By David Cuillier | May 12th, 2010
So far: Nine states, 4,224 miles, 23 sessions, 378 people (see schedule)
Minneapolis, Minn. — You don’t have to be The New York Times to do incredible database journalism. Just check out the St. Cloud Times, a 27,000-circulation daily in Minnesota.
I was wowed by the paper’s journalists who focus on computer-assisted reporting and watchdog investigations. Not to mention Dave Aeikens, SPJ’s president last year, who is an FOI guru and dogged reporter. They are gathering data and providing it for people on their Web site. You’ll find building permits, restaurant inspections, pool inspections, and much more. Check it out.
Tip No. 16: Appoint someone in your newsroom to be the “watchdog reporter” or “database cheerleader.” I think it’s even better to appoint an assistant city editor position for that duty because the person would have a little clout over the reporters. Then have that person work with each reporter in producing a stellar document-or-data-based project each year. If you have 12 reporters then that would be one great Sunday project each month. Shoot for two per reporter per year the following year (two a month published). Sometimes we need a cheerleader in the newsroom to keep people fired up, because the daily grind can wipe people out!
After chatting with folks in St. Cloud, I drove to Minneapolis for a session with the SPJ pro chapter. Thanks to Scott Theisen, chapter president, for organizing the session, along with Sarah Bauer, president-elect. We had a great discussion. I appreciate some of the folks encouraging me to focus on examples of document-based stories anyone can do in their neighborhoods – not just an investigative team from a metro. That is so true. Great stories come in all shapes and sizes.
Wednesday: I get up early and drive to Lansing, Mich., for a session with the Mid-Michigan Pro Chapter.