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Data Deep Dives: What we can learn from 'Deadly Delays' and other powerful projects

By Ariana Giorgi

One of the best ways to start your own data story is to learn what worked – or didn’t work – for other journalists. Three pros took NICAR attendees behind their data-driven projects as part of “Data Deep Dives.”


Speeding Cops | John Maines, Sun Sentinel

John Maines presented his story on off-duty police officers who were speeding on their way home from work. The story was published as a three-part series focusing on the problem, the victims, and the police response. Maines discussed how his team used their own GPS data along with location data from the police department to find an officer’s average speed.

The area saw an 84 percent drop in the number of speeding cops after the series ran, he said.

Advice for NICARians: Always back up your work. It saved him when his computer hard drive crashed.


The Untold Story of America’s Mass Killings | Paul Overberg, USA TODAY

Paul Overberg talked about his team’s research and reporting on mass killings (defined as when four or more people are killed at the same time and place).

Overberg’s team started looking at FBI data when they realized it was filled with holes and false reports, finding later that, overall, the FBI data was only 61 percent accurate. USA TODAY challenged each case represented in the data.

Advice for NICARians:  “Pay attention to the process,” Overberg said. “Process becomes the product.”


Deadly Delays | Ellen Gabler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Deadly Delays” exposed processing failures in newborn screening programs. Gabler analyzed 3 million newborn blood tests from 31 states and found that thousands of hospitals were late sending blood samples to labs for screenings.

Advice for NICARians: Establish a methodology for your work, be persistent, and double-check your data. Also, don’t forget to tell a story. “You’re a journalist, not a researcher,” she said.

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