Tags : data

How to survive your first CAR story

By Jennifer Johnson, The Grand Forks Herald

Spreadsheet programs like Excel have always intimidated me. Sure, I dabbled in them a few times. I pulled up pre-formatted sheets and leafed through them. I used basic formulas and figured out percentages. And I also attended a two-day IRE training with fellow reporters at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, where I'm the education reporter.

Anyone with experience will tell you that the only way to learn a program is by consistent use. Our newsroom had the training in February and by the time I started the project in earnest last ...

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How to use Helium Scraper to grab data online

South Dakota lobbyist database

We've all visited websites that contain valuable information we want to analyze, such as inspection reports, lobbying expenditures, or a list of jail inmates. We’re glad those agencies have made this information available, but as data journalists it doesn’t do us much good locked in HTML: We can’t sort, filter, sum or join it to other data in this format.

What we want to see is the DOWNLOAD button, and while that’s catching on (at both local and federal levels), most of the time downloading is not an option.

So how ...

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The road to health is paved with good data

This was originally published on the ProPublica Nerd Blog.

By Ryann Grochowski Jones, ProPublica

I think I’m a decent arbiter of people’s appreciation of data. I worked at IRE’s data library as a grad student and I’ve attended four consecutive NICAR conferences. At ProPublica, I work with complex data sets every day. I help run our data store, so I can see how excited data-savvy reporters can get when working with great data sets.  So you’ll forgive me if I viewed attending Health Datapalooza with a small bit of skepticism.  Surely, I thought, a bunch ...

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How Mike Soraghan built an oil spills database

See this post and more like it at NICAR talk, our data blog: ire.org/nicar

Mike Soraghan is an oil and gas reporter at EnergyWire (an arm of E&E Publishing) and former NICAR bootcamper from 2013. For those of you who have been to bootcamp, you remember Open Lab, held (almost) every night after class wraps up for the day. Even back then, Mike was toiling over some nasty-looking data on oil spills.

Last month EnergyWire published Mike's story about smaller oil spills, the kind of spills that don't usually make it into the news but ...

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How to use free tools to create and display online polls

Online polls provide quick and easy ways to invite audience engagement in stories. The only problem is that few polling tools are ideal; either they lack flexibility, or they just don't look very nice.

Take PollDaddy. It's great at polls, but you're only allowed one question per poll (a survey allows more questions, but displaying the results isn't as nice). You also need a corporate account to get a lot of the options that make it attractive, and not all publications have the budget for it.

Google Forms also allows multiple-question polling, but once again the ...

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Records shed light on lax landlords, broken housing code system

The deaths of a young couple and a 4-year-old child in a Christmas Eve fire exposed significant problems with landlords renting dilapidated and dangerous properties in Columbus, Ohio.

In the immediate aftermath, city officials – acting on public outcry – made promises to fix its broken housing code system. But when the outcry died, so did those promises, prompting The Columbus Dispatch’s “Legacy of Neglect” series.

The four-day series produced such overwhelming results that the mayor, other city officials and their housing code enforcement unit immediately declared war on slumlords who, our reporting found, regularly rented houses with unsafe electrical systems ...

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Behind the Story: How the Los Angeles Times turned an anonymous tip into a front-page story

Paige St. John

No such records exist. That’s the message Paige St. John received when she requested audit records on the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s GPS monitoring program.

Despite the rocky start, the Los Angeles Times reporter went on to break the story about trivial alerts from GPS monitors overwhelming probation officers in LA County. Officers had been using the monitors to track thousands of felons moved out of California prisons due to overcrowding. Receiving as many as 1,000 alerts a day, officers had come to frequently disregard the notices.

St. John began her investigation back ...

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Using new nonprofit law center, Hawaii’s Civil Beat wins access to police misconduct records

In the flood of paperwork that made its way each year to the Hawaii legislature, a shocking statistic slipped under the radar: About once a week the Honolulu Police Department was suspending or firing an officer for misconduct.

Often the offenses were serious – abusing suspects, lying to federal investigators, tipping off drug dealers. And for nearly two decades the information was kept quiet. Legislators paid little attention to the annual reports. Officers who resigned or got suspended for misconduct were shielded by a political loophole in the state’s public records law. Paperwork documenting the wrongdoing was often destroyed.

Civil ...

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A fight for newborn screening data across the country

By Ellen Gabler

Since June, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been fighting for important data that affects babies born in every state and the District of Columbia.

Data we’ve received so far was the backbone to this investigation into delays in the nation’s newborn screening programs and other related stories. But about two dozen states and the District of Columbia won’t release meaningful information. (Check our interactive to see which states are in the doghouse.) 

Here’s why it matters: Nearly every baby born in the U.S. has blood collected shortly after birth to screen for ...

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