IRE’s CAR Conferences: What I’ve Valued

In two and a half weeks, Investigative Reporters and Editors will host  the 2010 CAR Conference — the annual gathering of journalists who crunch data for stories and visuals. This year’s conference is in sunny Phoenix, a welcome change of pace for those who’ve endured a few blizzards this winter.

If you’ve never attended and are wondering whether to go, here are five things I’ve found valuable:

— You’ll be challenged to up your game. Every year, I am reminded that if I stand still in developing my skills, I am actually losing ground. The Web has forced journalism to become nimble, and the people and talks here will challenge you to be the same.
— There’s lots of opportunity to learn. Training is a huge component of the conference. People are genuinely open and willing to share data, code and skills.
— You won’t leave empty-handed. Every year, I go home with plenty of tips on new software or programming techniques, sources of data and story ideas.
— Beginners are encouraged. There’s a really good mix of super-technical subjects and sessions for those just starting in data analysis, programming and visualization.
— You’ll meet some smart cookies. The speakers’ list includes Pulitzer winners, folks working in the emerging area of non-profit journalism, expert coders and statisticians, and a load of really, really good journalists all around. Their stories and ideas will inspire you.

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