Request Carolina Data Desk Services
Carolina Data Desk is here to help North Carolina reporters tell more memorable and relevant stories by helping them find insights in data. Let us help you deliver reliable, original and deeper reporting to your audience. You can request our help here.
What is data?
Data can be just about everything, but maybe the best way to think about it is a list of things where everything on the list is the same type of things and each thing has the same attributes.
But, really, anything can be data. It just requires us to find structure in the real world.
Data can help you avoid tricks and traps. It can enable you to speak with more authority. It can turn an ordinary press release tidbit into a lead on a groundbreaking story.
|A list of restaurant inspections, where each “thing” is all the information about a single inspection at a particular restaurant on a particular day.||The number of restaurants that had “B” score, or the average score of restaurants.|
|A list of the salaries of each county employee.||The total salary of employees for various city departments.|
|The median household income of each Census block in your county.||The median household income of the entire county.|
|The box score of a high school softball game.||The line score of a high school baseball game.|
If you have anything that you think might be data, send it our way and we’ll let you know if there are additional insights we might be able to help you find in it.
What are data insights?
Probably the biggest challenge of today’s media world is not finding data but organizing it in a way that provides some sort of useful insight.
Data can also be a path that leads journalists to the anecdotes they need to tell a meaningful and memorable story. We use data to help reporters make their shoe-leather reporting more efficient by finding people to interview and places to observe data coming to life in the real world.
Here are some examples of the ways we’ve helped reporters find insights in data:
- Finding what’s normal and what’s unusual. (“What is the typical response time to a fire? What’s the slowest and fastest?”)
- Data visualization. Often the best way to find insights in data is to turn numbers into pictures. Whether it’s for internal purposes such as guiding the reporting on a story, or for public consumption to help tell a finished story, visualizing data in charts, graphs and maps helps human minds focus on what the data is trying to tell us.
- Helping categorize the “things” in your data to make comparisons across categories. (“If we know that turnout in a local election was 17%, which neighborhoods had the highest turnout?” Or “How often are men of different ages arrested on drug charges? And how does that compare to women of the same ages?”)
- Helping find other data to make meaningful comparisons. Sometimes the “Compared to what?” question can’t be answered by a single dataset. Carolina Data Desk can help you find other related sources of data that, when joined to the data you bring us, can truly give data a life beyond its original purpose.
- Cleaning data. The phrase “dirty data” is a redundancy. At Carolina Data Desk, we never forget that every molecule of data was brought to life by a human. And, sometimes, humans make mistakes. Sometimes names get misspelled, or a zip code gets entered where the phone number should be. And the purpose for which a dataset was originally created may not be the same purpose for which you want to use it. Cleaning and reshaping data in thoughtful ways helps maintain journalist’s ability to pursue questions independently and objectively.
- Newsroom training. We want you to know what we know. Our training sessions are led by UNC journalism professor Ryan Thornburg as well as other veteran data reporters. We can tailor our workshops to your needs and expectations, anywhere from a one-hour remote videoconference tutorial to a three-day boot camp in your newsroom.