A Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science. Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill & McCormick School of Engineering.

Highlights from NICAR’s Year in CAR presentation

This morning’s Year in CAR presentation at NICAR 2013 provided a great look back not only at some of the great investigative work of the last year, but also some really good visualizations and presentations.

The full slide deck from Mark Horvit and Megan Luther’s presentation should be on the IRE site soon, but below are some of my favorites from their list of 2012 data-driven highlights. Click through for some of the great work of the past year.

The Seattle Times took a deep look at zoo elephants and found that preservation and breeding programs have “largely failed, both in Seattle and nationally. The infant-mortality rate of elephants in zoos is almost triple the rate in the wild.” The Times’  elephant family tree graphic was particularly interesting.

The Center for Public Integrity looked at Medicare billing, focusing particularly on the habit of some doctors to “upcode” or charge Medicare more for care than the services that were actually delivered justified.

The Tampa Bay Times investigated Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, finding that the “law is being used in ways never imagined — to free gang members involved in shootouts, drug dealers beefing with clients and people who shot their victims in the back.” The list of fatal cases provided a clear look at victims.

The Bay Area NBC Affiliate mined the Federal Services Administration’s Federal Procurement Data System to find that federal money meant to support small businesses regularly went to companies whose parent organizations were huge corporations — including Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.

The Los Angeles Times tracked response times to 911 calls in the city, finding that response time varied greatly by neighborhood. A map that accompanied the story provided a quick, efficient glimpse of the problem.

Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Cheating our Children project looked at test scores from “69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast.” The project ran in five parts and included visualizations, photos, and video.

Wisconsin Watch took a detailed look at Governor Scott Walker’s calendar and found that as his presence on the national stage grew, the time devoted to work shrank.

Sunlight Foundation analyzed congressional speeches and found that Congress speaks at a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago. The project made interesting use of Sunlight’s Capitol Words data.

A Seattle Times investigation found that Washington state steers Medicaid patients toward methadone as a pain reliever in an effort to cut costs and save money. Though “the state insists methadone is safe … hundreds die from it each year — and more than anyone else, it’s the poor who pay the price.” The project included great graphics and interactive features.

Pro Publica’s Presidential Pardons investigation found that whites were “nearly four times as likely as minorities to be granted a pardon.” This graphic painted a particularly clear picture of the story found in the data.

Like what you see?

Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation through exploration, experimentation and education. The Lab's free publishing tools help to make information more meaningful and promote quality storytelling on the Internet.

About the author

About Posted on March 1, 2013 Posted by

Ryan Graff


News nerd ecstatic for the future of news. Formerly a Colorado-based reporter and magazine writer. Presently the Lab’s editor, and handler of marketing and outreach.