INN’s Tech Team Now Offers Data Consulting

We are happy to announce that INN's tech team will now offer data services as part of its consulting package for members and other journalists.

The growing tech team already offers technology consulting at highly discounted rates for members. The addition of data services means the team can now work on custom news apps from start (data cleaning and analysis) to finish (interactive apps). Stand-alone data cleaning and analysis services also are available.

We frequently hear from members who need freelance data work, either because their newsrooms don't have the resources or the time. Our goal is to provide a readily available option for those members who need help finding stories in their statewide traffic crash database, for example, or building a fully interactive and useful online map from that data.

To provide this consulting, I will work closely with Adam Schweigert and the rest of the tech team. As part of the organization's recently refocused mission, INN no longer will be facilitating editorial collaborations around common data sets. (Read more about INN's new mission statement and name here.)

I also remain on staff at IRE and will work with the NICAR Database Library team, which also has resources available to help with data analysis and cleaning. INN and IRE will collaborate to make sure the best resources are applied to each project.

Contact the tech team to discuss data services or any of your consulting needs. Or email me directly if you want to chat about any ideas.

Introducing the INN Toolbox

If you've ever found yourself wishing for a list of reporting, data and visualization resources among INN members, today is your lucky day! We are happy to bring you the INN Toolbox, a collection of searchable databases, Github repos, APIs, embeddable widgets and more that can help with reporting and online presentation.

Use our searchable database to find tools such as:

  • Are these temperatures normal? Code available on Github from MinnPost that adds context to the temperature in your area by calculating how far above/below average your area is for the day, week, month and season. Updates every hour.
  • Barking Owl. A scalable web crawler intended to be used to find specific document types such as PDFs. From the Rochester Hacks and Hackers group that works closely with INN member Innovation Trail.
  • Influence Explorer. A collaboration among INN members Sunlight Foundation, National Institute for Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics, Influence Explorer connects the dots of political contributions on the federal and state level allowing you to track influence by lawmaker, company or prominent individual.

The INN Toolbox will be continually updated, and we'd love for you to contribute. There is an online form to add resources from your newsroom or tools that you find helpful.

You can visit the INN Toolbox here.

Finding Data During The Government Shutdown

Reporters across the country are running into a frustrating effect of the federal government shutdown: Many .gov websites have been shuttered, blocking access to some go-to data sources such as the Census Bureau.

But there is some hope of finding the data you need. Investigative Reporters and Editors set up a tracker for reporters to contribute or find information about alternative places to find popular datasets. And IRE's NICAR Database Library remains open throughout the shutdown. (Any INN members interested in data from the library can contact me at

Check out these tips on tracking down data offered by IRE staffers Liz Lucas and Tony Schick:

In partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute, IRE offers free Census data to browse or download at You can also visit the Census Reporter website for more Census-related information.

NICAR maintains an array of federal datasets to keep you warm during the shutdown. Check out these favorites:

  • OSHA Workplace Safety data -- how much does OSHA get done even when they are at full staff? Look at inspection and accident records by industry, location, or business.
  • National Bridge Inventory -- this data has a wealth of information on bridges in the United States, including their status (are they structurally deficient?) and a sufficiency rating.
  • IRS Exempt Organizations -- peruse a listing of all organizations granted tax exemption by the IRS.
  • Medical Device Reports -- sift through records that includes information about problems that occurred with medical devices, including injuries, deaths and/or product malfunctions.
  • Look through the rest of the 40+ databases offered at the NICAR Database Library.

The Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business Journalism also compiled a list of alternative data sources (including NICAR data), available here. Information portals still available include EDGAR, PACER and FRED.