Free Software and APIs: NICAR 2011 slides

I had the privilege this week of speaking on two panels at the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors Computer-Assisted Reporting* conference in Raleigh, N.C. Here are the slides my co-presenters and I put together:

— “Free Software: From Spreadsheets to GIS” with Jacob Fenton of the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Here is part 1, and here’s part 2.

“APIs: Making the Web a Data Medium” with Derek Willis of The New York Times.

* Those of us with a few miles on the tires remember that the conference used to go by the name NICAR — for National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. People still call it that.

Census 2010 State Stories: Week 4

The week was the busiest so far in the rollout of 2010 Census P.L. 94 data, with the bureau releasing data for eight states. That made for intense times for me and my USA TODAY colleagues — we had to process the files while attending the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors computer-assisted reporting conference in Raleigh, N.C. (Thanks to IRE for getting us a quiet room to work.)

For our part, we had stories on Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. We also continued to update data-driven profile pages of each state and an interactive map. And we’re spreading the Census love by sharing the data with IRE members.

Other work I noticed, in no particular order:
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Census 2010 State Stories: Week 3

Last week’s Census 2010 redistricting data releases included two of the most populous states — Texas and Illinois — along with Oklahoma and South Dakota. Highlights in stories and apps:

The Chicago Tribune’s news apps team launched an interactive map and print graphic that show a dramatic increase in the city’s downtown population in the last 10 years, even while many of the surrounding neighborhoods lost population. As a Tribune story explained:

Hardest hit were the South and West sides, where thousands of African-Americans abandoned neighborhoods beset by crime, foreclosures, bad schools and economic squalor.

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Census 2010 State Stories: Week 2

This week saw the Census Bureau post 2010 redistricting data from five more states — Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Vermont — bringing the total so far to nine. As time allows, and because I’ve spent the last two months prepping code for this, I’m chronicling stories and graphics that catch my eye. This week, by state:

Arkansas: My colleague Rick Jervis’ story noted the growth in northwestern Arkansas fueled by employers Wal-Mart and Tysons Foods. This will lead to fairly substantial redistricting:

… Arkansas’ representatives soon will answer to whole new neighborhoods of voters, says Thomas Paradise, a University of Arkansas professor of geosciences. “It’s not hard on the population. It’s going to be hard for the congressmen,” Paradise says. “They’re going to have a radically different constituent.”

— The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette also noted the shift northwest and reports another mayor planning to challenge the count with his city losing 6,000 people. Both stories available to subscribers only.

Indiana: The Indianapolis Star’s Tim Evans (writing for USAT) wrote that the state became more Hispanic and suburban in the last 10 years. Still:

“While Indiana’s racial and ethnic makeup has shifted, the state remains less diverse than the nation,” says Matt Kinghorn, a demographer with the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Compared to the most recent population estimates for the nation, the share of Indiana’s population that is white is well above the U.S. mark of 79.6%.”

— The Star’s graphics team also launched an interactive map that loads data from other states (zoom out to see).

Iowa: The Des Moines Register highlighted the state’s population shift from rural to urban:

Iowa State University economist Liesel Eathington said those population trends reflect a pattern that’s become common throughout the Midwest. One factor is that mechanized agriculture requires increasingly fewer farmers to till ever-larger tracts of land.

(By the way, check out the modal pop-up graphics on that page. Great work, but the one that shows all 99 counties makes me glad I don’t have to memorize their names for a geography bee — I guess the folks who divided up the state’s geography liked things uniform.)

— The Register also launched an interactive map with a bonus: population histories for each county. Really shows the dramatic rise of Dallas County, west of Des Moines.
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And We’re Off: Early Census 2010 State Stories

Four states received Census 2010 P.L. 94 redistricting data last Thursday, and just like that Census reporting season was off and running. Our newsroom quickly tackled stories on trends in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia and posted an interactive state/county map on our Census page that we’ll keep updating.

I thought it would be fun, at least as time allows, to chronicle here some of the Census work from other newsrooms that catches my eye. So, here are a few stories and visualizations from week 1:

Stories

Given the geography-specific nature of the data, most stories focused on states or cities. Several examined post-Katrina New Orleans, using Census data to measure the effect of the hurricane on demographics:

The Washington Post pointed to the political effect of the city losing 29% of its population between 2000 and 2010:

The city will also probably lose a voice in Washington: Louisiana will end up with six congressional seats instead of seven because of the lost population, and state legislators are expected to eliminate one of the city’s three congressional districts.

The Times-Picayune reported that the broader New Orleans’ regional population drop was less, down 11% in the seven-parish metro area. Its story, as did others, pointed out that New Orleans after the hurricane was more white and Hispanic than before:

Black residents comprised 60 percent of city residents last year, compared with 67 percent in 2000, the data show. Meanwhile, the proportion of white residents grew from 28 percent to 33 percent. The city’s proportion of Hispanic residents, who can be black or white, inched upward, from 3 percent in 2000 to 5.2 percent last year.

Elsewhere in Louisiana, The News-Star in Monroe said the mayor is planning to challenge Census data because his city’s population drop below 50,000 could mean a loss of federal funding:

“We are not going to panic,” [Jamie] Mayo said. “We are going to see what the process is, and we will pursue it. We are not pleased about going below 50,000. Our whole objective is to grow our city. To me, the ideal size would be 60,000 to 65,000.”

Also from my Gannett colleagues: In Mississippi, The Clarion-Ledger wrote about accelerated white flight from Jackson. In Virginia, The News-Leader in Staunton covered the aging population in the central Shenandoah Valley. In New Jersey, the state bureau covered how the population shift to the south could pose an issue for Democrats, and The Daily Record in Morristown covered a rise of vacant homes in the state to near 10%.

Finally, stepping back, The New York Times wrote about a continuation of the long-term trend toward an increasingly diverse America. Examining the data in the first four states, it noted a sharp drop in white youths and called it “a shift that demographers say creates a culture gap with far-reaching political and social consequences.”

Visualizations

I know how hard this work is, so hats off to all the developers and data journalists out there working on interactives.

— Our Juan Thomassie did a really nice front end to the Census storehouse that Paul Overberg and I built.

The Washington Post’s interactive map of Virginia lets readers zoom down to the block group level for population growth and race/ethnicity counts.

The New York Times has a detailed map of population changes in New Orleans.

I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg, but the Super Bowl is calling. Add more in the comments. And remember: up to five states coming out this week — Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Vermont.