Tags : Tools

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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One week left to pre-register for IRE Conference

There's one week left to get the early registration rate for the 2013 IRE Conference. Join us from June 20-23 in San Antonio, and you'll find panels full of this year's Pulitzer and IRE award winners, new tools for investigative journalism, tips for investigating on your beat and much more. Early registration ends on June 5.

Dozens of this year's major award winners will speak at the conference, including several Pulitzer Prize winners, duPont winners and IRE Medal winners:

  • Reporters from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who won the Pulitzer Prize for public service after reporting ...
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Sunlight Foundation 'Churnalism' tool tests journalism against press releases, Wikipedia

The Sunlight Foundation  released a new "journalistic accountability" tool today, wryly named "Churnalism". It tells you if an author was "churning" out somebody else's material by checking journalistic text against a database of press releases. To the dismay of plagiarists and lazy reporters alike, it even checks against Wikipedia.

The site provides a few examples. Enter this story from CBS News, for instance, about a mother who found the chemical BPA was linked to her son’s thyroid problems, and churnalism will provide you this press release that that the CBS article sources, and highlights the portions of text ...

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Mobile apps for investigative journalists

Journalists can now carry many of the essential reporting tools -- camera, voice recorder, notepad, phone, police scanner -- with them in one hand-held device. But that same device can carry a police scanner, a document scanner, a photo editor, a video camera and a flight tracker. You can record audio and take time-stamped notes. You can do calculations and legal research on the fly with easy searches. If stuck in the field, you can type a story on your phone that automatically syncs to a folder on a newsroom computer.

There are countless mobile apps that can help the work of ...

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This Valentine's Day, background your date using public records

Don't let love get in the way of investigating. The old saying in journalism goes something like "if your mother says she loves you, check it out,” and if that's true for your mother then it's certainly true for your Valentine's Day date. So let's begin our walk through of how to make use of publicly available information to background your date.

First, checking property records, criminal records and civil filings is going to be much faster if you have access to Nexis. But if you don’t, you can still navigate your way to ...

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CAR Tool: ATLAS for qualitative data

In most computer-assisted reporting efforts, journalists crunch data that’s stored in columns and rows. But what if your data is qualitative and stored as text, or other similar formats, and you want to hunt for relationships among words or concepts?

That’s when you want to turn to one of the computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) packages on the market. The CAQDAS packages were developed initially for sociologists and historians who, like journalists, regularly gather loads of documents and interview notes and turn them into articles or books. Many of these programs are quite sophisticated and immensely popular ...

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Free tools to tackle almost any task, from data wrangling to photo editing

By Chelsea Sheasley
@csheasley

What’s the best thing a reporter can tell their editor about new data tools? They’re F-R-E-E.

Anthony DeBarros, senior database editor at USA Today and Matt Stiles of NPR’s news applications team shared their top picks for the latest free tools at IRE 2012’s "Free tools panel."

“Free can be very, very good,” DeBarros said. “Sometimes it can be not so good because sometimes you get what you paid for.” Both speakers said the programs can be buggy, but many are also extremely powerful and offer essential data analysis tools.

DeBarros and ...

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Hack the Census

By Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
@AnnaBoikoW

"Hacking the Census" was a collection of lightning talks on tools, tricks and codes to hack the Census and American Community Survey, ranging from introductory to advanced.

Steve Doig, professor at Arizona State University, said the Census has information about people and households, of course, but there’s also info on business, education, foreign trade, and more. The McCormick SRI project gathered speakers and taped 17 lectures of 45 minutes where each expert addressed these different facets of the data.

Ron Campbell of The Orange County Register demonstrated how to use the New American FactFinder, the ...

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Back to school with data and documents

By Kyle Deas
Graduate student, University of Missouri

It’s that time of year again: the school supply aisles at your local stores are crammed with people; the summer heat is giving its last dying gasps; and education beat reporters across the country are being asked, for the second or fifth or fifteenth time, to write a back-to-school story.

Don’t despair. Whether you cover your local elementary school or a behemoth public university, IRE has ways for you to approach this year’s story from a different angle.

1. Follow the Money

Taxpayer money funds public education, but often ...

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Firefox extensions: A geek’s new best friend

It’s only a little more than two years since The Mozilla Foundation released Firefox 1.0. The new open-source browser on the block quickly became the new browser on the block, playing David to Internet Explorer’s Goliath. In January, Information Week reported that Internet research firm WebSideStory measured Firefox’s share of the browser market at 14 percent. That includes a large following within the computer-assisted reporting community. Users are attracted by the reputation Firefox quickly earned as more stable and secure than IE and loaded with features that IE didn’t have. What even sophisticated users may ...

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