Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stand out in the crowd

Want to set yourself apart from other journalists and gain a heavy edge? Well, you can stand out in the crowd by exploring the web as a database journalist. The expertise of a database reporter are in high demand, but few individuals know how to successfully incorporate numbers into their writing.

I didn't know much about database journalism before I heard Boston Globe reporter, Matt
Caroll, speak about his fifteen years working in database journalism. Caroll knows where to find his facts and figures. Better yet, all his story ideas are born from simple numbers and data.

Mass. Facts is filled with public records, databases, and useful information. It's funny. If you find the right website, everything you possibly need or want to know magically appears for you. The hard part is finding reliable sites with information you are confident in and trust enough to use in a story.

54.1% of voters living in Boston are registered
Democrats. Surprise, surprise. And according to registration figures from 2004, a whopping 9% of Bostonians are registered Republicans. I found these numbers under the "Your Town" section of Mass. Facts.

There are also some scary topics addressed: in 2007 there were 65 homicides in Boston. The information is presented on a map with 3 different colored dots representing shootings, stabbings, and vehicular homicide. By studying the map, it's evident that the majority of homicides occurred within a close proximity to one another. Boston crime statistics are good to incorporate into a story about a specific event, but can stand on their own as well. I think people want to know how safe their neighborhood is and where murders are taking place. It's not a fun topic to report about, but it's definitely necessary to inform the public.

I found an excellent pool of information on regarding doctors in Boston called the Board of Registration in Medicine. The list is alphabetical by the doctor's last name and also gives the doctor's area of specialty. You can click on the doctor's name and read his or her profile, too. A business address is provided along with a phone number.

There are 8500 doctors in Boston practicing everything from pediatrics and dermatology to internal medicine. I think this would be an excellent story idea and could build a foundation for further investigation. What are the options for Bostonians who need to have a serious surgery? Who can they turn to for a second opinion? How many doctors are available who are experts in oncology? What are their names and how can they be contacted? Health care is a very important issue for Americans, especially in the upcoming election. Using this information could help me write a health care story with a Boston focus.

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