Here are three can't-miss sources for stories

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.

THINK LOCAL: Journalists across the United States are reporting on the 500 or so House and Senate seats up for reelection next month. Google has information about what voters are searching for on a city-by-city basis. What useful information could be gleaned from that? That’s now a question for you to decide. My colleague Kristen Hare reported that Google News Initiative (a former funder of this newsletter) just created a way to see what’s trending in your community. The midterm elections 2018 page looks simple and is easy to use, but endless story ideas lurk within a click or two.

MORE STORIES: Not enough for you? Maybe you’re less interested in reporting on the rat race and more interested in reporting on the systemic issues behind U.S. elections, perhaps? A recent infographic (and story) from the Washington Post is a good jumping off point. The project collects voting laws across the country and makes them easy to compare. I learned that Florida, my current state, requires photo identification and cuts off registration Oct. 9. New York State, where I was born, is much more lenient. And what’s up with South Carolina’s wait times?

EVEN MORE STORIES: Maybe you’re not covering the U.S. midterm elections, but you’re still interested in tapping into that sweet, sweet zeitgeist. Parse.ly, the audience data and analytics company, has you covered. Parse.ly just launched Currents, a live view of the most popular articles in the company’s network.

HACK YOURSELF: I took notes for this newsletter in Google Docs. I’m writing this in Google Docs. When I’m done, my editor will likely edit it in Google Docs (Editor’s note: It’s like Ren is psychic.). Many of us spend a significant amount of our workdays on this one tool. But did you know that you can build or use pre-existing templates to speed up rote work? Or that if Comics Sans and Lobster aren’t weird enough for you, you can add to your font library? Or, if the dictionary keeps flagging your weird, beat-related words, you can add them to your dictionary? Hootsuite has these and 23 other ways (for marketers, but they work for journalists, too) to “hack” Google Docs.

  • Oh, and here’s a public service for everyone who has remote team members: eight tips for being a better Zoomer/Skyper/Hangouter. I’m adding a ninth tip. If your camera is significantly lower than your face, I’m going to spend most of the call counting your boogers. Nobody wants that.

40 BETTER HOURS: Here are three tips and tools to improve your work this week.

  • Ever struggle with whether to take on a new project, either personally or professionally? Here’s a flowchart to help you think through it. Bookmark it. Use it often.
  • Chairs have somehow gotten worse through the ages. NPR has some tips on how to get more comfortable in whatever chair you find yourself sitting in. On a regular chair, scoot forward so your feet are flat on the ground and find some sort of padding to stiffen up a chair that you sink into. In the car (or on a plane), add some padding to your lower back.
  • Applying to a million jobs or internships at once (perhaps with the help of our list of almost 100 internships and fellowships)? Maybe you’re keeping track of a bunch of sources? Check out Notion, an all-in-one workspace tool with endless potential uses for journalists. (h/t Taylor Blatchford and her excellent newsletter for student journalists.)

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: I had a couple thousand Slack messages to catch up on when I came back from vacation last week. Half of them were about this New York Times infographic that shows how Facebook friends are connected across the country. It’s probably obvious that most Facebook users’ friends live in close proximity, but it’s interesting to see how physical boundaries manifest. And the maps that split the country into pieces based on network connections is poignant at a time when the country feels so divided.

PROTECT YOURSELF: People use bad passwords because they’re lazy. People use the same bad passwords across multiple websites because they’re lazy. I get it. But you can be EVEN LAZIER and just install a password manager and be a billion percent safer. Just do it already. (h/t Rachel Schallom)

NWS IN BRF

  • Facebook is testing out a dating feature in Colombia. Normally I’d have a witty retort here but I’m going to let this one go. It’s for the best.
  • Google+ is no more, following a security breach that made Google fear regulatory reprisal. Timehop just reminded me of the days when you had to get an invitation to join. How quaint.
  • I typically turn to Hunter.io when I’m hunting (har har) for contact information. But the Happy Hour Search at the National Cellular Directory seems fun. For an hour each day, all “premium” searches are free. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it yet (still unburying myself from vacation).
  • This one is for the real UX nerds. You can use links to increase recirculation. You might have spotted us doing this on the Poynter website with “speed bumps” with links to related articles in the middle of a post.  
  • Literary evidence has led some to believe that humans couldn’t discern the color blue until relatively modern times. But blue plays a big role in our history, along with a bunch of other badass colors and palettes that you should totally steal for your next project.
  • Hoping to photograph some fall foliage? Maybe you’re just looking for a colorful vacation? Here’s an interactive fall foliage prediction map. Looks like nowhere is past peak yet.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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