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Journalism 772 and 472: Computer-Assisted Reporting

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

University of Maryland

Fall 2010


Student presentation Web sites

and Web sites for issues in the news:


Past semesters



Sample Format For Submitting Your Links:




The U.S. Department of Transportation


The National Transportation Safety Board


Office of Hazardous Materials Safety


Searchable Database


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Downloadable Database


The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety




“Rails Carry a Growing Risk;

With train traffic through the region surging,

a close call after a recent derailment in San Bernardino raises the question:

Are we ready for a real disaster?”

By Phil Pitchford, Ben Goad, David Danelski and Mark Kawar

The Press-Enterprise, San Bernardino, CA

November 20, 2005




Sites for Class Discussions:





Example 1:


Example 2:


Example 3:


Example 3:




Press release:




Some final items


Annie Dillard, from The Writing Life


Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick, 1690


Thomas Paine, from Common Sense, 1776



Hiding in plain sight …


Manhole covers / The New York Times




The Patrick Hughes Story



Mastery in many forms …


Shadow puppet


Four-part fugue



Landing in the Hudson



Animation with audio


Pilot interview




Data Visualization


Visual display of data: Examples


Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870)


Challenger: Previous Data


Challenger: Data Revised


Post: Census National


Post: Census Regional


“A Day’s Work, Four Day’s Pay”

From New York Times investigation of LI Rail Road Disability Payments


Journalism in the Age of Data


Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four




Future of Information Forum

University of Maryland, Nov. 5. 2010

Keynote speaker: Dan Russell, Google’s “Director of User Happiness” (starts at 16 min 40 sec on video)

Dan Russell’s blog: SearchReSearch


Examples of database documentation on the Web


Social Security Death Index

FBI Annual Supplemental Homicide Report - part of the Uniform Crime Reports

IRS tax exempt organizations

consumer product safety commission

Fatality Analysis reporting System



Montgomery County -- Senior Abuse:


“D.C. schools dinner program aims to fight childhood hunger”

Bill Turque, Washington Post, October 19, 2010



Landing in the Hudson - footage


Landing animation with audio





Sites for Class Presentations


Education, K-12 – Jessica


The U.S. Department of Education


Education Writers Association


Educational Resources Information Center


Education Commission on States


Public Agenda


Searchable Database:


Florida Department of Education: Discipline against Educator Licenses


 Downloadable Database:


2010 Maryland Report Card




“Broken Trust: A Herald-Tribune Investigation”

By Chris Davis, Matthew Doig, Tiffany Lankes

The Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, FL

March 18, 2007




Health Care – Andy


Downloadable database


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wonder DATA 2010


Searchable database


World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory (UN)


National Center for Health Statistics (CDC):


National Institutes of Health (DHHS)


Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene


Medicare's Nursing Home Compare


Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (DHHS)




“A Dangerous Place: Assisted Living in Virginia”

By David Fallis

The Washington Post

May 23-26, 2004


“How This Series Was Reported”




Transportation - Tolleah


The U.S. Department of Transportation


The National Transpiration Safety Board


The U.S. Department of Transpiration Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration


The NTSB Accident and Animations


Searchable Database


The NTSB Publications



Downloadable Database


PHMSA Pipeline Safety Program




Part One: “Spills raise fears about inspection of pipelines”


Part Two: “Many live next to dangerous pipelines in Michigan”


By Tina Lam

The Detroit Free Press

September 26-27, 2010



World of the Disadvantaged –  Maite


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Office of Environmental Justice, EPA


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development


Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University


Searchable Database

EPA’s “Cleanups in My Community”: a mapping and listing tool that shows sites where pollution is being or has been cleaned up throughout the U.S.


Downloadable Database

EPA’s Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation, and Liability Information System or CERCLIS, identifies hazardous waste sites across the U.S. (It is also a searchable database.)




“Toxic Traps”

Three-part series published on Oct. 1, 2 & 3, 2000

1st story: “Toxic Neighbors. Residents of projects find common problem: Pollution”

By Craig Flournoy and Randy Lee Loftis

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas


“How this series was done”

Oct. 1, 2000

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas


“Electronic Mapping and Social Justice Journalism: A Perfect Match”

By Craig Flournoy

This report is part of a series of papers for using maps to promote health equality.

It was commissioned by The Opportunity Agenda in partnership with the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economical Studies.

June 2009




Law Encforcement - David


Police Unions:

National Association of Police Organizations:

International Union of Police Associations:


Office of Chief Medical Examiner:


Maryland State Police budget links:

Maryland fy2011 budget (page 67)


Maryland State Police downloadable reports:


Searchable databases




Vital Statistics MATCH:


Downloadable database


Montgomery County police stats




“Dallas police's crime stats omit some car burglaries”

Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer

Dallas Morning News

Sept. 6, 2009


“Are Dallas police correctly counting all burglaries?
Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer

Dallas Morning News

Oct. 25, 2009


“Dallas undercount of assaults builds 'artificial image'”

Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer

Dallas Morning News

Dec. 15, 2009




Nonprofit and Religious Organizations - Holly


The Foundation Center


The Urban Institute


IRS: Tax Information for Charities


Searchable Databases:




Better Business Bureau: Charity Page


Secretary of State: Maryland Charities Database


Downloadable Database:


IRS Master File Data: Tax Exempt Organizations (by state),,id=97186,00.html



“Perfectly Legal”

By Robert Anglen

The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, AZ

May 3, 2009


Day 1

Follow the donations: Charities kept most cash for themselves


Day 2

Follow the cash: Charities spent most of it on salaries, expenses


Day 3

Questions raised on Phoenix ministry funds


Day 4

Disclosure rules keep donors, IRS in dark





Executive Branch - Kerry

Archive of Government Websites
U.S. Government Daily Journal
CIA electronic reading room
Searchable database:
U.S. Government Recovery Act
Downloadable data:
Federal Procurement data system
“Crime and Injustice”
Philadelphia Inquirer 
Series by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele,
with assistance in computer analysis from Philip Meyer
[Link to 1973 reprint]




Financial Institutions and Insurance – Laura


Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)


Consumer Action Website (State Insurance Regulators)


Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)


Searchable Database


New York Worker's Compensation Employer Coverage


Downloadable Database


North Carolina Department of Insurance (Complaint Ratios)



“Lenders Abandoning Foreclosed Properties;

‘Walkaway’ properties quickly deteriorate, dragging down borrowers and neighborhoods”

By Casey Spivak (Contributions by Ben Poston)

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

July 11, 2009




For-Profit Businesses, Part A (Companies and Workplaces) -- Steve


Occupational Safety and Health Administration


Small Business Administration


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


National Labor Relations Board


Searchable Database:


New York State, Division of Corporations, Corporation/Business Entity Database


Downloadable Database:


Bureau Labor of Statistics




“In reporting pay, firms can err big;

Figures on executives off by up to $500,000”

and related stories

By Todd Wallack

The Boston Globe, Boston, Mass.

October 3-11, 2010




Licensed Professionals - Allie


The Council on Licensure Enforcement and Regulation


The Federation of State Medical Boards


DLLR's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing


Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission


Maryland Board of Physicians


Searchable Database


Maryland’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Search


Maryland Board of Nursing Web Lookup


Downloadable Database


Colorado Division of Registrations, Registrations Online Services

Licensee Database Request




“When Caregivers Harm: America’s Unwatched Nurses”

By Charles Ornstein and Tracey Weber

ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times

Oct. 4, 2008-July 19,2010




Utilities/Energy - Madhu

Center for Disease Control & Prevention

Maryland Public Service Commission

Environmental Protection Agency

Searchable Database


Downloadable Database

CDC State Surveillance Data



“Lead Levels in Water Misrepresented Across U.S.:

Utilities Manipulate or Withhold Test Results to Ward Off Regulators”
By Carol Leonning
The Washington Post
October 5, 2004

Series Archive:




Legislative Branch – Maggie


U.S. House and Senate,


THOMAS: The Library of Congress


National Congress of State Legislatures


Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation


Center for Public Integrity


National Institute for Money in State Politics


General Assembly: How a Bill Becomes a Law (Maryland)


 Searchable Database


Center for Responsive Politics


Downloadable Database


Federal Election Commission




“How Legislators Turned a Perk Into Profit”

By Brian Joseph

The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA

February 18, 2010



Environment – Cathy


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


U.S. Government Accountability Office

(reports on environmental protection)


Society of Environmental Journalists (watchdog tipsheet)


Searchable Databases


EPA Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability

Information System (CERCLIS) Database (Superfund sites)


EPA’s “TRI Explorer”

(provides access to the Toxics Release Inventory data)


Downloadable Databases


Maryland Sewer Overflow Database (downloadable Excel files)


National Response Center




 “Underfoot, Out of Reach”

Daniel Gilbert

Bristol Herald Courier

December 6-13, 2009




Judicial System - Stephanie


The American Bar Association


The Federal Bureau of Prisons


Searchable Database


Federal Judiciary Center

Biographical Directory of Federal Judges


Downloadable Database


Bureau of Labor Statistics

Database of Juvenile Felony Defendants in Criminal Courts




“Aging Justice”

By Tisha Thompson

WTTG-Fox 5, Washington, D.C.

March 5, 2009





Real Estate - Bethany






Searchable database:


Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation


Downloadable database:

Housing and Urban Development




"Tosa Bank Lost Gamble on Shaky Loan Deals”

Cary Spivak

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Oct. 24, 2009