Data-Driven Investigative Reporting
As a fellow the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism I have taken a leadership role on several national investigations that were published with the Associated Press and picked up by major news outlets.
- Federal Title IX data on sports participation is unreliable | Through public records requests and months of data analysis and traditional reporting, I found that federal data often overstates high school girls’ participation in sports. That makes it impossible to tell whether schools are in compliance with Title IX, unless someone complains. This story ran on the front page of the Baltimore Sun. It was part of “Unlevel Playing Fields,” a series that examined the continued obstacles to gender equity in high school sports as Title IX turned 50. I also produced the graphics for the story.
- Printing Hate App/Database | Through computational historical research methods, this project revealed how white-owned newspapers’ contributed to a culture that fomented racial terror lynchings in the United States. A colleague and I used the Library of Congress API to access more than 150,000 newspapers and build a web scraper to collect newspaper lineage information. We created a ‘newspaper family tree’ which we connected to historians’ lynching victim datasets. These were the first of many steps in a collaborative effort to programmatically identify problematic newspaper coverage. Our team created a public database of that coverage, which was cited in judges’ notes for the IRE Medal and Punch Sulzberger Innovator of the Year Award that the project won.
- History focuses on men, but Black women were lynched, too | For this “Printing Hate” article by Jordan Sheppard, I conducted a gender analysis of our lynching victim dataset. I found that about 3% of recorded lynchings of Black victims were women and that historians were unable to identify about 1 in 5 of them by name. The ways these women’s deaths were covered — or ignored — resonates with contemporary efforts to bring attention to violence against Black women. For that reason, in addition to a map about the lynchings, I produced a graphic for the story featuring all the known names of Black women lynching victims.
- Walmart sales soared, essential workers got scant protection | For this examination of worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic, I coordinated a 50-person public records campaign to obtain data on workplace COVID-19 outbreaks from state health departments. As we acquired the data, I co-led a team of seven reporters in cleaning, wrangling and analyzing it. Throughout these steps, I both wrote code and assisted team members in asking journalistic questions, problem-solving in R and transforming data findings into language that our reporting team and readers could digest.
- In public housing, a small debt can get poor tenants evicted | For this investigation, I conducted sensitive interviews with our lead subjects in Crisfield, Maryland, who were in extremely vulnerable financial and family situations. I also served as a lead writer, pulling together feeds from a dozen reporters covering five cities into a cohesive narrative. I blended human stories with policy context and data findings to show how the public housing system is — and isn’t — working.
For code samples, please see my Github Data Journalism Portfolio.
Local Accountability Reporting
I was part of a two-person reporting team that uncovered financial mismanagement and persistent Sunshine Act violations in the wealthiest school district in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. During the project I made extensive use of the state’s open records law and pursued several Right-to-Know requests through successful appeals. Our year-long investigation prompted hundreds of taxpayers to attend public meetings and demand changes to school district operations. It also led to a more transparent superintendent search, board member resignations and the restoration of art and music classes for elementary school students. Here are a few key stories from the investigation:
- Leaked audio: Manheim Township school board conspired to deliberate privately on superintendent search
- Manheim Township school board faces mostly hostile crowd of more than 320
- After tax hikes and school cuts, Manheim Twp. School District has $25M surplus
- Investigation of former superintendent has cost Manheim Township taxpayers nearly $104,000
Our investigation earned Pennsylvania’s most prestigious newspaper honor, the G. Richard Dew Award for Journalistic Service, along with several other awards.
Since March 2020, I have been covering COVID-19’s impact on K-12 classrooms nationwide for KQED MindShift. My work takes a solutions-oriented look at how kids learn and addresses undercovered topics, such as child grief and teacher stress. Here are a few of my favorite stories: