Digging into pandemic data with Documenting COVID-19

Digging into pandemic data with Documenting COVID-19

The team out of Brown Institute for Media Innovation shares their reporting tips and data

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

The team behind Documenting COVID-19, a MuckRock partner that helps collect, analyze, and report on COVID-19 data and information around the country, gave a free training for journalists and information seekers on Thursday, May 6.

In this training, Derek Kravitz, Mohar Chatterjee, and Kyra Senese share how they’ve tackled the project and how other journalists can build on their work.

Documenting COVID-19 is a collaborative open-records project started at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation to host local, state and federal document sets related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees learned the processes for collecting and comparing massive swaths of data and strategies for how to organize them. The team also shared their experiences of what tools would be most useful.

“I like to use the library pandas for a lot of this work. I found that data frames are a very efficient data structure for records and records analysis,” said Chatterjee.

The team used data from around the country and was able to find patterns through medical examiner records filed throughout the entirety of the pandemic, which they used to publish an investigation with the Chicago Sun-Times.

The presentation was recorded and can be found here.

This training was hosted as part of MuckRock’s ongoing effort to build access to data and cross-newsroom collaborations related to COVID-19. This work is supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Pulitzer Center.