How to estimate crowds


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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Dig into the cost of college sports


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


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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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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Urban turnout in Cuyahoga County in 2012 still lagged Republican areas

A big deal was made about Barack Obama’s efforts to get out the vote in 2012; so much so that one might believe that the turnout was better in Obama’s strongholds than where Mitt Romney ran strongest.

Not true. While the Democratic turnout might have been stronger than many years historically, the turnout remained best where Republicans live, at least in Cuyahoga County. Here’s what we found.

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Midwest casino wars

We’ll be tracking casinos revenues month-to-month for the 31 operations with both table games and slots in Ohio and the neighboring states of Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The first snapshot – June – indicates that the casinos close to the new Ohio operations in Toledo and Cleveland are taking a hit. They performed worse in June vs. April than the casinos not as close to the new competition.

Worst hit were Wheeling Island in Wheeling, W.Va.,, Presque Isle in Erie, Pa., and Mountaineer in Chester, W.Va. See the breakdown.

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Analyzing success in the NFL Draft


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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Gerrymandering, Ohio Republicans prove it can work

Ohio Congressional District map, 2012-20

The current Ohio Congressional District map demonstrates gerrymandering.

Much is often said about the impact of who gets to draw the congressional district lines every 10 years; so we took a look at history and found it really does matter.

After the 2000 Census, for the first time in 50 years, one party in Ohio controlled the entire process – both chambers of the Statehouse and the governor’s office.

The Republicans, with that full control, drew the lines and won 62 percent of the congressional races in Ohio from 2002 through 2010 despite winning only 51 percent of the overall vote.

Read our findings. It will be interesting to see whether the GOP enjoys the same kind of success from their new lines forĀ  2012 through 2020. The lines were again drawn with the Republicans holding full control of the process.

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Minimum wage job no longer can cover the college bills

College costs vs. minimum wage

Do you realize that a minimum wage job used to be enough to pay all the bills for a college education – tuition, fees, books, room and board? Now it’s not even close.

We looked at the change in the minimum wage going back to the early 1980s, as well as the average cost of attending Ohio’s four-year public universities. The idea was try to put in simple terms changes in college affordability.

The story apparently hit a nerve with a lot of people. It was shared more than 1,500 times on Facebook and Tweeted more than 100 times. Take a look at our findings.

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