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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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Citizen investigation finds faulty gas pumps

An Ottawa Citiizen investigation has found about 1 in 20 gas pumps in Canada was pumping less gas than indicated on the readout when inspected. Citizen reporter Glen McGregor obtained Measurement Canada inspection data under the Access to Information Act. His stories led to promises of a crackdown by Ottawa.
You can read the series and look at pump results for your area by clicking on the link below.
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Helping Canadian journalists dig deeper

Practising reporters and students of journalism have a new guide through the complexities of investigative reporting in Canada. Digging Deeper: A Canadian Reporter’s Research Guide is the work of Robert Cribb, Dean Jobb, David McKrie and Fred Vallance-Jones, each an investigative reporter and professor of journalism. Digging Deeper offers practical, effective ways to access information on the public record, such as criminal records, court reports, tax returns and government reports. The authors shed light on the use of computer-assisted reporting and get into the use of spreadsheets and databases to organize and manipulate data.
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Privacy veil slapped on Dot CA WHOIS searches

WHOIS searches on .ca domain names are about to get a whole lot less informative.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority is slapping on new privacy restrictions. The name of the registrant, plus the contact information for sites registered to individuals will no longer be available via WHOIS. That means journalists researching who is behind a site will hit a dead end.  Searches for information on corporate sites will not be affected. Neither will searches of sites not in the dot CA domain.

CIRA says the restrictions are required by federal privacy law and come after a long period of consultation and review. The policy goes into effect June 10.

Information to be suppressed includes (from the website):

  • The name, address, phone number, email, and fax number (if provided) of the Administrative Contact and Technical Contact;
  • The Registrant’s CIRA assigned Registrant number;
  • The name of the Registrant;
  • The CIRA assigned domain number for each domain name registration held by the Registrant;
  • The description field which the Registrant or the Registrant’s Registrar filled out during the registration process describing the Registrant or the Registrant’s business.

    More at 

    More on the policy at

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    Nova Scotia to post restaurant inspections online

    The Nova Scotia government says it will begin to post restaurant health inspections online this summer. The announcement came in the provincial legislature in response to an opposition private members bill to make such postings mandatory. Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor says the system will post results going back three years, starting from the date the system goes into effect, according to the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
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    Much Ado about CAIRS

    The decision by Ottawa to scrap its CAIRS system for tracking access to information requests has caused one of those passing flaps on the Hill. But is the move a real threat to openness? I’m not sure, because it doesn’t appear there’s been much openness to threaten lately. 
    Continue Reading Much Ado about CAIRS