Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Database Journalism

Matt Carroll, a Boston Globe reporter, spoke to our class Monday about something he excels at: Database journalism, which is a fancy way of saying putting in a lot of data and thinking up story ideas from what the data shows. On Boston.com, there is a section called Your Town (scroll to the bottom) and we were asked by Professor Kennedy to pick out three of the databases that interested us... keep in mind, the three that I chose are not exactly the most IMPORTANT ones to pick from, but they were some that either intrigued me or (in the case of the third choice) made me laugh:

1. Violent Crimes: List of violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggrevated assult) per 1,000 residents in 2006. Another good list to look at if you're deciding to move to Massachusetts. Ashfield, it should be noted, is 0.0. Lowell is 8.9. Lynn is 9.5. It's definitely something I'd look at if I decided to permanently move to Massachusetts after college is completed, although I hope there's a more recent database by the time that comes along.

2. Auto Thefts: This is a list of the number of auto thefts per 10,000 residents in 2006. Of course, there are a lot of auto thefts in Boston. But this is a great list, just like the above, for people moving to Massachusetts and wondering where they should settle. Clearly they should look at this list, as the list above, to decide between towns as to which is safer to live in. Also, something that should be noticed - both Chelsea and Brockton have higher percentages than Boston in this category. This database out of the three would probably make the best story opportunity. In places where auto theft is high, you can do more research to see if it is centered in a certain area of the town and write a story about that.

3. Dunkin Donuts: I had to pick this one just for laughs. This is a database of the number of Dunkin Donuts in each town. According to the database, there is 67 Dunkins in Boston alone. I can't really think of a story that this could be used for -- except that it could be used by Dunkin's competition to put their donut/coffee chains in cities and towns that don't have even one Dunkin Donuts. So Tim Hortons, Bess Eaton, etc... buy land in Lincoln and Carlisle. I wish it could be said in the database, however, if any of the cities or towns banned chain stores.

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