Talking data at Youngstown State University

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“John

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University was kind enough to invite me to take part in “Press Day,” giving me an opportunity share the potential of data-driven journalism with students and prospective journalism students.

I’m always happy to talk about how journalists can craft unique, impactful stories by developing a toolbox full of data skills.

If you were part of the Oct. 4, 2016, session and would like to review the stories and tips discussed, follow this link.

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How to estimate crowds

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I put together a primer to help journalists be realistic with crowd estimates. This could be especially useful when there is no official estimate from an independent party – only guesses from promoters of an event boasting about how many people were there. In short, only so many people will fit into any space. Read more details and background on crowd estimating at this link. The video below offers a brief overview.

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Data journalism at Central Michigan University

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Central Michigan UniversityI was thrilled to get the opportunity Oct. 8-9, 2015, to talk data journalism with students and faculty at Central Michigan University’s Department of Journalism, one of just two nationally-accredited journalism programs in Michigan.

We spent an afternoon talking to students, encouraging them to open their eyes to data journalism and offering some tips to get them started. Then I had an opportunity to trade ideas with faculty during a full day workshop.

Look for future data journalists to come out of CMU. There are some bright and interested minds there.

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Analyzing success in the NFL Draft

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Few things in sports are analyzed as deeply as the NFL draft, especially in victory-starved and football-crazed Cleveland. But the discussion is almost always based on debating which players will be NFL stars by rating their talent.

We took a different twist in 2012, looking back at what has worked. We set the scale high – finding an All-Pro. This gave us a clear way to judge players from year to year. What we found said a lot about why teams are successful. The teams with the best records over the last decade also were the most successful on draft day, despite not always drafting as high. Accumulating a lot of top 100 picks seemed to be key. The Browns were among the worst on both draft day and on the playing field.

Take a look at what we found, including the likelihood of finding All-Pros in each round of the draft, and position-by-position trends (hint: All-Pros receivers were picked higher than any other positions).

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Questioning whether taxes are “high” or “low” from place to place

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Where are taxes the lowest and highest? Not property taxes. Not income taxes. Not sales taxes. But all taxes.

We set out to attempt to answer that question for a series of Midwest and Eastern states. We looked at all the major taxes from the local level up through the state and added up the bills. Check out the online calculators and analysis that were the result of this work. We called it “11 takes on taxes.”

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Dig into the cost of college sports

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The NCAA is a reporter’s friend when it comes to digging into the money spent and generated by college sports. The NCAA requires each school to annually file a detailed report, containing everything from coaching salaries to how much money in student fees are used to pay for sports.

The NCAA does not share the information. And private schools generally don’t release it. But the reports public schools can be obtained through public records requests at the individual schools. What we found in a 2015 series is that for many Division I schools, close to $1,000 a year in student fees per student (or other university help) is being used to support athletics, and coaching salaries are going up faster than even the cost of tuition.

Check out our 12-part series to get ideas about what you might find in analyzing the reports for schools in your area.

Also, 2016 update.

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Excel median mystery solved

One of the shortcomings of Microsoft Excel is that you cannot easily obtain the median for several different variables. Mystery solved. I recently came across this link to step you through a formula that – at first glance – may look complicated. But it’s really not too difficult to recreate.

One note: be sure to exit the formula cell with this command – control/shift/return. That creates an array function.

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Embeds bring life to web pages

The Census Bureau really stepped up its offerings in the last couple of years for things that can be embedded in your own web pages. Especially good were the interactive state map/graphs as the Census 2010 numbers were being released some months back.

Here’s another twist.

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What’s it mean when sale taxes are changed

In Ohio, the governor is proposing a changes in the sales and income taxes. The rates would go down for both, but what the sales tax is applied to would be greatly expanded.

So the question became, what’s the impact? The calculations are simple for sales taxes. Here’s a method you might consider if you want to estimate what people in different income and family situations pay a year in sales taxes. I used tables produced by the IRS, that take into account the differences from state to state.

Read how this worked out in Ohio, and how we completed the analysis by applying the systems from other states to Ohio.

 

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Voter database shows trends in names

Sometimes huge databases offer opportunities for fun stories other than their original purpose.

I’ve gotten some mileage out of Ohio’s database of about 8 million registered voters. The most recent example was ranking names for popularity and by age, to show how some once popular names like Mary are way down the list among young adults. Check out the name game database story.

Earlier, using a different version of the state’s database, I was able to identify which names lean Republican and Democrat. In both cases, we offered databases online so people could search for their own names.

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Traffic mysteries
Traffic mysteries

Explaining traffic.

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Election history
Ohio Presidential Election History

Ohio presidential election history, by county, since 1960.

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Cleveland weather
Daily Cleveland weather details since 1900.

Daily Cleveland weather since 1900.

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Casino votes
Ohio casino vtes

Ohio casino vote history

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