Using Data in Daily Reporting

Layoffs, small plane crashes, workplace accidents. The stories you write everyday can be informed by data available to INN members through an arrangement with IRE.

“Often, when people think of databases, or data-driven reporting, their eyes glaze over and they envision deep-dive projects with seemingly no end,” said Jaimi Dowdell, training director at IRE. “One of the nice things about having a database library at your fingertips is the ability to pull out small bits of information to enhance a story and give it context.”

Here are some examples, provided by Dowdell, of what’s available and how it can help reporting out local stories:

  • If there’s a workplace accident such as the October explosion at the Bartlett Grain Co. in Kansas, reporters can use OSHA data to look up detailed information about a company. Results include previous inspections, violations, accidents and more. This can really add depth to a breaking news story.
  • The National Bridge Inventory can be a great resource if a bridge fails or if infrastructure funding is being discussed. When was the bridge last inspected? What were the inspection findings? What is the condition of other bridges?
  • When a plane crashes, look up the aircraft FAA databases Service Difficulty Reports and Accidents and Incidents. You’ll be able to see what mechanical issues have been reported with the craft and if it was ever involved in a previous incident. You can also look up planes of the same make and model to see if they’ve had similar issues. Lastly, use the Aircraft Registration data to help track down who owns the plane.
  • Lately, weather seems to be spinning out of control. The Storm Events database contains details of historic weather events so you can see when the last big storm hit and how much it cost.
  • FBI Uniform Crime Reports can help reporters look at trends in crime to help put local events in context.