper covers extensively can be utilized.

The only question is how difficult it will be to create stories, especially for non-techy journos. I haven’t tested it out myself, so I can’t answer that question. But hopefully we’ll know for sure in the next few months as newspapers begin experimenting.

For more background, here is a video from Google:

Image posted by Flickr user psd. It is used under a Creative Commons license.

Written by csessig

March 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Housekeeping matters

leave a comment »

1. So I’m finally switching over to Gmail after almost ten years with Hotmail. I checked my account information, and I opened up my Hotmail account on March 13, 2000, at the ripe age of 13. I really should have made this transition long ago because Gmail is just fantastic. But a few things caused me to cave in just now:

  • Google groups. I’ve been invited to two just this week, and they are so simple but effective.
  • Google Buzz. I haven’t really used this capability yet but it seems full of potential.
  • Chat. I have used chat in the past and it’s great.
  • Organization. All e-mails in Gmail and their replies are keep in the same thread, making navigation and organization incredibly easy.
  • MSN stagnation. Hotmail hasn’t changed it’s outlook significantly in 10 years. Think about that for a second.
  • iGoogle. I use Google Maps, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google News, which all can be conveniently organized using iGoogle. Why not just complete the package?
  • Google. It’s just better.

My new account is

As expected, the transition will take a lot of time and probably cause some headaches along the way. But I think the switch will be for the better.

2. The transition has caused me to change my pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the list goes on and on and on. And that doesn’t include all the e-mail subscriptions that I’ve gathered over the years…Of course, I’ve also had to tweak my web page slightly. But the biggest change I’ve made to the site today is adding a link to Publish2. A quick look:

For those journalists out there that haven’t yet heard of Publish2, go take a look. It’s basically a social networking web site for journalists (think Delicious), and, more importantly, a great tool to organize all of your newspaper clips from the Internet. It even has a toolbar add-on for Firefox, making it even easier to link pages to your Publish2 web page.

One of the most strenuous aspects of job hunting is finding the appropriate clips for the job. Of course, some clips will work better for some positions. Others won’t. This web site makes it incredibly easy to keep track of those clips, allowing journalists to fluidly go through them later. Seriously, go check it out.

And that’s it for the housekeeping matters. Useful posts coming soon.

Written by csessig

February 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm

14 hour days

leave a comment »

Between work, two classes and working out, Monday’s are pretty meh.

Written by csessig

February 22, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Nothing to do with politics

leave a comment »

Ironically, the first story of mine to make it on the front page of any Lee Enterprise web site had nothing to do with politics. Instead, the story featured the unveiling of a new Abraham Lincoln penny. Imagine that. Here’s an excerpt:

SPRINGFIELD — Temperatures were in the teens Thursday morning but that didn’t stop a host of out-of-state residents from trekking to the state’s capitol to be among the first batch of people to purchase a newly-minted Abraham Lincoln penny.

Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana were among the states represented at the unveiling of the new coin, which came on the eve of Lincoln’s 201st birthday. The line to purchase the pennies formed as early as 5 a.m. and wrapped around the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum shortly before the ceremony kicked off at 9:30 a.m.

And the link.

There were plenty of angles to take on this story, but I thought it was fascinating how far people were willing to travel to purchase a few rolls of pennies. The new coins will be around for the next 49 years, after all. But coin collectors, like other enthusiasts, are very passionate about their trade and more than willing to go that extra mile (or 200, which every be the case) to support the hobby they love.

Of course, I had to screen capture the beautiful front pages from the Bloomington Pantagraph and the Decatur Herald & Review. Here are the screen caps:


Written by csessig

February 15, 2010 at 12:33 am