Image

Innovation

The struggle for electronic records

Fred Vallance-JonesJournalists have been asking for electronic records from Canadian governments for at least 15 years. There have been a few encouraging developments, writes Fred Vallance-Jones, but a recent FOI audit showed we have a long way to go.
Continue Reading The struggle for electronic records

Star series shines light on government travel spending

Web scraping is a way to download large amounts of information from government websites for later analysis in a database. It is making possible stories that would be impossible for the causal hunt and click web surfer.
Continue Reading Star series shines light on government travel spending

Getting great map data for free

It used to be that you had to pay big dollars for GIS data. That’s changing quickly as more and more government agencies make their maps available at no charge.

Continue Reading Getting great map data for free

Nova Scotia posts restaurant inspections online

Nova Scotia is now posting the results of restaurant health inspections online.
The new website allows anyone to search for inspections that have been done since July 10. Users can search by establishment name or address, by town or by the date of the inspection. Results include any violations found and the action taken.It is also possible to generate a list of restaurants that have been closed or that have received warnings.
While it is not possible to do a bulk download into a spreadsheet or database, there is nothing to prevent a journalist from doing multiple searches and assembling the information into a database.
Unlike some jurisdictions that have implemented online disclosure systems, Nova Scotia chose not to introduce a colour-coding or grading system to explicitly identify restaurants with critical problems.

Continue Reading Nova Scotia posts restaurant inspections online

Election night as teaching opportunity

Election nights are great for journalism, but they turn out to be great for journalism instructors as well. Second-year students at the University of King’s College covered the October 14, 2008 election live as a class project. CAR contributing editor Fred Vallance-Jones explains how he put the coverage together. See the class website site here and click below to read more.
Continue Reading Election night as teaching opportunity

Digging for the real story in the election results

The Conservatives won the October 14 election, gaining what one writer called a “muscular majority.” But did they win, or the Liberals lose? A spreadsheet can help figure it out.
Continue Reading Digging for the real story in the election results

Edmonton posts restaurant inspections July 1, 2008

Capital Health officially launches its new restaurant inspection website on Canada Day, 2008.

The agency is responsible for health care in the Edmonton area and inspects more than 8,000 restaurants and other health premises.

Continue Reading Edmonton posts restaurant inspections July 1, 2008

Everyone’s talking tech: investigative journo conference

More than 800 journalists from 40 countries around the world wrapped up an intense three days of panels and partying in Miami Saturday June 7. One of the most interesting threads that ran through the annual meeting of Investigative Reporters and Editors was the impact of change and technology on what we do. Snooping may not be an issue for many reporters, but for those on
hazardous assignments, or covering organized crime or security issues, conference panellists suggested techniques to keep a journalist, and his or her
sources, out of danger.
Continue Reading Everyone’s talking tech: investigative journo conference

Watch your step on the data ladder

Climbing the data ladder can be dangerous.

That was one of the messages delivered Thursday June 5 at the annual conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Miami.
David Donald of IRE/NICAR and Jennifer LaFleur of the Dallas Morning News took a captivated audience on a metaphorical journey through different types of data and statistical analysis. They showed how the amount of risk increases as one moves from analyzing simple, “categorial data” such as a yes/no field or a table of the number of people of different races,  to more complex “continuous data” such as all of the individual incomes of people who applied for a mortgage.

Donald and LaFleur offered strategies for mitigating the risks and maximizing the story using statistics. We’ll post the handout from the session here soon.

The session was one of more than 20 panels and presentations on CAR on day 1 of the conference Thursday. Friday will see hundreds more delegates arrive for the main conference sessions, including a keynote by syndicated columnist Dave Barry.

Continue Reading Watch your step on the data ladder

Be ready when the next quake hits

Reporters looking for the Canadian context for events such as the devastating Sichuan earthquake can turn to the Natural Resources earthquake database for basic details on every known earthquake in Canada since the 1600s. You can contact NRCCan to obtain the entire dataset, but data going back to 1985 is now available for download.
Continue Reading Be ready when the next quake hits