Investigative data reporter for Buzzfeed Kendall Taggart joined us for MuckRock’s Friday FOIA Chat last Friday on Slack.
Doing your research
Right off the bat, she let us all breathe a sigh of relief when she told us she was an anthropology major in college, and learned how to analyze data through her mentors and at the hands-on conferences at NICAR. Here’s some of her go-to resources:
Investigative Reporters and Editors also hosts tipsheets on an array of data.
Federal agencies’ System of Record Notices, like this one on the Department of Homeland Security’s webpage, are a great place to start.
Living by a code
If you want to learn a beginner’s computer language, Taggart began with SQL. Excel might be just as useful, if you know how to use it. After these, look into Python and pandas (the Python toolbox, not the cutest of the bears).
Workin’ at the CAR wash
Dirty data? Put it through a CAR wash.
Then what? “A big part of data journalism is getting out of the spreadsheet, knocking on doors, and finding experts to tell you if what you’re finding in the data reflects reality. Because data can be deeply deeply flawed,” Taggart said.
Talk to IT
When she finally turns away from her computer and must speak to people, she usually holds off from asking the public information officer for help with requests and instead asks to speak to someone who understands the data and the collection process.
Having issues with a state’s police department? Try to find out if it is a multi-state investigation. This way, you can request records from one of the other states.
Join us this Friday
Make sure to join us this Friday at Noon Eastern for a chat with ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman.
Image via Wikimedia Commons