Here's what it takes to get the job done
Jan 1st, 2007 by JTJ

Friend Matt Waite, of the St. Petersburg Times, has an interesting post on his personal blog wherein he lists the 19 different software programs he used to prepare the latest installment of his ongoing work on the disappearance of wetlands in Florida.  (Who could ever imagine such a thing?)

We wonder how many journalism educators could identify these programs and what they are used for?

The online version of “Vanishing Wetlands” (Craig Pittman is the lead byline on this episode.) is rich with details and interactive features, including a fine mash-up of Google Maps to show the location of some land in so-called “mitigation banks.”  Best of all, for the analytic journalism crowd, is the explication of the story's methodology.  It's in some sort of embedded code that delivers the text in a pop-up.  Look to the upper right of the homepage for a hot button.

By the way, these guys have been working this story for three years.  Now THAT's the kind of dedication that produces insight and context.

And there's another good angle on this effort at “Working backward on the last wetlands story.”


Resolution in the DA v. Doig spat
Dec 12th, 2006 by JTJ

A few days back we reported on a verbal dust-up betweeen ASU (and IAJ's) Prof. Steve Doig and the PIO for the Maricopa County's district attorney's office.  Seems the spokesman didn't think much of mere “student journalists” wanting to attend the DA's press conferences.  (Of course, journalists are little more than just citizens doing a special task, but that's a sub-set discussion for another day.)  In the end, changes have been made; the DA's public non-information officer has been redeployed.

Spokesman is reassigned after dispute with ASU prof

Jahna Berry
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 12, 2006 12:00 AM
The spokesman who refused
to allow some Arizona State University journalism students attend the
Maricopa County attorney's news conferences has been reassigned.
Meanwhile, the top prosecutor's staff is working on an agreement to
allow the students to go to media briefings.

The news comes two weeks after public information officer Bill
FitzGerald blasted an Arizona State University professor with
“inappropriate language” during an e-mail dispute over whether students
could attend Andrew Thomas' news conferences.

Put your community on the map
Dec 7th, 2006 by JTJ

The Rrove blog — no, no, not THAT Rove (different spelling) — delivers a round-up review of nine sites related to community mapping tools.  See

December 4th, 2006

plays in the community mapping space. This post aims to highlight the
innovations and the usefulness that others have made in this game. We
haven’t added ourselves to this list – if you want to know more about
Rrove, click here.

community mapping website, in our definition, is a service that gets
its members to map and define places. Through crowd-sourcing, these
sites are building a database/directory of local and nearby locations
that their users can discover and visit. Why is this important? We all
know that search advertising is the fastest growing industry in the
Internet. Within that market, local search is the up-and-comer. In the
next few years, it will be the largest segment within search!

refreshing to see how others have approached community mapping. Some
have focused on map creation while others do it through mobile apps.
More than that, some players have mapped the community of users to map
the physical community (i.e. neighborhoods). Here’s how nine websites
(all free) are doing it, what makes them awesome and how you can use
their services in your Internet life.

Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference coming the end of March
Dec 5th, 2006 by JTJ

It was the second year of the national crime mapping conference when we realized that, hey, there's a lot of not-just-good-but-great analytic work going in the then-young profession of crime analysis.  Seven years later, it's just getting more impressive. 

If you can only get to one national conference a year (we assume you're already going to the NICAR meetings), do this one every other year and the Special Libraries Association convention on the off year.  NOTE: NO NO NO registration fee!

Registration for the Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference has openedThis year, there will be no conference
registration fees but registration is still required.
  Preliminary conference details available on the
MAPS website:

Ninth Crime Mapping Research Conference will take place March 28-31, 2007 at the
Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The conference will include a full
compliment of
workshops, panels and plenary sessions. The main plenary session is entitled GPS in a Crime Analysis Context-
Practitioner Consideration, Research Needs.”
session topics will include uses of spatial data analysis and GIS in
corrections, parole, and probation, geography and crime, geographic profiling,
offender travel behavior, NIBRS/incident-based data and mapping, international
programs, impact of Hurricane Katrina on crime, crime analysis, spatial data
analysis, policing issues, managing sex offenders, travel demand modeling, and
more.  The conference also includes a map competition, and provides an
excellent opportunity for researches and practitioners to network with each

IAJ's Steve Doig has "words" with DA
Dec 3rd, 2006 by JTJ

Sigh.  Another skirmish in the on-going battle to convince public officials that they work for the people, in the broadest of terms.

County attorney official to get counseling for language

Eugene Scott
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 1, 2006 12:00 AM

The spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will be
counseled and possibly reprimanded for “inappropriate” language in an
e-mail exchange with an Arizona State University professor.

Bill FitzGerald, the county attorney's public information officer, and
Stephen Doig, an ASU journalism professor, were discussing whether
journalism students should have the right to attend the press
conferences of County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

For more see

More mapping tools for journalists
Nov 30th, 2006 by JTJ

The folks at Faneuil Media, a company that “helps site owners publish maps and data, just announced a promising tool, “Atlas.”  Check it out because they say….

Meet Atlas

When I first switched from the newsroom to the web newsroom, I was surprised by all the technical constraints.

As a reporter and editor I had all the tools I
needed – it was up to me to create something fit for the front page. As
a web editor, content management systems and development priorities
became constraints on my ability to publish the news.

With the hope of helping publishers chip away at these constraint, we’re releasing a new mapping tool today. Meet Atlas:

Atlas is a simple web application that allows you to put Google Maps into your stories in a few seconds.

Certainly there are already mapping tools out there. Atlas distinguishes itself in two ways:

First, it is simple: Point. Click. Map. No messy code, no unnecessary hoops to jump through.

Second, Atlas is designed for news sites. We’re
building it so that reporters, editors, producers and local bloggers
have an easy way to add maps to their stories.

This first release of Atlas has a very basic list of features. You can:

  • Create a simple Google map in a few seconds
  • Embed a map on your page in any size or format
  • Use a CSV format to upload batches of points
  • Add Wikipedia content to major cities

There’s lots more we want to add, but before going any further, we want to get your feedback. So, try it out, let us know what works, what doesn’t and what we should add.

Google Earth has some competition
Nov 17th, 2006 by JTJ

Thanks to Gary Price at ResourceShelf Newsletter <> for this:

+ Virtually Fly Around the Globe in 3D With SkylineGlobe (Beta); Developers API Also Available

A small plug-in allows you to virtually fly around the world. However,
this early beta release only contains mapping for the U.S. Lots more
come. Nevertheless, plenty of cool “extras” in this early beta
including an option to add-in live traffic cameras for the D.C. metro
region right on to the aerial images. Btw, the cameras are aggregated
by <> for many cities, so expect to see more in future releases of SkylineGlobe.

Direct link to post: <>

Mapping for dollars
Nov 11th, 2006 by JTJ

Think we might be able to rent the roof of our homes or offices as virtual ad space?  From the All-points Blog:

Virtual Earth 3D Futures

Forbes looks at the Microsoft/Google race and offers this tidbit about VE3D's future:

Fifteen cities already are searchable online. Microsoft
will drop ads into the maps on computer-generated billboards. You'll be
able to type “Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX – news – people )” on your mobile
while standing in San Francisco's Union Square and get a 3-D map
guiding you to the nearest one. Microsoft acquired some of this
technology in May when it bought videogame ad-broker Massive

While we keep looking at the mapping, we need to remember that the money comes from the advertising, not the mapping per se.

It ain't just Mister Roger's neighborhood any longer.
Nov 9th, 2006 by JTJ

Friend and mega-librarian Marylain Block's “Neat New Stuff” column ( points us to another example of a great community-building tool.  She writes:

Steven Johnson aims to “collectively build the geographic Web, neighborhood by neighborhood.” So far it's added various kinds of data for over 2500 neighborhoods. Entries may range from neighborhood restaurants, shops, and museums, to descriptions of historic architecture or local celebrations. If your city or neighborhood isn't here yet, you can upload data to begin a file for it (librarians might add their own libraries to the database). This has the potential to be extremely valuable.

The Quick and the Dead
Nov 9th, 2006 by JTJ

Paul Parker, of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, is the Quick and an impressive list of folks on the state's voter registration rolls are the Dead this week.  Below is a note Parker posted to  the NICAR-L listserv.  The great thing about this is the recipe Parker provides for an analytic journalists' cookbook.  Said he:

Nothing new or innovative, but we ran a dead voters story today, and
it's getting tons of buzz. I would recommend — no, URGE — everyone on
the list do the same for your area.

Here's the link:

I know it's CAR101, but I'll outline how we did it (which is also
explained in the story):

1. Get your state's central voter registration database.
2. Get your state slice of the Social Security Administration's Death
Master File from IRE/NICAR.
3. Run a match on First Name, Last Name and Date of Birth.
4. Exclude matches where middle initials conflict. (Allow P=PETER or
P=NULL, but not P=G.)
5. Calculate a per capita rate for each city/town by dividing the number
of dead people by the total registered.
6. Interview the biggest offenders about why they're the biggest offenders.

This was so easy, and now everyone at the paper thinks I'm some sort of
journalism deity. (And the voter registration people called to ask,
“Where do I get a copy of that Social Security list.”)

As for the possibility of false positives, we pointed this out in the
story, which I think sufficed because the odds are low enough. I also
hand checked a few against our obituary archives.

Paul Parker
The Providence Journal
75 Fountain Street
Providence, RI 02902

Then David Heath, at the Seattle Times layered in his experience.  Said he:

did a dead-voter story last year after a squeeker of a governor's race.

story looked for dead people actually voting. At first, we were

surprised by
the number of matches. But very few of them withstood

scrutiny. Matching a
name and a birthdate will get you lots of false

matches. You really need to
include address, which you can do in our

state where the death-certificate
database is public.

We then went to the county election board and got the
actual page voters

signed when they voted. We even looked
at absentee ballots. What

we discovered were a lot of cases where a
vote was recorded for a person

because someone else accidentally signed the
wrong line on the page —

John R. Smith signing on John P. Smith's line, for
example. Or cases

where the person scanning the data with a bar-code reader
into the

database missed and scanned the wrong line. We also found cases

parents and children had the same name; the parent died but the son

daughter was mistakenly scrubbed from the registry.

We did find a
few cases of dead people voting. Usually it was a recent

death and someone in
the family turned in an absentee ballot and forged

the signature. But you
have to be careful that a story about dead voters

isn't really a story about
dirty data.

David Heath
The Seattle

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa