Tara Bender

Writing. Design. Multimedia.

Recent / Upcoming:

A few cool updates (depending on your interpretation of “cool”) :

  • The digital issue isn’t up yet, but I had the cover story in the November issue of BizNet. (I need to update the Stories section! I’m so behind!) I always say there’s nothing like a byline — but there’s definitely nothing like a byline on the front page.
  • I recently added a new section called Ads. These are projects I have worked on at my internship this semester at Solution Tree, most of which are static or animated web advertisements for upcoming events and books. (I also updated the Web section to include some of the landing pages I’ve worked on, too.)

I think that’s all for now! I’ll report back on the dinner and presentation. Ready…set…go!


Promotional Materials Update

Today was the winter Bloomington Handmade Market. I’ve had fun working on the program for the event and designing a bumper sticker for them, so I was sad when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to attend! I just got back today from a job interview in New Jersey, so I suppose it was a good reason to miss it! I’m sure everything went swimmingly and plenty of craft-lovers walked away with treasures galore.

Here’s the bumper sticker, complete with classic tomato pin cushion, that I hope to see driving around town sometime in the near future:                            

I also received a special request from Century 21 Scheetz, one of my former employers, to create some posters for their upcoming Marketing-Technology Summit. I think that I was inspired by my first real experience with an iPad at the J/i Conference a few weeks ago (thanks, Mom), so here’s what I gave them:        


All of these new designs have been added to the Promotional Materials page.


Journalism Interactive Conference Wrap-Up

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Journalism Interactive (J/i) Conference in College Park, Maryland. I posted in September about my excitement over receiving one of two travel scholarships for the conference and am still so grateful for the opportunity.

The J/i tagline is “The conference on journalism education and digital media,” which pretty much sums up the event. Hundreds of college educators and a sprinkling of students, entrepreneurs, and professionals were there to learn about and share what’s now and what’s next.

So many practical resources and programs were shared that I want to pass on! J/i really got me thinking about keeping my eyes open for something new and always continuing to learn and be better at whatever it is I’m pursuing. For now, I’m pursuing everything, so here are some of the coolest things I learned over the course of the weekend:

  • Audioboo is a cool app for those times when “breaking news” happens, and you don’t have your reporter’s notebook or an audio recorder. Each “boo” holds up to 3 minutes of sound, and the app even has start-stop functions that serve as in-program editing capabilities. You can record a clip, take a photo, and Tweet them together or upload them immediately to any/all of your social networks.
  • The Qik Video app is also for those on-the-go moments when you don’t have anything fancier than your phone. It has a live stream capability (published on the Qik site), and the footage is editable.
  • Klynt, proclaiming that it is “the interactive editing and publishing application dedicated to creative storytellers” is a new multimedia editing program. It was described as Final Cut Pro and Soundslides combined, but better. From what I can tell on the web site, it’s going to be my new favorite program. With Klynt, you can edit video, still images, .swf files, and hyperlinks in a single project. There’s a visual “mind map” editor and a WYSIWYG editor, depending on what you prefer. Plus, it lets you publish to any/all of your accounts straight from the software. Amazing! Even more amazing: you can get a free 14-day trial account (which I plan to save for my next editing project. Eee!).
  • Many Eyes was described as the “motherload of data visualization.” It lets you search data sets that others have uploaded, or you can upload your own. Then it generates any kind of visualization you can think of from a scatterplot to a word tree and everything in between. You can tweak the design, too.
  • Hype is a WYSIWYG web editor that lets you build sites in HTML5 without a single line of coding. How can this be? I have no idea, but seeing is believing. It has features for animation, timelines, actions, all done without code. The sites you build are viewable across all browsers and devices including Smartphones and tablets. This program also has a free 14-day trial download, which you can access at the bottom of the homepage. Don’t get me wrong — I am a firm believer that journalists should be learning how to code as part of their multimedia studies, but it will be fun to play around with a program like this and maybe use it as a tool for learning some cool new ways to set up sites that you can replicate with code later on.
  • Tiki-Toki “creates beautiful timelines.” It’s a web-based program that lets you integrate video, photos, and text into a timeline that is clickable and interactive. Here’s an example of one that is really well done.
  • The Adobe Digital Publishing Suite is being used by journalism schools all over the country to create interactive apps of their publications for tablet devices. I’m excited to get my hands on this one because I’m already familiar with Adobe products, so it makes the thought of creating an app a lot less intimidating. I really can’t wait to try it! 
  • Livescribe has a line of pens and notebooks that have recording capabilities. The coolest thing about one of the products, Livescribe Connect, is that it lets you upload audio and notes (as editable text) to your desktop or online accounts.
  • You can Tweet to @askNYT during a presidential debate or other televised event, and the New York Times will fact-check a candidate’s response. This will be fun…
  • There is so much more that I haven’t shared here, but I will try to sprinkle some into future posts as I use the resources myself!

All of this new technology is really exciting, but I was reminded at J/i that they can’t replace good journalism or compensate for bad journalism. At the heart of journalism is storytelling, timeliness, accuracy, and quality. Those ideals still exist no matter how the story is communicated or where it is published. It’s comforting to know that the fundamental values of journalism are still upheld by (most) organizations around the world.

Although some people are resistant to change, and many people have a pessimistic outlook on the state of journalism, I am choosing to join with those who are excited about the future of journalism. It’s an exciting time because things are changing so rapidly, and there is so much to learn. Keeping up with the changes has become the new challenge, but it’s also the fun part.

There was definitely a focus on entrepreneurial journalism at J/i. Because the industry has changed (and is still changing) so much, educators are urging their students to think of new business models and products that will revolutionize journalism, or at least some aspect of it. I even got to sit in on an entrepreneurial pitch contest where college students presented their ideas to a panel of judges, which, of course, made me extremely nervous. Those people had guts!

I can’t say whether I will ever fully embrace that sort of entrepreneurial spirit, but you never know where life can take you. It was encouraging, though, to hear the word “inrapreneurial” used throughout the weekend (even though it might be made up). It’s being an innovator in your current environment, even if you’re a copy writer at a daily newspaper. Thinking of a newer, better, more innovative way to serve the consumer of your publication. That’s the main goal — figuring out what people want and need and delivering it to them, while still making a profit. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s cool to know that I don’t have to go out and start my own business to be an agent of change in the industry.

To wrap this up, I don’t want to give a synopsis of every session I attended, but I do want to share some memorable quotes from various presenters that you may find enlightening: 

  • "I think my job will probably not exist in 5 years." — Liz Heron, social media editor at the New York Times
  • "What do (journalism) students need to know today and what do they need to know after they graduate?” — Ron Yaros, University of Maryland
  • "There is a need for journalists to be able to program. We live in a digital world, and the language of that world is programming." — Shazna Nessa, AP Interactive
  • "I want to I help journalists thrive as technology gets faster. I want our students to be able to turn on a dime, to know that every two years the rug will be pulled out from under you. You should embrace that." Richard “Koci” Hernandez, UC Berkeley
  • "The boat of mobile is still out there. We still have time to swim to it. If everything you do isn’t focused through the lens of mobile you’re doing it wrong." — Richard “Koci” Hernandez, UC Berkeley
  • "Think about multimedia more holistically, not in components." — Amy Webb, Webbmedia Group
  • "If you follow the structure of journalism you don’t need a corporate structure to support you." — Evan Ratliff, The Atavist

A Week in the Life…

Reflecting on my week, I have to laugh a little. Let me give you some play-by-play of what it’s like to be a journalism grad student.

• Wordpress tutoring session with the freelance developer who works for my mom
• Put the final touches on the slideshow for my parents’ anniversary, edited in Final Cut Pro

• Tried multiple times to explain to my grandparents what “multimedia” is but settled on showing them my print articles in H&L instead (Never underestimate the byline.)
• Presented my parents with the poster I designed to commemorate their anniversary

• Tutored a classmate in CS5 to help him with a magazine spread assignment
• Watched HTML tutorials until my eyes got blurry
• Finished designing a newsletter proof for CASA

• Skipped work to get a few extra hours of website design in (Still behind: surprise!)
• Watched Page one, the New York Times documentary (Like I actually had time to do this? My roommate had it on when I got home, and I couldn’t say no. Also: I got a little teary at the end. That statement probably demands a post in and of itself.)

• Wrote a 1000-word story for H&L
• Finished another newsletter proof for CASA

• Phone interview with two sources for Adventure Indiana story
• Went to Franklin College to judge the Indiana High School Press Association (IHSPA) on-site contest
• Took photos and did six interviews for a story on the IHSPA judging for the SOJ website

• Wrote the 500-word IHSPA story for the SOJ webiste
• Wrote the 700-word Adventure Indiana story

Add in 20 hours at my internship and about 15 in the J-school front office, and you have a complete picture of my life. I didn’t have class this week, which was nice. An extra 2.5 hours of “free” time! The tradeoff, though, is that I was supposed to be working on a take-home test, which I have yet to lay eyes on (see reasons above). 

I’d like to point out that my non-journalism activities have not been omitted here because I chose to leave them out. They’re omitted because THEY DON’T EXIST! (Ok, I admit: I watched Project Runway tonight. I AM a well-rounded person after all.)

It’s fun, busy, and super glamorous to be a journalism grad student.


An Anniversary Gift

Today is my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. I am so blessed to have parents who are still married — who have loved each other and their children through 30 years of challenges and triumphs, the best of times and the worst of times. I put together a video slideshow as a gift and also designed and framed a poster to commemorate the occasion.

My mom said it should go in my portfolio, but I think for now, I’ll just share it here in my blog!

I love you, Mom and Dad. Thanks for being the best parents a girl could ask for.



H&L: October Issue

The October issue of H&L is out, and I have two stories in it! Back to back even! A couple new people have approached me about seeing my stories in this issue, which has been very fun and rewarding! There’s nothing quite like a byline, is there?

My favorite thing about this issue, though, is the beginning of the bio H&L printed for me: “A crafter herself, Tara Bender visits with the women who created the Bloomington Handmade Market…” What a cute little surprise!

I had a great time with both of these stories. Take a look!


Bloomington by Hand

Travel, Home

The SNDSTL Recap

We embarked on our SNDSTL (Society for News Design Conference, which took place in St. Louis this year) around 5 a.m. on Thursday. Needless to say I brought a pillow with me and caught a few winks before we rolled into St. Louis for the first day of student-oriented activities.

                                       (Our professor, Steve, leading a great “action shot.”)

If you’re not familiar with SND, it’s an international organization that supports and celebrates news design as an art — an integral part of the delivery of news, be it in print, digital, or mobile format. My first taste of SND was back in April when I attended a Quick Course at the Poynter Institute and learned that this organization is so supportive of fellow journalists and encourages a culture of continuous learning.

         (In front of the Convention Center where we attended all of the SNDSTL sessions)

Thursday’s session was all about what 21st Century Visual Journalists needs to survive post-graduation. Miranda Mulligan from the Boston Globe, Yuri Victor from the Washington Post, and Tyson Evans from the New York Times were some of the panelists who gave great insight into the necessity of web design in a 21st Century Journalist’s toolbox. I definitely have miles to go until I’m comfortable with coding, but I am excited to keep learning and growing as a web designer.

I had time to have my portfolio critiqued by two professionals before leaving for a meeting for the Travel Grant recipients (yay!). I met with Tim Frank from Gannett’s Asbury Park NJ Design Studio first, who gave me some constructive criticism about taking my personal style to the limit. I told him that I prefer a handmade aesthetic, and he gave me some tips about creating pieces by hand, then manipulating them in design programs so that the images are more authentic. I don’t know why I never thought of combining my love for crafting and love for publication design in that way before, but I am excited to take his advice!

I also met with Andrea Levy, a wonderful illustrator and photographer from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. She was so complimentary of my “style” and said she appreciated the fact that I didn’t just show her a stack of news pages. In fact, I had none to show (beside the magazines projects I’ve worked on independently). It was so encouraging to have such a talented artist compliment my work! I am truly humbled.

That night we enjoyed a reception at St. Louis’ City Museum. Have you ever been to this place? It’s like magic come to life. I can’t even describe it, but let me tell you a few things I decided to partake in: an adult-sized ball pit, a 12-story tall curly slide, and a 4-foot-tall hole-in-the-wall labyrinth. If you ever go to St. Louis, you have to make this place a priority!

                                        (Looking down from the top of the City Museum)

                                                (Enjoying the City Museum with Jayne.)

Friday morning came quickly, and I was pumped to really get things started at SNDSTL. I wrote about Friday for the IU School of Journalism site that you can read if you want. I’ll give a few brief highlights here, though:

—> The man, the myth the legend Tim Harrower's “Design 101” session — I mean, I just submitted an article for publication that sites the textbook he wrote. Whoa! Sort of like a design celebrity? He's funny, smart, and inspiring, and I feel so lucky that I got to see his presentation!

—> Times of Oman designer/artist Adonis Durado's “Visual Conceit” session — this guy's designs made me want to weep with joy. His philosophy of extended metaphors coming to life through page design is truly something unique. Also, I think Oman prints on magic paper with magic ink. He passed around his prints, and they were so crystal clear and perfect that I thought I could reach into the pages and pull out the images!

—> A panel titled “Bootstrapping Your Passion: Entrepreneurship for Creative Media” was the joy of my day. I got to meet the woman behind All Thrifty States, a creative project documenting thrift stores around the country, Jenna Isaacson. I told her I was her new fan club, which might have creeped her out, but I had to geek out over our shared passions for journalism, crafting, and thrifting. Also, Bill Keaggy, the guy behind 50 Sad Chairs and Grocerylists.org (a hilarious collection of found grocery lists) was pretty entertaining.

I volunteered for the SND Foundation’s Trivia Night on Friday, which was a lot of fun, mostly because I knew close to zero right answers. After serving my time I was allowed to form a team with some of my classmates and contributed right answers to the following questions: “Name the actors who starred in the TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and “What is the name of the fictitious band in the movie Almost Famous?” I’ll let you ruminate on those for a while. 

On Saturday I went to more panels including one called “Where the Jobs Are,” which featured finalists from SND’s “The Intern” competition and took a look at where they are now. Everyone starts somewhere, and I’m at the beginning of my visual journalism journey. It will be cool to look back in five years and see how far I’ve come.

"Finding the Web Designer Within" was a refreshing take on web design as an offshoot of print. Tito Bottita and Mike Swartz gave this presentation, which is now yours to enjoy! My brain doesn’t think in code yet, but I know there’s a web designer in there somewhere, and when she emerges, she will be unstoppable. Right?

My second geek-out moment of the weekend came when I went to a presentation by Alissa Walker of GOOD Magazine titled “City-Making: Journalism and Civic Engagement.” She recently launched GOOD LA, a project that covers local issues (GOOD is based in Los Angeles). It was exciting to hear her talk about how she has been able to incorporate her interests into her career and live out the mission of her publication. Sometimes I think that I want to work for a non-profit organization, and sometimes I think I’d rather work for an alternative arts magazine or features publication. I talked with Alissa (after admitting unashamedly how excited I was to meet her), and she challenged me to think of those things as one entity — I don’t necessarily have to choose, but instead can seek out publications that have a stake in the community and work for the good of the cause. Thanks, Alissa. I think I will.

Saturday night at the Awards Reception, we all got a taste of the true Tim Harrower as he hosted the event. He kicked off with “News Designer Blues,” a pretty great blues ditty about the world of news design that can be challenging due to the changing face of journalism. He was up on stage with sunglasses on and just his electric guitar. Perfect. Throughout the evening there was “story time with Uncle Tim” where he read some of his own versions of Grimm’s Fairytales (Timm’s Fairytales), including my personal favorite, Henny Penny: a poor little chicken who couldn’t get any of her animal farm co-workers to help her with a reporting project and ended up winning a Pulitzer prize anyway, later founding the Hennington Post.

                                   (Our group at the Awards Banquet on Saturday night.)

Sitting and watching the awards was a lot of fun. There were categories for web design, print design, and even a couple Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Apparently there were over 15,000 submissions, so these awards were kind of a big deal. I was in a giant ballroom of journalism royalty for the evening — I hope their magic powers have rubbed off on me a little bit!

On Sunday, before we left town, we made a stop at the Gateway Arch. Thankfully, we had an absolutely beautiful day to enjoy the view from the top. Have you ever been to the top of the Arch? You have to travel in these tiny space pods all the way up the side. Five people sit in there, but there’s really only room for two. It’s like a teeny tiny enclosed ferris wheel/ski lift-style mode of transportation that carried us to the top. You should do it next time you’re in St. Louis if you never have before! Unfortunately, I got a bit of a tummy ache after that, but I’ll try not to attribute it to the Arch trams.

                                                (Outside in front of the Gateway Arch.)

                                                       (Inside the tiny tram with Michela.)

                                        (On top of the world! Or at least at the top of the Arch.)

Coming back to real life was about as disappointing as I thought it would be. I really enjoyed being in St. Louis and feeling energized and excited about the future of journalism, especially visual journalism. Being surrounded by so many people who love their jobs was encouraging and exciting. I hope to stay involved with SND even after I graduate because I think the organization is fantastic, and I would love to be able to go to more events like SNDSTL. More! More! More!

BizNet September Issue

Ever wonder how government defense bases function? Check out my story in this issue of BizNet on some of the companies that are contracted to work for the Crane Naval Base right here in Indiana. It’s titled "The Bloomington Branch" on page 5.

I learned a lot in the process of writing this story and really appreciate the time my sources took to explain the government contracting process to me. My goal was to present it in a way that makes sense for — well, for people like me (who may have been clueless before)!

I’m currently working on another story for the next issue about actively employed senior citizens. It’s been a fun one so far!

Oh! And more later on the SNDSTL conference. What a weekend! I can’t wait to gush about some of my big takeaways.