CAR Conference Blog

2014 NICAR conference highlights data journalism’s past, present and future

"When I first attended the annual conference of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) in 2012, it was as a speaker," writes Alexander Howard, a Tow Fellow at Columbia Journalism School's center for digital journalism innovation. 

"I was there to give a short talk about new data coming from the open governent movement. While it went well, and, somewhat remarkably, the presentation I used has over 10,000 views on Slideshare, I feel somewhat embarrassed about it in retrospect, given what I have learned about the NICAR community in 2012 and in the years since. This tribe of ...

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2014 CAR Conference audio available online

Couldn't make it to all of the sessions on your NICAR Conference wish list? We've got audio from nearly every panel and session. Full-length recordings are only available to IRE members. Some short audio clips will be made available to the public using Soundcloud.

To access conference audio, log in to IRE website and go to the CAR Conference schedule page. Find the session you'd like to listen to and click through to the landing page. If you don't remember the name or date of the session, try using the speakers page to look up a ...

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How to use inspection data to drive your stories

By Brittany Collins

Michael Pell, a reporter on the Reuters data team in New York, and Joce Sterman, an investigative reporter for WMAR-Baltimore, showed journalists at the 2014 CAR Conference how to mine inspection reports for data.

Several departments hold inspection documents, Sterman said.

  • Local health departments keep inspection files on restaurants, schools, airport facilities, school cafeterias and convenience stores.
  • State departments of labor, license and regulation keep documents on elevators, amusement park rides, bounce houses and railroad companies.
  • State departments of education keep records on daycare facilities and childcare.

Pell suggested reporters look for data in several places:

  • Inspector ...
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Hacks or Hackers?

By Kimberly Fields

Tor Ekeland, an attorney who represents defendants in federal prosecutions under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act; Scott Klein, senior editor of news applications at ProPublica; and Isaac Wolf, a national reporter for Scripps News, talked about the ethical issues surrounding web scraping during the session “Hacks or Hackers?

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Assume you are going to be challenged: Wolf recently was threatened under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) after he and his news team scrapped 170,000 files, finding a data breach and fraudulent signatures. CFAA prohibits unauthorized access to protected computers ...
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Tips for investigating racial inequality

By Mariya Moseley

Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica; Lawrence Lanahan, an independent journalist working in Baltimore; and Steve Doig, Arizona State University, shared tips and resources for investigating racial inequality during a session at the 2014 CAR Conference in Baltimore.

Lanahan, who launched a year-long multimedia examination of regional inequality, offered three steps for beginning the investigation process:

  • Get data on the disparities 
  • Find policies and practices driving racial gaps
  • Identify and learn the laws and regulations designed to hold people accountable for those policies and practices

Racial inequality extends beyond housing, unemployment and incarceration rates. Hannah-Jones suggested journalists look for disparities ...

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FERPA Frustrations: How to outmaneuver university officials to get the info you need

By Donovan Harrell

Three journalists offered advice to students struggling with public records requests during a brown bag session at the 2014 CAR Conference.

Student attendees talked about attempts to outmaneuver their respective universities, which had been denying public records requests using laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“FERPA has become the thought police,” said Jill Riepenhoff, a projects reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. “If they think they know what you’re after, they can deny it because they think that would somehow lead ...

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Data Deep Dives: What we can learn from 'Deadly Delays' and other powerful projects

By Ariana Giorgi

One of the best ways to start your own data story is to learn what worked – or didn’t work – for other journalists. Three pros took NICAR attendees behind their data-driven projects as part of “Data Deep Dives.”

 

Speeding Cops | John Maines, Sun Sentinel

John Maines presented his story on off-duty police officers who were speeding on their way home from work. The story was published as a three-part series focusing on the problem, the victims, and the police response. Maines discussed how his team used their own GPS data along with location data from the police ...

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#NICAR14 in sketches

If you're following Emily DeMarco (@eademarco), of PublicSource, on Twitter, you know she sketched her way through the 2014 CAR Conference. We turned her visual depiction of #NICAR14 into a Storify.

Here are a few of our favorite cartoons:

 

 

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A quick trip through data in the sciences

By Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Policy fellows from the American Association for the Advancement of Science took the audience on a tour of techniques they use in their work and presented some tips on how to interact better with experts in various scientific fields during the Saturday session, "A quick trip through data in the sciences."

Carolyn Lauzon presented a problem she encountered making sense of brain scan data as a doctoral researcher in medical imaging. "The question is, is the data good?" she said. "The answer is boxplots!"

Boxplots show the median, mean and spread of the data in a sample ...

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