Monthly Archives: July 2019

You Matter! Celebrating Intern Appreciation Week.

So many things have happened this week. In the news, Britain elected a new Prime Minister, Robert Mueller gave his testimony to Congress regarding his report on Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential election, and the Governor of Puerto Rico stepped down amidst the RickyLeaks controversy.

For the CNN Intern program, however, it was Make You Matter Week. Throughout the week, we had various workshops, lectures, and social events meant to help prepare us for a future at CNN, or in the media industry in general. I ended up going to 3: one presentation on financial literacy (the most helpful and relevant to all of our futures), one on CNNAIR (the most entertaining, as we got to learn all about how CNN uses drone technology), and the breakfast social over at Techwood (where we got Waffle House, Caribou Coffee, and got to tour some of the studios for Warner Media Broadcasting, like NBA on TNT). It has been great to get together with my fellow interns and do other things than our usual work tasks.

On the work front, as one of my supervisors is moving up to the Data Science department, I have had a few of his duties transferred over to me for the last few weeks that I am here. That means that the Impossible Task has officially been transferred over (we have all resorted to calling it that). I have also been taught more about migrations between our platforms, intensity configuration, and continuing to work on the tasks I already have. It has certainly been a week.

More than anything, I have been consumed with the Impossible Task. I have learned more about API configuration and how they work. I also sat in on a call that was talking about visual recognition software for videos, which was exciting and different. More than anything, though, I want to see about any headway I can make on the Impossible Task. It will all depend on how much I can do in these last couple of weeks.

Weaving a Storyline.

If you were to go on CNN.com right now, at this very minute, you would see at the top of the page next to “Trending” something about the Puerto Rico investigation. If you are not following the news as closely as I do these days, this is referring to how the people of Puerto Rico are calling for the resignation of their governor after his private chat messages were leaked, containing profane comments about people within their own government, other governments, you name it.

The reason why you see several stories associated with the larger topic is because we generated a storyline tag for the protests. When storylines are created, we apply them to any article, video, or gallery published on CNN.com related to that storyline. They are specific to a given topic or event, and the terms associated with it are unique to that storyline. For example, with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, the terms were relevant to France, this iteration of the World Cup, and other things unique to this event.

What is crazy to believe is that this all happened on Friday. We have a certain threshold we maintain for when we generate a new storyline. When it became clear that we were going to cross that threshold, I began gathering evidence for the new storyline: 2019 Puerto Rico Protests. I noted special phrases and names, like “RickyLeaks” and “Ricky Resign.” I also gathered words and phrases that were used frequently and would be specific to this instance, like “Puerto Rico Governor Resignation” and similar terms. It was a great opportunity to practice the taxonomy language, relating terms and giving evidence to the topic. As new content is generated, these terms and evidence change pertaining to their relevance to the storyline.

In terms of fun and exciting things, I got to visit one of the studios here at CNN Center. Myself and one of the other library interns got the chance to duck down to the CNNI offices, see their newsroom, and the studio that they have on-site. The CNNI studio hosts shows relatively frequently, as sometimes the shows are based in London, but other times they are here in Atlanta. We got to take pictures at the desk, in front of the green screen, and see how a studio looks when it is all lit up for a show.

We then went down the hall to the control room to see how the CNNI show teams operate. It was amazing. The wall of screens, the live conference calls with people around the world, the show runners barking orders into headsets. It was incredibly electric. I just had to stand there and watch. Where I work, I do not get to see how the television side of CNN works. So to spend half an hour witnessing what some of the other interns are doing was a fun change of pace for me.

Next week, I should have more updates about the Puerto Rico events. The impossible task has taken a back seat this week, as it happens in news. Our priorities are constantly shifting depending on the climate of the world, bringing light to things that should be highlighted and tabling things that are losing their relevancy.

Southern Hospitality.

In other words, the fun blog!

Centennial Olympic Park, right outside of CNN Center

Something that is very important to me when it comes to a new academic or work experience is making sure that I embrace the culture of the city where this new life experience is happening. In this case, it is the wonderful city of Atlanta, Georgia.

Fast Facts (thank you, Wikipedia and Atlanta government website): Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, is home to about 500,000 people. It is the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was basically burned to the ground during the American Civil War. It also hosts the headquarters of Warner Media (A.K.A., CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, etc.), UPS, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines. Not to mention the busiest international airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson.

There are probably about 45 interns that work just for CNN here in Atlanta, so it was really easy for me to settle in with a good group of friends. There is a team of us that gets together to do trivia once a week. And we are pretty good, considering I think we have placed in the top 3 all but once.

Turn-Terns take on trivia night

I have also made it my mission to go exploring every weekend. Sometimes I do it with a group of friends, and other times I am perfectly happy going alone. Thus far, I have been to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, Stone Mountain, the King Center, and Atlantic Station. I also went and saw Come From Away, the touring Broadway musical about Gander, Newfoundland right after the events of the September 11th terrorist attack (I would definitely recommend listening to the soundtrack on your music platform of choice!).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial
The hiking group at Stone Mountain
The Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain

The entrance to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Still on my list are Ponce City Market, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, the Little Five Points neighborhood, Atlanta History Center (and Margaret Mitchell House), and the Piedmont Park Farmer’s Market. It is a good thing the weekend has two days, since this is a lot to accomplish in the next three weeks!

One of the great things about interning here in Atlanta is the Atlanta After 5 summer intern program. Warner Media sponsors the interns to participate in this event that allows us to meet other interns from other companies in the city and explore everything Atlanta has to offer together. Through the program, I have been on a restaurant tour of the Belt Line (Atlanta’s best walking trail), an Atlanta Braves baseball game, and played kickball at one of the originating fields of Atlanta soccer. These Thursday events have been a great way for me to hang out with my fellow interns outside of work.

Post-Atlanta After 5 Field Day

Atlanta is also an amazing place for restaurants. We have gone out to brunch at a new restaurant just about every weekend. I went to this restaurant, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which is a staple for traditional southern food. I had enough leftovers for two more dinners! And they truly are right: the peach is the staple of the state of Georgia. I have had the best peach cobblers of my entire life in this city.

My dinner at Mary Mac’s Tea Room

It is truly hard to believe I only have three weeks left in this wonderful city. It has been everything I could have wanted and more. From exploring with friends, to visiting new aspects of CNN (shout-out to the Newsroom folks – the work you do is incredible), to coming home happy yet exhausted at the end of the day, this truly has been an incredible summer and I am so glad to have spent it in Atlanta.

Challenge: Accepted.

This week, we have decided to undertake a seemingly impossible task. We want to use machine learning to help make the lives of our video archive selection librarians easier.

Here at CNN, we have both production and archive computer servers. Content moved back and forth between these servers as it is needed. When it comes to archiving content, however, the entire process is incredibly extensive. Our archivists follow a 24-step protocol for determining what gets archived and what gets not.

My boss and I are trying to see if there is a way we can simplify this process. See if there is a way we can generate a filter on the production server content that helps block items we know we will not archive and potentially eliminate a few steps for the archival team. Now, we are very aware that our efforts may not amount to anything. When you are working for a company as large as CNN and our archived content comes from bureaus around the world, it is very difficult to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to documentation. Different show teams want different clips and only want their clips archived, when in reality that is just not conducive to store the same clip multiple times long-term.

The selection team is up to their noses in records every day trying to determine what to archive and what to skip. They evaluate around 3,000 records each day for archiving. We are doing everything we can to see if there is a way to simplify their methodology. Can we implement machine learning to filter out records we know for sure we will not archive? What information do we need to make that happen?

It has been a long week, for sure. We are completely changing gears from the coding I have done in the past and the materials I am working with. I am trying to compress my learning time, as there are two of us working on this project and I want to make sure I am staying on top of things.

For our intern event this week, we had a Town Hall meeting with Jeff Zucker, the current CEO of Warner Media and Sports. We had the opportunity to ask him questions about himself, the future of the company, and any other pressing questions we had. As per usual, most of the questions were journalism-based. So I felt a little out of place. We also only had an hour, so not all of us were able to ask the questions we had. If I had gotten the chance to ask mine, I would have wanted to know what his goals were for digital research and innovation internally at CNN. Everyone else is so focused on the external big picture. I have always worked behind the scenes. It would have been cool to hear what his internal goals were.

Then again, he has a background in journalism and production. My questions are a little too niche for that.

What’s In A Name?

This week served as a bit of a mid-program check-in between my bosses and I. I got the chance to demo the Python script that I had worked on. And, while there are a couple of bugs due to the HTML structure itself being amended, it works exactly like it should. I generated batch files as well, so everyone else can just click on a Desktop shortcut and run the script. It made me feel really good to have them compliment my work. Web scraping is something I have always wanted to learn how to do, but in my mind is a relatively simple thing to do. So the fact that it had not been done yet, and I got to learn something new while also building something that will benefit the department made me feel really accomplished.

In addition to talking about work tasks, we talked about the internship program as a whole. What did I like? What did I not like? Am I doing everything that I had hoped to do? If we are being totally honest, I love it here. I am learning so much, doing so much for this company, and am so grateful to have the freedom to continue researching and learning digital methods that are important to me. I will admit, my internship is very different from what the other interns around CNN have. They all work with new media and generating content. I like to think that my job is to play with the new content they create. Scraping articles, perhaps doing some topic modeling on politics or sports or something. I get to read and learn so much.

Since the Python scripts works for everyone, and I successfully mapped all of the Google terms with our existing terms, my tasks are switching gears a little bit. I now am dealing with some sentiment analysis work as well as facilitating the creation of new tags for our term list. Specifically, I am identifying new people to add to our directory.

With the sentiment analysis, I am working with intensity scoring. In other words, the amount of weight given to a single word or limited string of words based on how those words make a reader feel. For example, terms like “controversial” or “powerful” are given a stronger weight, while terms like “unorganized” or “activist” are given a lesser weight. It is difficult to explain how sentiment analysis works, mostly because different people have different reactions to different stories. We debate quite a bit about what a word means and the feelings we get from how it is used. It seems to be a never ending battle. But that is half the fun!

For identifying what people we need to add to our terms list, I should preface this by saying I read probably around thirty to fifty stories per day. These stories cover any and all subject matter we publish here at CNN. That said, I read a lot of names. Many of them are already in our list. The names that I add now are names that appear frequently across multiple stories, and multiple times in stories. For example, I added Cori “Coco” Gauff to our terms list, as she became a very popular name very quickly due to her performance at Wimbledon.

I have said this before, and I will say it again: it is so cool being a historian and working with real-time, relevant information. More often than not, the material I work with is around 200 years old. To be using digital methods to play with information as it comes out is really cool premise for me.

Getting My Hands Dirty.

This week, I actually got a Python coding assignment: web scraping. Web scraping is something that I have heard so much about, and yet have never had the opportunity to learn how to do.

In theory, web scraping entails grabbing certain elements of an HTML page that contain information you want. For this assignment, we were looking for content titles, their live URLs, the tags or elements that we applied to the content, the word count, and the body text of the content. Essentially all of the important stuff.

Well, after a lot of trial and error, investigating the HTML content to find the appropriate tags to call, scanning coding forums for guidance when I got stuck (thanks, StackOverflow), and surprisingly minimal hair-pulling, I managed to put together a Python script that pulled all of these elements from the HTML page and saved them to a valid XML file. I was able to do this with one caveat: the HTML page had to be saved to my local machine first. I spent the next few days after writing the script to try and scrape the content from the live site. However, because the content was so embedded in JavaScript, as well as behind a password-protected interface, there was only so much I could do. While I managed to get past the password wall, I could not get all of the content I needed for the scrape. My boss said that was fine, that we would have no issues just saving the HTML page first, but something tells me I will want to revisit that code later on in the summer to try and figure out how to make it work.

As for our intern programming for this week, this week we were immersed in volunteering. Warner Media strongly advocates for its employees to go out into the world and do good things. For us interns, we had two different opportunities to give back: the first was a lunch hour with local high school students who were interested in joining the media industry, and the second was a meal-packing session with Open Hand Atlanta. I chose to partake in both events.

The lunch was honestly so fun. The interns partnered up and were given a group of five high schoolers to just sit and talk with over sandwiches. It was inspiring to listen to their stories and learn what they wanted to do with their lives. We also got the opportunity to discuss our current positions with them, as well as answer any questions that they had. I felt like I put on my New Student Enrollment hat for a bit, particularly when they started asking questions about college in general. What majors they should consider, why we chose our respective schools, all the details eager high schoolers want to know about college. It was wonderful.

The meal-packing event was a great bonding experience for those of us who went. Open Hand Atlanta has an extraordinary mission of serving those in the Atlanta area who are unable to get out and obtain their own groceries due to age, disability, or other factors. We spent a three hour shift packing healthy meals containing things like chicken salad, quinoa, and vegetable soup. It was a great way to get out of the office and help people within our Atlanta community.