Not all data reporting needs to be a long-term project. Quick-hit queries are helpful for feeding the beast with substance, and they’re a great way for reporters new to computer-assisted reporting get used to the process.
The best advice, regardless of beat, is to develop what IRE Training Director Megan Luther calls an “arsenal.” This is a set of your go-to databases that you are likely to call on most often. Public employee compensation, crime reports, jail admissions, felony convictions, accidents, calls for service from local emergency services and voter rolls are all examples of databases that can serve you well when news breaks.
Once you’ve got that arsenal, don’t limit yourself to it, and be sure look at more than one list at a time. Continue to gather data for current stories you’re working on, and be sure to look for your subjects in your arsenal. You can also compare lists against each other to find stories in the overlap.
But whatever your arsenal includes, you’ve go to commit to it. “Your arsenal is going to be worthless if you don’t keep it updated,” Luther says.
For a lot more ideas about quick-hit stories and how to build your arsenal, check out the session slides at www.tiny.cc/onequery.