On Our Desk — Feb. 10, 2017

On Our Desk is a round-up of national or North Carolina news outlets using data to tell stories in innovative ways. Here’s what inspired us this week:


Story: 2016 Campaign contributions from top metro areas
By: OpenSecrets.org and The Center for Responsive Politics
Data Used: Federal Elections Commission data released February 1st
What we love: This data breakdown is a part of The Center for Responsive Politics’ Election Overview. The visual allows readers to see where political money comes from and which side of the political spectrum it ends up on.


Story: Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need
By: Ivan Penn and Ryan Menezes of the Los Angeles Times
Data Used: U.S. Energy Information Administration 
What we love: Multiple sources of data come together to tell this story. Reporters connected data on energy usage, plant production, energy rates and tax revenue to show a broken utilities system.


Story: Key Reed operative early focus of Atlanta bribery probe (and the entire document dump)
By: Dan Klepal and J. Scott Trubey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Data Used: The mayor’s office released 1.4 million pages of records relating to an ongoing federal probe into payoffs for Atlanta city contracts. These include emails, contracts and proofs of payment. Many of these pages are blank or illegible. The Journal-Constitution and others are requesting electronic records.
What we love: Within hours, reporters uncovered a central figure in the federal investigation. Out of more than 400 boxes, 65 were labeled “Bickers related documents.” Mitzi Bickers worked as Atlanta’s director of human relations from 2010 to 2013 and consulted for the mayor’s election campaign. Her involvement in the investigation was a revelation to the press. We’ll be following this story to see what else might be in the released materials.


Story: Tracking Congress in the age of Trump
By: Aaron Bycoffe of FiveThirtyEight
Data Used: Congressional votes 
What we love: This visualization tracks which congress members typically vote in line with President Trump’s stance on various issues. Congress members are assigned a “Trump Score,” which is a percentage of how often they voted with Trump’s position. Most interestingly, FiveThirtyEight calculates how “surprisingly” the member votes by finding a member’s predicted voting pattern based on the margin Trump won or lost by in their district.


Story: The 85th, your guide to the work of the Texas Legislature
By: Brandi Grissom, Robert T. Garrett, Lauren McGaughy, J. David McSwane, Madlin Mekelburg
Data Used: Reporting by the state government team, along with an archive of past stories
What we love: We love common-sense ways for readers to follow and understand the news. The 85th allows readers to subscribe to email updates on issues they care about most, including immigration, reproductive rights, taxes and public education. “Essential Reading” pages for each issue give readers the background necessary to understand complex policy decisions by their representatives. We’ll be following how the Dallas Morning News team uses this feature throughout the legislative session.


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