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Innovation

A tale of numbers from the New York Times

We’ve all heard the advice to take care with numbers, and not treat imprecise numbers as if they were precise. Here’s a cautionary tale from the New York Times, and public editor Clark Hoyt.

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Jan. 10 Air Canada incident – Links to useful resources

The heart-stopping ride for 83 passengers aboard Air Canada flight 190 from Victoria to Toronto Jan. 10 has raised questions about why the Airbus A319 pitched and yawed, throwing objects flying and injuring 10 people. The plane made an emergency landing in Calgary. There are many resources reporters can turn to to find background and information to advance their stories.
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New Executive Director at IRE/NICAR

IRE/NICAR has a new executive director, replacing Brant Houston who is now Knight Chair for Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. Mark Horvit, projects editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas is moving into the job, conditional on becoming a faculty member at the University of Missouri, which hosts IRE/NICAR.
Many Canadian journalists are members of IRE/NICAR, an organization that provides training, resources and support for journalists doing investigative and CAR work.
Read more in the IRE press release and in Editor and Publisher.
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Northwestern Readership Institute on putting data online

More and more news organizations are putting data online so readers can drill down to information relevant to them. I did it as part of a Hamilton Spectator series on restaurant safety in 2001, and it became the biggest traffic generator we had had to that point. Since then, organizations such as the CBC, Toronto Star and Edmonton Journal have followed suit.
This piece by Rich Gordon of Northwestern University for the Readership Institute explores the trend as it is unfolding in the U.S.
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Football players big, and getting bigger

Here’s a great example of the kind of enterprising story that can be brought to life with CAR, in any market. The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania gathered height and weight data on high school football players and found they just keep on growing horizontally. An important public health story resulted.
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Police data kept secret in Ontario

The Ontario Divisional Court has come down against media access to data held by the Toronto Police and the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit. Both decisions are based on fine slicing and dicing of the wording of the acts, and have profound implications for access in the province.
On the bright side, an appeals court ruling on the public interest override in Ontario is some of the best news to come along in the FOI field in years.
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Toronto Star series wins online journalism award

Congratulations to Toronto Star reporter Jim Rankin, who along with a team at the paper, won the Online Journalism Award for service journalism. The award was presented at the Online News Association conference in Toronto in October. The paper won for Lost in Migration, a project about unscrupulous immigration consultants. As part of the investigation, reporters went undercover as prospective immigrants. Rankin has long been a friend of computer-assisted reporting, and was lead reporter on the Star’s landmark Race and Crime series in 2002.
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Kansas City Star probes deadly air bag failures

Ever wonder how often air bags fail in cars? So did the Kansas City Star, and the answer was, far too often. The paper looked at U.S. fatal crash data, but since so many cars are common, the story could easily be updated with Canadian data.
Here’s how the first story began Oct. 20:

Brooke Katz died three months pregnant.
A hit-and-run motorist slammed into the front of the 2005 Dodge Caravan she was driving, spinning it 180 degrees.
It’s one that sticks with me,” Atlanta Police Officer Shane Keller said recently. The crash was so violent that rescuers needed the Jaws of Life to free Katz, 27, a Georgia wife and mother who had just buckled herself in to go to work.
Then they saw something “curious,” as the officer put it. The Caravan’s airbags had not deployed.

You can view and download U.S. fatal accident data at the link below. You can also get complaints and defects data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

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Transport Canada puts aviation data online

Transport Canada has quietly posted a searchable version of its CADORS aviation database to its website. This is a huge change of course for the department after it spent four years keeping the same data out of public hands. Click for more.
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CBC uses data to probe nursing home violence

CBC’s investigative unit is at it again with a series of stories on violence in Canada’s nursing homes. The stories started airing on Marketplace October 17, and continued on CBC Radio the following week. This is a murky subject that doesn’t usually get much press, but a critical concern for families of patients who have been bullied, beaten or worse. The series relies on data from across the country, gathered province-by-province, as well as inspection reports and loads of interviews with residents and families. Watch the Marketplace segment, then read CBC’s in-depth report, listen to clips, look at data summaries and view an interactive map and more at CBC News.
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