Magazine article Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. The IRE Journal

A Vote for CAR

Magazine article Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. The IRE Journal

A Vote for CAR

Article excerpt

This past election has been cast as a turning point for data analysis in journalism.

Journalists like Nate Silver of The New York Times who analyzed poll results and crunched numbers did an infinitely better job of forecasting the outcome than those who didn't.

Shocking, I know.

I've been asked many times whether I view this as some sort of vindication for the kind of computer-assisted reporting training that IRE has conducted - and proselytized for - for more than 20 years.

I won't speak for the entire organization, but for me, the answer is pretty simple.

Nope.

That's not because these journalists didn't do great work - they did. And it's not because there isn't a benefit to all the coverage of the wonders of actually looking at data when trying to draw conclusions of fact.

It's just that I don't think we needed any validation.

I first experienced the value of being able to really crunch numbers in the early '90s when I worked with an amazing CAR reporter, Frank Bass, in Houston. I saw what Frank could do, and when I went to my next job, I attended an IRE-NICAR boot camp in Columbia, Mo., to learn how to do it myself.

I wasn't the same reporter after those six braindraining days. I looked at sourcing differently, I approached stories differently, and every major story or project I was involved with from that moment forward had a data element as a key component. And every story was better for it.

That's what most journalists find after they begin to learn how to analyze data. IRE has trained thousands of them, and now that I have the honor to work for the organization, I see every month the impact of sending reporters and editors armed with CAR skills back to their communities. …

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