CAR Conference Blog

2012: The Year in CAR

IRE executive director Mark Horvit and training director Megan Luther presented the Year in Car yesterday, highlighting data-driven journalism from across the country in 2012 and what can be learne from them. Here's their list:

California Watch: Broken Shield

  • FINDINGS: Exposed flaws in the way a special state police force handles crimes against the developmentally disabled.
  • Abuse cases rose 43 percent while patient population decreased 12 percent.
  • DATA: Inspection, salary
  • RESULTS: Triggered new laws, a criminal investigation and staff retraining


The Seattle Times: Glamour Beasts, the dark side of captivity

  • Findings: Zoos’ efforts to preserve elephants have failed with infant mortality almost triple the rate in the  wild
  • Zoo deaths outstripped births 2-to-1
  • DATA: Custom database of ownership data and studbooks


The Center for Public Integrity: Cracking the codes

  • FINDINGS: Thousands of medical professionals have billed Medicare at progressively higher rates over a decade’s time, costing taxpayers at least $11 billion in inflated charges.
  • A significant portion of the added charges is likely due to “upcoding” — charging for more extensive and costly services than actually delivered.
  • Upcoding is facilitated by abuse of Medicare billing codes that reflect the range of care delivered and the time it takes. Many doctors have steadily billed the higher-level — and more lucrative — codes, while spurning those that pay less.
  • DATA: Medicare claims data obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • 5 percent sample of national Medicare Part B data that contain claims for medical procedures, such as doctor office visits and emergency room procedures


The Tampa Bay Times: Stand your ground

  • FINDINGS: Florida's "stand your ground" law is being used to free gang  members involved in shootouts drug  dealers beefing with clients and people  who shot their victim in the back.
  • DATA: Built an interactive database using newspaper reports, court records and documents obtained from prosecutors and defense attorneys to compile a partial list of self-defense cases in Florida since 2005.


NBC Bay Area: Large firms land small business contracts

  • FINDINGS: At least 24 large companies since 2009 either based or with major offices in the Bay Area received at least 299 contracts labeled “small business” totaling $77 million.
  • DATA: Federal Procurement Data System


Los Angeles Times: Dispatch lag slows LAFD call response

  • FINDINGS: Fire Department falls short of the standard that rescue units be alerted within one minute on 90% of 911 calls
  • In the more than 250,000 medical dispatches last year, the department took 75% longer, on average, than the national standard
  • DATA: Fire Department dispatch data


ProPublica and the Washington Post: Presidential pardons heavily favor whites

  • FINDINGS: White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities.
  • Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president's ultimate act of mercy
  • DATA: denied and approved pardons from Office of the Pardon Attorney inside the Justice Department, various public records for demographics


The New York Times: For horse and jockey, risks vary by state

  • FINDINGS: showed an industry still mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation and a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than in most of the world. More than 3,000 horses died during racing or training from 2009-11 according to a New York Times survey of 29 racing states.
  • DATA: The Times purchased data from more than 150,000 races, along with injury reports, drug test results. The paper surveyed 29 racing states


NYC lags in granting relief to illegal immigrants

  • FINDINGS:  Out of a backlog of 42,875 cases, only 583 have been closed due to prosecutorial discretion-  a rate of about 1.4 percent, less than half the rate of cases that have been closed nationally.
  • In addition, the backlog before a case gets heard now averages more than a year and a half, an increase of 44 days from the 2011 fiscal year to 2012.  Once the case starts it now averages more than two years to complete, an increase of 100 days from 2011 to 2012
  • DATA: Syracuse University TRAC immigration data


Reuters: Income Inequality

  • FINDINGS: Income inequality has increased in 49 of 50 states since 1989
  • The poverty rate increased in 43 states, most sharply in Nevada
  • DATA: Census and Current Population Survey from US Census


Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Cheating our children

  • FINDINGS: About 200 school districts around the country had high concentrations of suspect test scores that follow a pattern of both unusually high and unusually low scores similar to Atlanta. For these school systems, the odds of so many suspicious score changes occurring in a single district due to chance alone were extraordinarily low — ranging from 1 in 1,000 to worse than 1 in 1 trillion
  • DATA: Reading and math test results from all 50 states and DC for all years for grades 3 through 8


WisconsinWatch: Walker’s official work time declines as national fame grows

  • FINDINGS: As national fame grew, Walker’s official time declined
  • Walker received contributions from employees or political action committees at more than half of the 130-plus companies that appear in his official calendars
  • DATA: Created a database of the more than 4,400 entries in Walker’s calendars from his first 13 months in office, campaign contributions


Sunlight Foundation: Capitol Words

  • FINDINGS: Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level
  • All these analyses use the Flesch-Kincaid test, which produces the 'reads at a n-th grade level' terminology that is likely familiar to many readers. At its core, Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer words and longer sentences.
  • DATA: Congressional Record using Capital Words
  • Check out your Congressperson


Chicago Tribune: F in attendance for city schools

  • FINDINGS: Nearly 32,000 K-8 grade students — or roughly 1 in 8 — missed four weeks or more of class during the 2010-11 year.
  • The paper found striking racial disparities in elementary attendance. Youth with learning and emotional disabilities also missed far more school.
  • DATA: Internal student-level attendance data from the Chicago Public Schools


The Wall Street Journal: What they know

  • FINDINGS: some apps seek the email addresses, current location and sexual preference, religious and political leanings, not only of app users but also of their Facebook friends.
  • Recorded permissions and analyzed 100 of the most used applications that connect to Facebook’s social-networking platform to see what data they sought from people.
  • Interactive Graphic


The Seattle Times: Methadone and the politics of pain

  • FINDINGS: Methadone overdoses concentrated in poor areas. State steering Medicaid patients to Methadone, which is cheap
  • DATA: death certificates, hospitalization records and poverty data


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hundreds of assault cases misreported

  • FINDINGS: More than 500 incidents-beatings, stabbings, child abuse cases- since 2009 were misreported to the FBI as minor assaults and not included in the city's violent crime rate.
  • DATA: case management data from the Milwaukee County district attorney's office (includes every criminal case referred to prosecutors by law enforcement), crime incident data reported by the Milwaukee Police Department to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance


Inside Climate News: Few Oil Pipeline Spills Detected by Much-Touted Technology

  • FINDINGS: In ten years, remote sensors detected only 5 percent of the nation's pipeline spills, the general public reported 22 percent and pipeline company employees at the scenes of accidents reported 62 percent
  • DATA: Decade of data from Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).


MLive: At GVSU, it's not always advanced courses that students struggle with most

  • FINDINGS: Government and Politics of Russia and Eastern Europe, had a cumulative GPA of 2.0 – the lowest of any undergraduate course taught at GVSU between 2002 and 2012
  • Average GPA for all courses was 3.0. A dozen courses – out of more than 2,100 – had a cumulative grade point average between 2.0 and 2.3. Half were in engineering and psychology.
  • DATA: 64,000 grade reports from Grand Valley State University


The Desert Sun: Out of Bounds

  • FINDINGS: More than 30 felony cases in the last four years. Leadership repeatedly failed to enforce student athlete policies and rhetoric of having a zero tolerance policy
  • DATA: Compared football rosters with criminal court data


Reuters: Chesapeake Land Grab

  • FINDINGS: Since January 2005, the Texas has rejected just five of Chesapeake's 1,628 requests for fracking property without permission or payment.
  • DATA: Texas Railroad Commission data, investment research from Morningstar Inc.


California Watch: Decoding Prime

  • FINDINGS: Hospital Chain, Prime Healthcare Services, increased its Medicare reimbursements, profits by classifying patients as suffering from rare medical conditions
  • FINDINGS: Lenders failed to pay millions in property taxes including one lender that owed $3 million
  • DATA: Built a database with foreclosures, property liens, ownership
  • DATA: 51 million Medicare patient records, statewide health and planning development unidentifiable patient records


WSBTV Banks that foreclosed on Georgians owe taxpayers millions

  • FINDINGS: Lenders failed to pay millions in property taxes including one lender that owed $3 million
  • DATA: Built a database with foreclosures, property liens, ownership

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