Posts Tagged ‘investigative’

Wasting Away: The Squandering of D.C.’s AIDS Dollars (Wash Post)

Monday, October 19th, 2009

twp_aids_interactive_map

[Editor's note: Great interactive map from Kat Downs and Mary Kate Cannistra at The Washington Post for our 3-part investigative series on the District's widespread waste and mismanagement to overwhelm the city's AIDS services. Map allows several ways for the user to group (all/active) and filter (amount of award, year of award, and funding source) their analysis of groups receiving city money and calls out the 6 groups highlighted in the series. A popup menu allows the user to jump alphabetically to the group name they already know rather than wading through the map.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

Between 2004 and 2008, the D.C. Department of Health awarded approximately $80 million in grants to about 90 specialized AIDS groups, which along with medical clinics make up the front lines in the District’s fight against the disease. But while some provided a critically needed lifeline to the sick, others were wracked by questionable spending, practices and services. During those five years, one in three dollars earmarked for local AIDS groups went to these troubled programs, a total of more than $25 million.

SOURCE: D.C. Department of Health HIV/AIDS Administration, D.C. Department of Health fact sheet, 2009
GRAPHIC: Kat Downs, Meg Smith, Debbie Cenziper, Lauren Keane and Mary Kate Cannistra

(screenshot above) Interact with the original at The Washington Post . . .

Using Data Visualization as a Reporting Tool Can Reveal Story’s Shape (Poynter)

Friday, June 26th, 2009

[Editor’s note: My colleague Sarah Cohen at The Washington Post was recently interviewed by Poynter about creating data visualizations to help readers understand and reporters research complicated stories. Sarah is on her way to a big new gig at Duke University.]

Republished from Poynter.
By Steve Myers at 6:12 AM on Apr. 14, 2009

Readers have come to rely on interactive presentations to understand complicated stories, using them to zoom in on periods of time and highlight areas of interest. Yet to investigate these stories, reporters often create what amounts to handcrafted investigative art: flow charts with circles and arrows, maps shaded with highlighters and stuck with pins.

More and more, though, some reporters are using data visualization tools to find the story hidden in the data. Those tools help them discover patterns and focus their reporting on particular places and times. Many of the presentations, which can have rough interfaces or less-than-sleek design, are never published.

At the recent National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference, Sarah Cohen, database editor for The Washington Post‘s investigative team — and recently named professor of computational journalism at Duke University — showed how reporters can use interactive graphics for their exploratory reporting. [PDF]

Cohen described this approach to me via e-mail. Here’s an edited version of our exchange.

Steve Myers: How would creating a digital, visual representation of data help a reporter? What does it tell you that you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise?

Sarah Cohen
Sarah Cohen

Sarah Cohen: The same way that visualizations and graphics help readers cut through a lot of clutter and display dense information in an efficient way. The most common things that early visualizations help with are place and time — two of the most important elements in reporting a complex story. Those two things are really hard to see in text. They’re really, really hard to see in combination. So the graphics can show you where to go to find your subjects or where to go to find the most typical subjects. They can also show you when the story you are trying to find peaked. Put them together, and you can start finding the very best examples for your story.

That’s pretty general, so let me give you a couple of examples. During a story on disaster payments in the farm subsidy system, we wanted to make sure that we went to places that had received the payments year after year after year. Using a database, we could find farms that had received multiple payments pretty easily. But looking at repeated images of density maps that I made of the payments, it was really obvious where to go — specific areas of North Dakota and Kansas.

Crop payments
Sarah Cohen/Poynter illustration
Cohen used density maps to figure out what areas of the country had received disaster payments year after year.


In another example, we were working last year on a story on practices used by landlords to empty their buildings, partly in order to avoid strict laws on condo conversions (visualizations: research version, published version. We knew one neighborhood of the city was Ground Zero — an area called Columbia Heights, in Northwest D.C. But making an interactive map with a slider that showed the timing, we could see that it was moving into other areas of the city, especially in Southeast. We could also quickly see that the most affluent areas of the city had none of them.

Continue reading at Poynter . . .

INTERACTIVE MAP: Explore D.C.’s Charter Schools (Kelso via Wash Post)

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

[Editor’s note: I created this Flash-based Google Mashup to accompany an investigative piece (1 | 2 | 3) about the Washington, D.C. Public Charter School system in Sunday’s Washington Post newspaper. Map markers can be turned on and off with check boxes or by using data range sliders to drill in on which schools are performing how well. Clicking on map markers brings up a little info window with some facts and figures about that school, and links to full database entry and comment areas. While publishing this interactive in Flash format may hinder viewing by some viewers, it sure is nice not having to program around HTML rendering funk!]

Republished from The Washington Post.

Use the map below to learn about every charter school in The District. The default view displays all 55 schools for which test score data is available; you can also map the schools with no data, as well as sites offering early childhood and adult education and GED programs. To narrow your search, click the buttons to hide or display school types, or move the sliders directly to the left of the map to display schools by test performance. A full list of all charter schools is also available.

Interact with the original. Downsized screenshot below.

SOURCES: The District of Columbia, individual schools and Washington Post research and analysis.

INTERACTIVE CREDITS: Nathaniel Vaughn-Kelso – The Washington Post, Sarah Sampsel – washingtonpost.com.