A slow march to open data

The federal government’s first, hesitant step toward an open-data policy is to be praised, even if so far it is unclear if it represents a real move to openness or is more of a public relations gesture. 
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Remembing Toronto’s war dead

Patrick Cain, a CAR guy who became best know for his online maps at the Toronto Star, has produced a fascinating map of Toronto depicting the addresses of family of more than 3,000 people who died in the Second World War. It’s not journalism of the usual kind, but it will be of interest to war buffs, historians and anyone wanting to better understand their or their city’s connection to those who perished serving Canada in that brutal conflict.
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Star series highlights advances in CAR

A new Toronto Star series shows just how far computer-assisted reporting has come. Race Matters is a follow up the monumental 2002 Race and Crime project.  Reporter Jim Rankin fought seven years to obtain several police databases and found police were three times more likely to stop and question blacks than they were to do the same to whites. The new series uses web-based Flash maps to help the reader drill down into the details.

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Ottawa releases pictures of data to ATI requesters

A number of journalists filing requests for data to federal departments are finding the “data” has been converted to image files, quite literally pictures of data, prior to release. This has the potential to take access to electronic records back a decade if the trend spreads.
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Click and the hyperlinks are gone

Once in a while software designers do something little that makes life
a lot easier.  The folks at Microsoft have done that by adding
a shortcut command to remove hyperlinks from cells in Excel
2010. I’ve been testing the beta version to see what
it offers for journalists.

If you have ever cut and pasted some data that has hyperlinks from the Web into Excel you have no doubt found…
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New Excel feature takes data analysis to new levels

Reporters who use Microsoft Excel to crunch government data have something to cheer about with the release of the beta version of Office 2010. A new add-in to Excel brings Excel’s ease of use to the analysis of huge datasets.
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Office 2010 Beta imminent

Love it or hate it, Microsoft Office is the king of the mountain when it comes to desktop spreadsheet and database software, and you’ll soon be able to have a close up look.
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Winnipeg Free Press probes dirty restaurants

Check out this story from the Winnipeg Free Press on dirty restaurants.
It’s a great example of how far we have come in doing this kind of
probing journalism.

earliest reporters doing the restaurant story, and I was one of
them, had to fight long battles with government officials just
to get the data. Jen Skerritt got it in a few weeks just by asking.

came to the CAJ conference in Vancouver in May and took the day of CAR
training I did with David McKie of CBC. She was so pumped when
she left that she headed right back to Winnipeg and asked the city and
province for restaurant inspection data…
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CAR story wins Michener Award

Computer-Assisted Reporting was a big part of this year’s winning Michener Award entry. The CBC and the Canadian Press teamed up to analyze Taser use by police officers across Canada, building a unique database from use-of-force reports obtained from police forces across the country. Read the press release from Government House here.
The reporters analyzed the data and found that between 2002 and 2008, RCMP members fired their tasers more than 3,200 times and administered multiple shocks in more than 40 per cent of those cases. The CBC and Radio Canada also conducted tests that showed older models sometimes produce a stronger zap than the maker advertised.
Congratulations to the whole CBC/Radio Canada/Canadian Press team.

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Still time to sign up for the King’s Summer School in Computer-Assisted Reporting

Reporters from across Canada are headed to Halifax for the second annual University of King’s College Summer School in Computer-Assisted Reporting.
The school is sponsored by the Canadian Newspaper Association and is the only “boot camp” style CAR training available in Canada. CAR skills give you a leg up in today’s brutal journalism job market by helping you get big stories everyone else will miss. To sign up for the CAR school contact Kelly Goldenberg at 902-422-1271. You can pay using VISA, Mastercard or Amex.
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