March 19, 2018

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After 20 years at NJ Advance Media — a fruitful couple of decades filled with notable affairs like an interview with a cranky Mila Kunis and a pint of Guinness with Peter O’Toole — film critic Stephen Whitty was laid off in January.

But Whitty wasn’t done writing.

He moved his reviews to the New York Daily News and Film Journal International, among other places, and was able to bring some of his enthusiastic followers from his days at NJ Advance Media with him.

In his farewell column, Whitty linked to his profile on a tool called Authory. Authory is a portfolio site that automatically grabs a journalist’s articles from any website and provides backups of them in case those sites go down. More crucial for Whitty, it also allows anyone to sign up for notifications when a new article is posted.

“[Audiences] follow me to all the new things I’m doing and add some welcome activity to those sites,” Whitty said, noting that he got about 250 or 300 subscribers from his farewell column.

Though he also pointed his audience to his social media accounts, Whitty suspects Authory’s email notifications are easier for his followers to find.

“When something pops up in your inbox and says ‘Hey, here’s this writer and he has a new story out and here’s the link, go read it,’ I think that tends to reach people a little more constantly and effectively than hoping they log on to Twitter and see your message,” he said.

Authory costs $7 a month (or $70 for those who pay annually) and starts with a two-week free trial period. But it may be invaluable for freelancers and others who work across a variety of publications.

“As we are moving more and more into a world where every writer seems to be a freelancer and one of your jobs is promoting yourself and getting your name and your stories out there I think something like this is very, very helpful,” Whitty said. “We can’t expect people to follow us wherever we go or be aware of everything we’re doing.”

GET SOCIAL: I’ve been a Facebook user since the summer of 2005 (why does that sound like a confession?). I often wonder how much information the company has gathered about me in that time. Now I know. Following Guardian reporter Arwa Mahdawi’s lead, I downloaded the entirety of my Facebook data. It contains all of the people I’ve been friends with, all of the messages I’ve ever sent or received and some startling revelations about what Facebook thinks of me — like the fact that my “friend peer group” is classified as “starting adult life.” Now, I wonder what Cambridge Analytica thinks of me?

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: A record number of women are projected to run for office this year. Politico (in partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers-New Brunswick and the Women in Public Service Project at The Wilson Center) is tracking them all. The Women Rule Candidate Tracker will include Senate, House of Representatives and governor candidates and already includes data from Texas, which was the first state to hold its primaries this year.

CROWDSOURCED SUNSHINE: Actually obtaining public record documents is difficult. Poring over them for the tiniest, most important details can be downright impossible. Muckrock and DocumentCloud have teamed up to solve the latter issue with some good old-fashioned crowdsourcing. News organizations can use the tool to make documents public and set up tasks for users to do. They can also specify how many times they want a document to be checked.

PICTURE THIS: Part comic book, part music video, the Washington Post’s “Working with Dark Light” tells the story of Puerto Rican artists and their attempts to lift the national spirit in spite of the slow recovery after Hurricane Maria. The team used a tool called Prisma to achieve the striking visual effects used throughout the piece. Prisma uses complex filters to make photos and videos look like famous artworks.

EMAIL ETIQUETTE: Ever email a source and forget about it, only to feel that sinking feeling in your stomach later when your boss asks you how that story is coming? Yeah. Same. Luckily, Melody Kramer shared a great way to search your inbox to find emails that are awaiting replies.

IT GOT BETTER: I feel like these automatic transcription tools are in a technological arms race. Descript, a tool that automatically transcribes audio into text and allows users to edit the original audio file by editing the resulting text, just added support for multitrack transcription and automatic speaker detection. This means you can now edit multitrack podcasts just like you would edit a Word document. What?!

BAD NEWS: It just got a little harder for journalists to protect sources, valuable files and other things stored on their iPhones. Someone built a box that cracks past their lock screens. It’s a good time to consider using a third-party app to chat with sources, like Signal.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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