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3 tips for quick-turn broadcast investigations

By Bianca Brown 

One day. Sometimes that's all the time you have to sift through data and turn around an accurate story.

During the "Broadcast: Viz, quick hits and the data you need" panel, Jamie Grey, an assistant professor of radio and television journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism; Andy Pierrotti, an investigative reporter with KVUE News in Austin; and Tisha Thompson, an investigative reporter at WRC-TV NBC4 in Washington, offered some easy ways to turn spreadsheets of data into a 90-second package.


Have a stockpile of data

There are some spreadsheets we should all have on hand. Keep a folder with all of the salaries of government officials in your area. That way, the next time your local official misuses taxpayer dollars, you can show the difference between how much he is making and how much he is spending. Have the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) websites bookmarked on your computer. If there is ever a plane crash in your area, the sites have easy search tools that allow you to see plane crashes that have happened in your state in the past.



View Jamie Grey's presentation for "Broadcast: Viz, quick hits and the data you need."

Save stories for a rainy day

We all have times when a story just doesn't work out. You made the right calls and put in the right FOIA requests, but your story just doesn't come together in time. That's why it's a good idea to have some easy stories saved for that rainy day. Every TV station has some stories in common. Journalists receive hundreds of calls about lemon cars and bad apartments. Look up some quick statistics about certain makes or models of cars. Do lemon cars frequently come from a certain dealership in your area? Find ways to make a unique story out of this issue. For a quick story on bad apartments, request some data on city code violations in your area.


Every line of data has a story, and every story has data

Look at the stories of people in your area and find data on them. Does your area have a large immigrant community? If there's a big car crash, see if wrecks are common at that intersection. If you look in the right places, you'll find data to strengthen any story.


Bianca Brown is a 2015 CAR Conference Knight Scholar and a senior broadcast journalism major at Howard University. She is an Emma Bowen Foundation scholar and current intern for CBS News in Washington, D.C.

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