IRE News : October 2012

Behind The Story: Investigating credit report errors

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch

When Jill Riepenhoff and Mike Wagner began researching credit report errors in 2010, virtually everyone they spoke with knew someone who had been affected.  Although the industry lacks an official outlet for consumers to dispute credit claims, the reporters’ nationwide FOIA requests returned nearly 28,000 files from the Federal Trade Commission and an additional 2,000 files from attorneys general in 24 states.  In 2012, they began using the data to create their “Credit Scars” series for The Columbus Dispatch.

After receiving the initial 28,000 complaint files from the FTC, Riepenhoff and Wagner ...

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Hurricane Sandy: How data journalists spread information about the storm

Google Crisis Response created this interactive map showing weather, emergency shelters and power authorities.

As the East cost braced for Hurricane Sandy, data journalists across the country were working in realtime to spread the news. We gathered some of the interesting interactive coverage and data visualizations we found from around the web. Have a suggestion for our list? Send it to or tweet us @IRE_NICAR.

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CAR through the ages

There's been talk of a couple books IRE put out back in the early 90's titled 101 (and later 100) Computer-assisted reporting stories.

Sadly, there's only one copy of each here at the home office, both of which we'd like to keep for our archives. However, all of the story questionnaires that are featured in the books are now available online, for free, to all members. To search the archives of these old CAR stories, as well as most of the 25,000 plus other stories in our library, go here.


With one week left before Philip Meyer deadline, a look at past winners

There is only one more week until the Nov. 2 postmark deadline for the Philip Meyer contest, and we want to see your work.

The Philip Meyer Journalism Award recognizes stories that incorporate survey research, probabilities and other social science tools in creative ways that lead to journalism vital to the community.

Established in 2005, the awards were created to honor Philip Meyer’s pioneering efforts to utilize social science research methods to foster better journalism.

 As final applications are readied for this year's contest, take a look at previous winners.



Murder Mysteries,” Scripps Howard News ...

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Behind The Story: Analyzing and mapping salary data for small-town mayors

In August, reporter Kate Martin of the Skagit Valley Herald analyzed salary data for mayors across Washington state and ended up with a story about mayors from small towns in her coverage area -- Mount Vernon and Anacortes -- who had salaries on par with mayors from cities several times larger. In reporting the story, Martin first had to gather the data and then reconcile it with the realities of small-town civic duties.

The idea for the story arose through her typical reporting practices: each year, she requests salary data for all of the agencies that the Skagit Valley Herald covers.

“I ...

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OSHA Workplace Safety data updated at NICAR Data Library

The Workplace Safety database from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has just been updated in the NICAR Database Library.


This ten-table database holds information on workplace inspections performed by both federal and state OSHA offices in all states and U.S. territories, from 1972 to Oct 2011 – just under 4 million records.

OSHA classifies businesses by their location, name and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), making it possible to analyze inspections, violations and accidents involving a certain occupation or those in a given region or city. The data also include details on the ...

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IRE launches data journalism fund after donation from Google Ideas

Update: application deadline has been extended to Nov. 16. 

Investigative Reporters and Editors is launching a new fund that will provide crucial support for journalists working on data projects. The fund will allow more news organizations or individual journalists to work on investigative projects that involve data analysis.  IRE will award grants thanks to a $50,000 donation from Google Ideas. Within that pool, there is no minimum or maximum amount for each grant.

The fund has two broad priorities:

  • A specific investigative project will result from the grant
  • A news organization will be better equipped to do future data ...
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Behind the Story: The San Diego port, altered public records and interactive presentation

San Diego’s Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is home to a rare deep water port that’s valuable to the maritime industry, but for the last ten years, developers have argued that the area should be transformed into an entertainment district.  When two businessmen responsible for running the U-T San Diego began promoting the stadium, Brooke Williams of along with reporters from KPBS San Diego decided to investigate.  Their series “Port Authority:  What’s a Port Worth, Anyway?” compiles reporting, documents, interactive pieces, and video to show the plans and potential effects the changes would have on San ...

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Enter the Philip Meyer contest for a chance to win $500

There are only a couple more weeks until the postmark deadline (Nov. 2) of the Philip Meyer contest and we want to see your work!

Three awards are given annually — a first, second and third place — to recognize the best work using techniques that are part of precision journalism, computer-assisted reporting and social science research. The awards are: $500 for first, $300 for second, and $200 for third.

To view last year's winners, go here. For details on how to enter go here.

Behind the Story: Investigating a building collapse, creating an interactive timeline

A normal day on the local government beat became two months of investigating for Lansing State Journal reporter Lindsay VanHulle.  After a portion of the residential St. Anne Lofts building collapsed in East Lansing, Mich., VanHulle discovered problems in the city’s building code and development programs.  Prior to the building’s collapse, these problems allowed unpermitted construction to continue for months.  

VanHulle’s findings were released in an interactive timeline for the Lansing State Journal in September.  Shortly before the article was published, East Lansing’s code enforcement and planning departments were restructured in an effort to improve communication ...

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