The Weekly: Data Visualization Editor Ava Mandoli and Digital Managing Editor Joanne Haner talk Week 5

Erica Schmitt, Audio Editor

This week’s episode of The Weekly highlights the top digital desk projects of the quarter with Data Visualization editor Ava Mandoli and Digital Managing editor Joanne Haner.



ERICA SCHMITT: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Erica Schmitt, the Daily’s audio editor. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week. Welcome to the second recap of the quarter.

ERICA SCHMITT: Today I’m with Data visualization Editor Ava Mandoli and Digital Managing editor Joanne Haner. They will be talking with me today about the digital side of The Daily. But first, Ava, what are some of the previous areas of the Daily that you’ve been a part of?

AVA MANDOLI: I was a climate and science and technology beat reporter for City (desk) and then before that, last spring, I was assistant photo editor under the lovely Joanne Haner. And that’s kind of where my background in journalism started, was through photography. And so data visualization has been a really fun way for me to explore visual storytelling in a different sense.

ERICA SCHMITT: What does the data visualization desk do?

AVA MANDOLI: We’ve done a little bit of data visualization in the past at The Daily, but there just hasn’t really been any, like, formal processes to go through. And so having this desk as, like, a formal thing, I think, makes it a lot more accessible to people who, like, might not know where to start or need a little bit more guidance. We do a lot of academic studies. Oftentimes there will be, like, data visualizations within that study, but like, they’re very hard for, like, the public to understand. And so we try and figure out how to make that make more sense to people and figure out how to make that go with the story.

ERICA SCHMITT: How have you been adjusting to the role as the desk editor of the new data visualization desk?

AVA MANDOLI: So far, It’s been going well, I think. This is my first time on The Daily’s edit board, and it’s also a new desk, so it’s definitely been challenging, but I’m learning quite a lot not only about how The Daily works at the higher up levels, but also just about, like, using different data visualization softwares that I haven’t used before, figuring out how to put that on WordPress, which has been unexpectedly challenging.

AVA MANDOLI: The beginning first weeks of the quarter have definitely been a lot about establishing standards and getting people to be comfortable using Flourish and all the other stuff that we’ve been using.

ERICA SCHMITT: Ava says that the desk uses software like Flourish and Tableau, both of which can be used to make visual analytics because it increases accessibility of the desk for people who don’t know how to code, but want to take on a project.

ERICA SCHMITT: What are some of the recent projects the data visualization desk has been working on?

AVA MANDOLI: One really cool visualization that we recently included in an article was an interactive map that was included in an article about the new North Shore channel bike trail, and we’re showing, kind of, how that bike trail will connect different parts of Evanston. And we kind of overlaid that map with income data for different parts of Evanston. So we can kind of see how this bike trail will, like, incentivize more commerce in different parts of Evanston that haven’t historically gotten it. So that was super cool. I thought that that really added a lot to that story.

AVA MANDOLI: Some of the bigger projects we have in the works are we want to make an internal dashboard for The Daily to track our diversity metrics more frequently. One of the reasons we want to do this is because we want to make sure that we’re being more conscious of our representation in our sourcing throughout the quarter, rather than just seeing it at the very end, and then being like we should do better next quarter, so that’s something that’s in progress. And another dashboard we’re trying to make is for some of the special edition (issues) that we have coming up with The Daily. We’re trying to make a scoring efficiency dashboard for the Spring Sports Preview and we’re trying to make some interactive maps and timelines for the Best of Evanston edition that’s coming up.

ERICA SCHMITT: Anything else you want to share?

AVA MANDOLI: I’ve been really excited to see a lot of people who, like haven’t been traditionally involved in The Daily, start to get involved. I think that data visualization is something that like a lot of people who don’t have a background in journalism necessarily are super interested in. So they’ve been bringing a lot of new perspectives to the table and a lot of new skills that like I had never heard of before. And so that’s been super exciting is to just get some fresh blood into The Daily.

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ERICA SCHMITT: Joanne, you are one of the two digital managing editors this quarter. How has the experience been for you?

JOANNE HANER: I’m really excited to be digital managing. We’re halfway through the quarter and I think it’s been going great so far. I’ve been able to explore a lot of multimedia desks at The Daily ranging back to my days as photo editor with the amazing Ava as my assistant and also video, audio and now I’m really excited to see the data vis(ualization) desk starting up. I’m a data science double major and since I got admitted to Northwestern I was saying that I want to get into data journalism. So now that we’re having an opportunity for people at The Daily I’m just really, really excited about that.

ERICA SCHMITT: That’s great to hear. Can you tell me about some of the digital projects and stories that you like?

JOANNE HANER: For starters, I was Diversity and Inclusion Chair last quarter. So hearing Ava approach me and the rest of the managing team with this idea for the dashboard was so, so amazing. Like, it made me so thrilled and so happy that we would have that consistent way of seeing how we’re doing and a way of measuring our progress throughout the quarter. So that was really cool.

JOANNE HANER: And then my co-digital managing editor Olatunji Osho-Williams, he and our audience engagement editor Elena Hubert started a little series called “Notes from the Newsroom.” And we had a student artist Ava Earl come in and give a little concert in the newsroom. And we live streamed it and we put it on socials. And we also made a little story about it, accompanied it with a Q&A. And that was just so amazing to see live, it brought really good vibes to the newsroom.

JOANNE HANER: I’m excited for everything that audio has been doing, like keeping up with Digital Diaries, bringing those episodes in on a regular basis. Bringing back The Weekly, here we are, but yeah, just amazing work by all the desks. I just continue to be so grateful that I work with all these amazing people.

ERICA SCHMITT: Why do you think a lot of staffers at the Daily stick solely to print compared to multimedia?

JOANNE HANER: I think multimedia can be really daunting to people that don’t have that experience. Coming into The Daily I had photography experience. So, it was easy for me to get involved with the photo desk and then just kind of branch out to the rest of the multimedia desks here through that way. But I know for people that don’t have that experience, saying, “Oh, come pick up a fancy DSLR camera” was something that was really intimidating to them and getting to learn about all these different settings and getting to learn industry standard software like Adobe Premiere and other Creative Cloud apps like Lightroom and Audition. So I think it’s a goal of mine and as well as the rest of multimedia editors and assistants just to continue making that more accessible and making everybody feel that they can just come in and take a story and just learn about different things because that’s what we do here at the end of the day. We are always a learning paper and we’re here to help everyone grow.

ERICA SCHMITT: Thank you for taking me through the multimedia desk’s work Joanne. Any final thoughts Joanne and Ava?

JOANNE HANER: Multimedia journalism is so amazing. Like, I’ve definitely found my niche in journalism because of The Daily. I think multimedia has a really special immersive or interactive element to it that sometimes you don’t get just by reading words on a page. So, I just really fell in love with multimedia and that’s in large part because of my experiences at the Daily, and I just hope that other people also have that experience or if they don’t find that it’s for them that they just at least get to try it and have that experience as well.

AVA MANDOLI: I second everything that Joanne said. I think there’s a lot of multimedia love at the Daily and I love that all the multimedia desks really support each other. And it’s been super special to like be able to experience both photo and a little bit of writing and I feel like data visualization has been a really cool way to be able to kind of combine the two because we work with a lot of the writers very closely to make sure that like we’re connecting the data visualization to what they’re talking about in their article. We also definitely want to like, create more of those projects that aren’t just like, one-off data visualizations within an article but like, figuring out how to interact with our written and multimedia content in a different way and like, combining those in different ways. So that’s been super exciting.

ERICA SCHMITT: Thanks so much for talking with me today!


ERICA SCHMITT: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Erica Schmitt. Thanks for listening to the second Weekly episode of the quarter. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is me, the digital managing editors are Joanne Haner and Olatunji Osho-Williams and the editor in chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @eschmitt318

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