How journalists can distill wide, complicated data

By Dariya Tsyrenzhapova How do journalists make sense out of the abundance of data out there? Are medians and averages actually accurate representations of reality? What are the best ways to improve your storytelling with numbers? Larry Fenn, a data journalist with the Associated Press, Paul Overberg with the Wall Street Journal and Holly Hacker…

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Learn to write code, build a web scraper at our September workshop

IRE and the University of Missouri Journalism School are offering a special workshop Sept. 4-7 that will introduce the basics of newsroom programming by teaching how to build one of the simplest but most useful tools in a data journalist’s toolbox: a web scraper designed to automate the downloading of data. The workshop will also…

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Dealing with inaccessible data and finding a needle in a million haystacks

By Jordan Gass-Poore’ Amanda Zamora of ProPublica answers questions during a panel on how to build a thorough data-based investigation with inaccessible, incomprehensible, and indeterminate data. Photo: Travis Hartman. Leading journalism professionals spoke about the search for finding meaning in messy data during Thursday morning’s session “Finding the needles in a million haystacks: How to build…

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Introducing ninth beat book: Investigating Religion

IRE is proud to offer the ninth title in the beat book series, Investigating Religion: An Investigative Reporter’s Guide by Debra L. Mason and Amy B. White. Investigating Religion includes chapters on what public records you can request, finding sources and knowing which are credible and best practices on the religion beat. To order a copy, click here.…

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Integrity checks and simple data cleaning – the art of doubt

There is a saying about software engineering that could easily be applied to formatting data. The truism goes something like, “it’s like looking for black cats in a dark room that has no cats in it.” And then, someone yells, ‘I got one!’” Well, Joe Kokenge of ProPublica is practicing animal control. His presentation on…

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Behind the Story: The big business of ‘green’ buildings and LEED certification

Can a 50-story Las Vegas hotel be environmentally-friendly?  This is the question USA Today reporter Tom Frank sought to answer when he began reporting on the increase in construction of so-called environmentally friendly buildings.  Through his investigation, Frank found that green commercial construction has increased.  Non-profits are behind the movement, but few have assessed the…

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SBA disaster loan data updated in NICAR Database Library

In the wake of a disaster, individuals and business owners are often left with severely damaged property. Many turn for help to the Small Business Administration, which approves low-interest loans to help rebuild. For declared disasters in 2011 alone, the Small Business Administration approved over $1 billion in loans. NICAR has updated the SBA database of these loans,…

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HMDA data updated in the Database Library

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data have just been updated in the NICAR Database Library — and we’ll help you turn it into a story. WHAT’S IN IT?This Act requires all banks, savings and loans, savings banks and credit unions with assets of more than $33 million and offices in metropolitan areas to report…

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Document Cloud, Overview help AP investigate vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s record

Jack Gillum of The Associated Press recently published a story showing that vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan has relied on many of the programs he’s criticized and suggested cutting. The report wouldn’t have been possible without tools like DocumentCloud and Overview, Gillum said in a post on the Overview project’s website. DocumentCloud enabled Gillum to analyze, annotate…

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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,…

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