September 2017: The beauty of taking risks

President's Letters l

2017 is the year of journalism conferences for me.

So far, I’ve been to NICAR, the Collaborative Journalism Summit, INN Days, IRE and SRCCON. Next, I’ll head to ONA, JAWS CAMP (still the best!) and the Agora Engaged Journalism Summit.

I’m going to so many conferences because I’m taking a new risk, trying to start my own new journalism nonprofit in Colorado.

And in the process, I’m taking what I consider some other risks.

For instance, back in May, someone from Investigative Reporters & Editors emailed asking if I’d teach a Python 101 programming session at the Phoenix IRE conference.

Let me be honest. My first reaction: No way I’m qualified to do that.

Then I decided to practice what so many of us in JAWS preach, and signed up to teach that hands-on class. It was a blast! (Also, will I name a variable my_dict again, requiring me to say it multiple times? Probably!)

Then I agreed to help assist a morning-long web scraping session at IRE.

And I applied to SRCCON, a small conference (about the size of CAMP) on journalism, code and culture that selects participants via lottery. I got it!

But let me confess, I was pretty nervous about going. I’m not that great at programming. I’ve built a couple of things, but as I type this I’m taking a break from a few hours of trying to solve what seem like they should be minor issues.

SRCCON turned out great! There were lots of people I knew there, including former JAWS President Dawn Garcia, and plenty of new folks to meet. One of the best parts was the focus by the OpenNews crew on creating a diverse couple of days of learning and sharing.

At ONA, I’m looking forward to a session on building bots, as well as meeting up with DC JAWdesses and more.

But most of all, I’m looking forward to JAWS CAMP, where we’ll continue to build relationships, learn new skills and become better journalists.

And let’s also encourage each other to be emboldened, to step outside our comfort zones and take risks.

See you in Hot Springs!

Sandra Fish, JAWS President