Tag Archives: help me investigate

How to: get data out of council budget reports

Birmingham council draft budget report 2013

Over on the Help Me Investigate blog I’ve published a guide to extracting data from council budget reports. Very timely, you see. Let me know what you do with it.

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2 how-tos: researching people and mapping planning applications

Mapping planning applications

Sid Ryan’s planning applications map

Sid Ryan wanted to see if planning applications near planning committee members were more or less likely to be accepted. In two guest posts on Help Me Investigate he shows how to research people online (in this case the councillors), and how to map planning applications to identify potential relationships.

The posts take in a range of techniques including:

  • Scraping using Scraperwiki and the Google Drive spreadsheet function importXML
  • Mapping in Google Fusion Tables
  • Registers of interests
  • Using advanced search techniques
  • Using Land Registry enquiries
  • Using Companies House and Duedil
  • Other ways to find information on individuals, such as Hansard, LinkedIn, 192.com, Lexis Nexis, whois and FriendsReunited

If you find it useful, please let me know – and if you can add anything… please do.

Notes on setting up a regional newspaper datablog

Behind the Numbers - Birmingham's regional datablog

I’ve been working recently with the Birmingham Mail to launch Behind The Numbersa new datablog project with Birmingham City University supported by Help Me Investigate. I’m told that it is probably the UK’s first regional newspaper datablog, although whether that’s a meaningful claim is debatable*.

The first story generated by the project – what is the worst time to be seen at A&E – was published in the newspaper a week ago. But it’s what happens next that’s going to be interesting. Continue reading

Does your class want to collaborate on an investigation?

Do you have students or classes who want to do something investigative but lack support or ideas?

Next week students in Birmingham, Portsmouth and Strathclyde will be starting new investigations focused on education and the arts. Their focus will be local, but by exchanging notes the investigations should be quicker, easier, and potentially bigger.

They’ll be supported by new editors at Help Me Investigate Education who have put together the list of potential investigations, along with mentors from the media industry.

If that sounds like something useful – or you have an investigation you’d like them to help you with – contact me at paul@helpmeinvestigate.com

PS: Further supporting this is a free resource on teaching collaborative journalism, and an accompanying pack for students.

A case study in following a field online: setting up feeds on CCGs

Over at Help Me Investigate Health I’ve just published a bunch of 20 places to keep up to date with clinical commissioning. It’s an example of something I’ve written about previously – setting up an online network infrastructure as a journalist. And below, I explain the process behind it:

Following CCGs across local newspapers and blogs

If you’re going to start scrutinising a field, it’s very useful to be kept up to date with developments in that field:

  • Concerns raised in one local newspaper may be checked elsewhere;
  • Specialist magazines may provide guides to jargon or processes that helps save you a lot of time;
  • Politicians might raise concerns and get answers;
  • And expert bloggers can provide leads and questions that you might want to follow up.

Rather than checking a list of websites on the off chance that one has been updated, a much more efficient way to keep up to date on what’s happening is to use a free RSS readerContinue reading