COMPUTER-ASSISTED REPORTING PROJECTS ON THE WEB

Journalism 772 and 472

Ira Chinoy

Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

This page: http://bit.ly/CAR_on_the_web

Archives of computer-assisted reporting projects

Investigative Reporters and Editors running  list of CAR projects 

The Scoop’s searchable database of CAR projects

Investigative Reporters and Editors: other links

IRE guide to the latest investigative work

IRE story library

IRE contests winners

Other contests:

Pulitzer Prize winners: Pulitzer archive has links to online versions of stories from recent years

Philip Meyer Journalism Awards (administered by NICAR and the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University)

Education Writers Association – Education Reporting Awards

Specialized sites for investigative projects:

Center for Public Integrity: Links to the center’s investigative projects

PBS site -- America’s Investigative Reports: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/air/

Other useful hubs of journalism links:

Trends in the Business, Technology and Practice of Journalism: Resources, Ira Chinoy

Ideas for visual display of data

Data visualization types:

“Periodic Table of Data Visualization Methods” from Visual-Literacy.org.

Data visualization projects from the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland.

Edward Tufte – guru for the visual display of data

Intelligent Designs; When information needs to be communicated, Edward Tufte demands both truth and beauty,” Stanford Magazine

Elemental Evidence

“Running the Numbers: An American Self Portrait” – an interesting collection of graphic illustrations of data.

“Visualization as a Reporting Tool,” Sarah Cohen - the value of graphics as tools for discovery in the reporting process, not just as elements  to illustrate a completed story.

Death and Taxes: A Visual Guide to Where Your Taxes Go – Poster from TheBudgetGraph.com

Projects with examples of the visual display of data

Campaign Finance:

Election 2008: Campaign Finance, The New York Times

Census:

Washington Post Census coverage

District of Columbia:

“Fatal Flaws,” The Washington Post, Dec. 3-6, 2000.

Interactive map

“Deadly Force,” The Washington Post, Nov. 15-19, 1999

Opening story with links to the rest: “D.C. Police Lead Nation in Shootings

Links to maps:

Shootings by D.C. police, 1994-1998

Shootings at vehicles: clickable map with details of cases

Shootings of unarmed civilians

Accidental discharges of police firearms

Beatings: clickable map with details

How the series was done: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/dcpolice/deadlyforce/police1_method.htm

A Decade of Deadly Mistakes,” The Washington Post, Sept. 9-12, 2001

Links to series graphics

Lifestyle:

“How Different Groups Spend Their Day,” The New York Times, July 31, 2009.

Celebrities

“Where the Stars Are: Paris Hilton” – The Los Angeles Times interactive database and map: celebrity mishaps and sightings

Related story: “Did Hilton Get Special Treatment?” The Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2007.  Story by Jack Leonard and Doug Smith (needs class login and password)

“Paris Hilton will end up serving more time behind bars than the vast majority of inmates sent to L.A. County Jail for similar offenses, according to a Times analysis of jail records.”

Graphic and data analysis by Doug Smith and Sandra Poindexter

Sports:

“Serena Williams's Professional Career,” The New York Times, August 19, 2007.

Stories ABOUT databases, database uses and data-related issues

Dirty data:

“Resurrected,’ but still wallowing in red tape; Government records incorrectly kill off thousands, and there’s no easy fix,” MSNBC and NBC News, Feb. 29, 2008

Projects using computer-assisted reporting and data analysis

See also: http://jclass.umd.edu/cars/772/STories_for_critiques.htm

Recent CAR projects by JOUR 772 & 472 alums:

Gabe Baird has a list here --http://www.gabrielbaird.com/Navigation/computer-assisted-reporting.html = -- of the data analysis projects he has done at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Work by Chris Landers at the Baltimore City Paper:

A map of properties owned by a Baltimore nonprofit community development corporation that filed for bankruptcy: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17696

A regular feature -- "What's the 311" - extracts interesting material from a database he keeps updated of calls to the city's complaint line. Here are some of the offerings:

Animal nuisance calls: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=16791

Blighted properties: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17182

Complaints about city workers: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=16869

Parking complaints: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=16914

A story and map evaluated a law sought by the Baltimore City Council that would forbid registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of an accredited school or full-time daycare center. When Chris mapped the locations of these areas and the proposed restricted zones around them, the latter turned out to cover most of the city -- an important fact that had not been part of the discussion about this proposal. The link is here: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17180

Chris generated a map - http://citypaper.com/clubs/beermap/default.asp - to go with a feature and database generated in a “City Paper I-Team” quest for the coldest beer in Baltimore, titled “Stay Frosty” – http://citypaper.com/special/story.asp?id=18088 [of only academic interest here, of course, for its application of computer-assisted reporting to an unorthodox subject…]

Chris conceived of and helped create a map of bike routes in Baltimore that allows users to post comments – pro and con – about notable features: http://www.citypaper.com/news/bikes/map.asp

“Numbers On Welfare See Sharp Increase,” Sara Murray, The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2009.

"Florida's welfare rolls just keep growing,” by Steven Overly, St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 1, 2009

“GM tax break package is state's biggest since '93,” Steven Overly, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Posted online July 29, 2008.

Sikh Political Engagement Surges in Presidential Elections,” by Anju Kaur, Sikh News Network, March 1, 2008.

Fast Lane” a project on speeding by the Frederick News Post, with data analysis by Megan Eckstein, and stories including “Welcome to the Fast Lane,” July 26, 2010.

“Cleveland Police Always Justify Using Force,” Gabriel Baird, Cleveland Plan Dealer, Jan. 14, 2007. Links: Page 1 and Page 6 [class logon and password needed to access these.]

Reporting by Rema Nagarajan, a reporter for The Times of India and 2005-2006 Humphrey Fellow:

Chennai roads deadliest in country,” April 21, 2008.

Sidebar: “Chennai’s Killer Roads

TN has most elderly living alone,” April 28, 2008

English gains as learning medium,” May 19, 2008. Link to graphic

Kannadigas outnumber Malayalis 2:1 in Tamil Nadu,” April 15, 2008

“In Rajasthan, death prefers young girls,” Sept. 10, 2007 – “Nearly half of all female deaths in rural Rajasthan are of girls below the age of 20.... In short, a girl born in a Rajasthan village will have to be very lucky to grow up, marry, bear children — things that are taken fairly for granted in the modern world.”

“Not Bihar, it's UP all the way in civil services,” June 4, 2007 – “Popular perception is that Biharis dominate the civil services. However, it is Bihar's neighbour, Uttar Pradesh that dominates the civil services year after year.”

Story about data analysis by CAR class alum: “Google Unveils New Tool To Dig for Public Data,” Kim Hart, The Washington Post, April 29, 2009.

Capital News Service:

Check the page of links – http://jclass.umd.edu/cars/772/StoriesOnTheWeb-CNSprojects.htm  – to dozens of computer-assisted reporting and data-analysis projects projects by University of Maryland students. These stories and packages ran on the Capital News Service wire, which is operated by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and staffed by students. Here’s a sampling of what you will find on that page:

Art: State Archives' Budget Struggles Leaves Tattered Treasures (2011)

Boating:

“Deep Creek Lake Rivals Ocean City for Most Recreational Boating Accidents” (2007)

“Boating Police Continue O.C. Crackdown” (2007)

Boating safety enforcement (2002)

Boating safety enforcement (2008)

Bridges: 1995 CNS bridge project and 2003 report and list of troubled bridges

Business: Large-scale layoffs by Maryland businesses

Charities: Charities’ fundraising

Consumer affairs: Complaints focus on cell phone companies (2005)

Crime:

Carjackings (2004) and chart

Carjackings (2005)

Crime: More Than 1,500 Homicides Grow Cold in Prince George's County (2011) and sidebar on methods

Education: Schools and race

Elevators: Elevator inspections and chart

Employment: Unpaid wages

Environment:

High Mercury Levels in Lake Lariat Fish (with map) (2011)

Leaking underground oil storage tanks (2005)

Large increase in sewage overflows in Maryland (by Dan Wilcock – finalist for 2003 IRE award)

Food inspections: Egg inspections and inpsectors

Foster care: Children returned to abusive homes

Lawyers: Lawyer discipline (by Anju Kaur – finalist for 2007 IRE award)

Liquor sales: Liquor stores in low-income neighborhoods

Lobbyists: Disclosure enforcement

Maryland tax audits: Most-audited ZIP code and audits by ZIP code

Nursing homes: State slow to correct most severe problems

Politics:

Dubious “maverick” and “bipartisan” labels in state race (2008)

Politician sticks to maverick record (2008)

Prisons:

Violence behind bars (2007)

Prisons and race (2008)

Railroads: Train accidents in Maryland (2005)

Patents: Trends in patents awarded to Maryland inventors

Vehicle emissions: Cars most prone to fail emissions tests (2003)

Demographics:

Putting a human face on demographics: Children in poverty

“The Black Belt: Alabama’s Third World,” The Birmingham News, 2002-2003 (various dates): A year-long series on the problems of Alabama's Black Belt.  “Nowhere in Alabama do children and families face more hardship than in the 12 counties that make up Alabama's Black Belt. Children in towns such as Orrville in Dallas County begin life at such a disadvantage that they seldom catch up.”

“From Birth, hardships begin assault,” July 28, 2002: One of the stories that put a human face on the numbers.

“Life is short, prosperity is long gone,” May 12, 2002:

“The state's Black Belt, sweeping across south-central Alabama with a history as rich and dark as the soil it is named for, is so stark a contrast to Birmingham and north Alabama that it stands out like a wound…A person growing up in Wilcox County can expect to live about 69 years if he stays put in the Black Belt. That's a shorter life span than one could expect in Sri Lanka, Iran or Mexico, and a full six years less than a resident of Birmingham's suburban Shelby County.”

“The Castaway Children: The Hidden Faces of Poverty,” Barbara Walsh, The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Dec.14-18, 2003. [expired link]

A “five-part series that continues a three-year examination … of the challenges and issues children and teens face in Maine…. The lives of impoverished children in Maine's poorest counties are largely unnoticed, even though Maine has one of the nation's highest poverty rates. Since 2002, the number of children on welfare rose by 30 percent.”

Education:

The Education Writers Association site has links to recent reporting projects.

“Poor schools' TAKS surges raise cheating questions,” Benton and Holly Hacker, Dallas Morning News, [expired link]

An analysis of school performance tests uncovers evidence of cheating orchestrated by educators.

“Teachers who fail; A survey of certification-test scores yields alarming results,” Chris Davis and Matthew Doig, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Dec. 12, 2004.

“In college, first year is by far the riskiest,” Robert Davis and Anthony DeBarros, USA TODAY, Jan. 25, 2006

Discrepancies in school crime reports: The Charlotte Observer, June 5, 2005. [expired link]

Underreporting school discipline, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., including:

“Gwinnett schools overstated safety; Misconduct underreported: Officials admit giving inaccurate data but deny any deception,” April 28, 2003. [expired link]

“A disciplinary problem with numbers: School district underreported serious incidents by 85 percent, data show,” April 28, 2003. [expired link]

“Closing Costs,” The Charleston Gazette, Charleston, W.V., Aug. 25, 2002: “When they closed hundreds of West Virginia schools, state education officials promised to save millions of dollars and provide new advanced classes, without making bus rides much longer for students. A decade later, bus times are longer than ever, few advanced courses are offered to rural students, and those savings never materialized…” [expired link]

“School closings, lax oversight lead to record long bus rides,” Aug. 25, 2002: “School administrators across West Virginia have repeatedly ignored transportation laws and guidelines, forcing thousands of children to spend two hours or more on school buses each day and leaving them more likely to get sick, less likely to learn, a Gazette-Mail investigation has found.” [expired link]

“How we did it,” Aug. 25, 2001: “…Through the Freedom of Information Act, the Gazette-Mail obtained records for 1,569 bus runs for the state’s 35 most rural counties…. Over the course of nine months, the newspaper constructed a database including when each run started, when it stopped, and how much time children rode in-between.” [expired link]

Environment:

“Fewer Polluters Punished Under Bush Administration, Records Show,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, Dec. 8, 2003

“Vanishing Wetlands,” St. Petersburg Times.

“They won’t say no,” May 22, 2005.

“Satellite photographs show losses,” May 22, 2005

“Too Young to Die,” Erin McCormick and Reynolds Holding, San Francisco Chronicle, October, 2004

“Clean wells left to chance; the state has more than 25,000 contaminated sites but no law to ensure wells are safe,” part of the series, “N.C. Water: Safe to Drink?” by Pat Stith, Raleigh News & Observer, March 26, 2006. [expired link]

Financial institutions, real estate and insurance:

The Baltimore Sun series on ground rents, by Fred Schulte and June Arney [with links to stories, video, graphics, audio, maps, documents).

Part 1: “On shaky ground: An archaic law is being used to turn Baltimoreans out of their homes,” Dec. 10, 2006.

Part 2: “The new lords of the land: A small number of investors who own many Baltimore ground rents often sue delinquent payers, obtaining their houses or substantial fees.” Dec. 11, 2006.

Part 3: “Demands for reform: Even as critics call for loosening ground rent's grip on Baltimore, new ones are being created,” Dec. 12, 2006.

“Foreclosing on the American Dream,” The Charlotte Observer, January 2006. [expired link]

"The Paper Chase," Dateline NBC [expired link]

“The New Redlining,” U.S. News and World Report (Penny Loeb, Warren Cohen and Constance Johnson), April 17, 1995

“Locked Out of the American Dream,” The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., May 4, 2003. [expired link]

“Swimming With Sharks: Subprime lenders put the bite on Baltimore's Poorest Homeowners,” City Paper, Baltimore, March 29, 2000

Government benefits:

“Tax breaks plentiful; results vary – Indianapolis has given out millions in abatements to companies, but not all have created the promised jobs,” Indianapolis Star, Aug. 29, 2004. [expired link]

Health:

“Dangerous Care: Nurses' Hidden Role in Medical Error,” Michael J. Berens, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 10, 2000 (first of a 3-part series) [expired link]

“Lives at risk: An emergency room investigation -Year two,” WFAA-TV (Dallas), Valeri Williams; Meridith Schucker; Jesus Hernandez. Various dates in 2001: June 28; August 2, 3, 10; September 6, 24; October 14; November 16. WFAA-TV followed up on an earlier investigation of several deaths in a local emergency room; led to investigations by state health officials and a special prosecutor who looked into eight deaths.

“A Dangerous Place: Assisted Living in Virginia,” David Fallis, The Washington Post, May 23-26, 2004

“Special report: State board doing little to stop reckless doctors,” Reno Gazette-Journal, February 16, 2004 [expired link]

“Special Investigation: Toxic Treats,” Orange County Register, April 2004 [expired links]

“Introduction: Food Safety Lags Boom in Imports”

Part I: “HIDDEN THREAT: Mexican candy - a seemingly harmless indulgence can contain a poison that is especially dangerous to children.”

Infrastructure - Bridges

From the IRE Web site:  “Following the collapse of an I-35 bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, journalists turned to the National Bridge Inventory database, available from IRE and NICAR, to check the bridge's inspection history. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press and The Star Tribune reported that inspection data from 2005 showed that the Minnesota Department of Transportation deemed the bridge "structurally deficient." The Pioneer Press also noted a federal report's finding that Minnesota ranked high in overall bridge safety with 3 percent of its bridges rated deficient in 2006.”

Other bridge safety stories in the wake of the I-35 bridge collapse:

“Will Maryland's Bridges Be Next?” WMAR-TV, Baltimore, Maryland, Aug. 6, 2007.  Broadcast video on bridges in Baltimore area:

Broadcast: “Tisha Thompson Goes Over Bridge Records”[high resolution version]

Online story: “Will Maryland's Bridges Be Next?” [expired link] with interactive map

“Inspection records show the bridge in Minnesota was labeled “structurally deficient.” Right after the bridge collapsed, ABC2 News Investigator Tisha Thompson started to pour through Maryland’s inspection records for bridges here in the Baltimore area.

“Thousands of cars fly over – and under – this bridge at the intersection of I-95 and Rte 43 in White Marsh without ever getting a chance to really see what’s hidden underneath.

“If you look closely, you will see 2x4s holding up a section of this major bridge. With cracking pillars and holes in the bridge’s deck, the US Department of Transportation gave this bridge one of the lowest scores in Maryland.”

“Troubled Bridges - How safe are Arizona's bridges?” Lisa Fletcher, KNXV-TV, Phoenix, Arizona, Aug. 5, 2007. [expired link]

“Here in Arizona, there are 107 bridges categorized as structurally deficient and in need of major repairs, bridges you might drive over every day or bridges you cross when you're heading out of town for the weekend.”

Infrastructure - Dams

“Falling behind; State-regulated dams often miss required 10-year inspections,” Ben Poston and Patrick Marley, Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 12, 2007.

“Wisconsin officials have fallen behind in their oversight of the state's dams, failing over the past decade to inspect dozens that would pose the greatest risk to life and property in the event of a dam break.”

Report on dam safety in the DC metro area by Tisha Thompson, Fox5 News: Part 1, Part 2, and interactive map [expired links]

Related issue: Restrictions on releases of database of dams since 9/11:

Investigative Reporters and Editors: http://www.ire.org/irenews/the-dam-data/

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=6829

Police and courts:

“Dispatch agencies analysis: West Valley police slowest to respond; Priority calls in Salt Lake County slower than in Salt Lake City,” The Salt Lake Tribune, March 2, 2008

“About the project”

“Undue Influence,” Eric Nalder and Lewis Kamb, Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, Aug. 6, 2007, and after.

“Police officers arrested for drunken driving fare better than the average citizen, according to an investigation of seven years worth of internal discipline records, arrest reports, accident reports, license-suspension files and court documents.”

How the story was done: “The story behind the story”

“Liveliest D.C. Neighborhoods Also Jumping With Robberies,” By Allison Klein and Dan Keating, The Washington Post, October 13, 2006.

Map: “Robberies Leave Their Mark on the District”

“Justice Delayed, Justice Denied,” The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24-26, 2002.

The Courier-Journal examined criminal court files dating to 1983 and found that human error, antiquated record keeping and scheduling lapses allowed at least 200 people charged with felonies to escape prosecution.

“Papershield: The Battered State of PFA’s,” York Daily Record, York, Pa.; July 30-Aug. 4, 2000 [expired link]

A look at what happened when hundreds of York County residents sought “protection from abuse” orders from the court; during the months-long project, reporters built a computer database from all the protective orders filed in 1999.

“Speed Trap: Who gets a ticket, who gets a break,” Boston Globe, July 20, 2003.

“A Boston Globe analysis of traffic tickets and warnings, from every police department in the state, shows differences in race, sex and age in who gets a fine, and who gets a break, for the same offenses.”

“Cases crumble, killers go free,” Jim Haner, Kimberly A.C. Wilson and John B. O'Donnell, The Baltimore Sun, Sept. 29, 2002

"Cops who abuse their wives rarely pay the price," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ruth Teichroeb and Julie Davidow, July 23, 2003; First part of series, “Badge of Dishonor.”

“Judges Under the Influence?” Charlotte Observer, May 15, 2005

"Badge of Immunity," Michael J. Berens, The Columbus Dispatch, June 22-24, 1997 [link expired]

“DUI: A Failure to Convict,” Brad Branan, The Tucson Citizen, August 17-19, 2005 [link expired]

Social services:

“Invisible Lives and Deaths: The Fatal Neglect of D.C.'s Retarded,” Katherine (Kate) Boo, The Washington Post, Mach 14-15 and Dec. 9, 1999.

“Children First; Murder by Neglect,” Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Mich.; including:

Ariana's Story: A 2-year old girl dies at her parents' hands after the system meant to protect her fails,” December 4, 2000

“The Truth Dies with Them,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ruth Teichroeb, Oct. 31 – Nov. 1, 2002.

 The series finds “suspicious deaths of young children in Washington since 1997 in which legal and medical authorities failed to investigate thoroughly… Hidden in thousands of pages of documents obtained through public disclosure requests are stories of bungled police investigations, missed clues, and elected coroners or prosecutors who didn't pursue hard questions… [A] P-I computer analysis of death records using a widely accepted statistical formula designed to estimate maltreatment deaths found that abuse and neglect have likely claimed the lives of 78 to 116 children during the same period -- up to 84 percent more than even police statistics reveal.”

Link expired; award citation, Journalism Center on Children & Families:  “Teichroeb aggressively reports how Washington’s child homicide rate failed to include some abuse and neglect deaths.”

http://o.seattlepi.com/frontpage/seattle_pima1x220020412.pdf

Sports:

"Fleet but fatally fragile," San Antonio Express-News May 21, 2006

Miss Pretty Promises collapsed near the finish line and struggled to rise on her shattered forelegs..

It was April 28 -- opening night for live racing at Retama Park. In the stands, many people had gasped when horse No. 4 with the crisp yellow silks tumbled in front of them on the dirt track...

Miss Pretty Promises is one of hundreds of racehorses in Texas that lose a life-or-death gamble the public seldom sees.

At the state's five licensed tracks, Marsh and other veterinarians with the Texas Racing Commission have euthanized or documented the deaths of 300 horses in the past five years, usually after the animals broke ankles, legs or even spinal cords during races, according to the agency's database of horse injuries obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.

Vets who scratched injured horses from races and euthanized the grievously injured compiled the database, which never has been analyzed by outsiders.”

Transportation

“Deadly teen auto crashes show a pattern,” Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today, March 1, 2005

“Injuries, Deaths by Train Up in State,” Sharon Bernstein, The Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2004

USA Today aviation report:

“Special report: Experts call for modernized airline maintenance,” USA Today, March 2, 2003

“Fewer crashes caused by pilots,” USA Today, March 2, 2003

Weather

“Cause for Alarm” – Series by WTHR-TV in Indianapolis on areas beyond range of tornado sirens (May 2006)