CARR Training Returns Home to Missouri
Along with David Stokes, I had the pleasure of attending two all-day sessions training Missouri broadcasters how to use the techniques of Computer-Aided Research and Reporting, first on Friday at UMKC and, the following day, at UMSL. This is a program started about eight years ago by a couple of folks at the Heritage Foundation Bill Beach, director of Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis, and Mark Tapscott, formerly director of Heritage’s Center for Media and Public Policy, and now editorial page editor of the Washington Examiner. They were joined at our sessions by Greg Elin, chief data architect for the Sunlight Foundation, and Robert Bluey, who now holds Mark Tapscott’s old position at Heritage. In fact, Robert currently has a couple of entries on his blog about their Missouri trip.
The Show-Me Institute sent me to DC in July to take a look at one of Heritage’s CARR seminars, and decide whether the program was worth bringing to Missouri. Not only is the program incredibly valuable for younger newcomers to journalism and old hands alike but in a way, bringing this program to Missouri is like bringing it home. The textbook given out during the training sessions was written by none other than Brant Houston of the University of Missouri-Columbia.
One of the primary benefits of a program like this is that it shows essential skills can be taught in a non-ideological environment, even if the teachers have their own political points of view. Folks at the Show-Me Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Sunlight Foundation in addition to all the attending reporters and editors would all undoubtedly find many things to disagree about (and did, as evidenced by our lunch and dinner conversations). But the material presented in the training sessions was entirely informational about how to use computers in researching articles, checking claims of fact, analyzing the use and misuse of statistics, and learning about all the new and varied ways Internet technology allows information to be gathered and used in ways unimaginable only a few years earlier.
These events wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support and organizational efforts of Don Hicks of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.