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on September 11, 2008 at 2:17:33 pm

Welcome to Analytic Journalism and Decoding the Political Race(s)

If you wish to learn more about how to use this wiki, go to http://pbwiki.com/features.wiki


*** To sign-up for the Three Tuesday sessions, click here ***


Weekly Topics and Session Notes:

  • 6:30-8+ p.m. Tuesday, 30 Sept. 2008- "Newspapers are a 'morning line' tip sheet.  There's isn't enough room for what you need to know."

    Newspapers can be a good jumping-off point for political knowledge, but these days they rarely have enough staff, staff time and space to really drill down into a topic.  Ergo, it is increasingly up to citizens to do the research to preserve democracy and help inform voters.  Tonight we will be introduced to some of the city, state and national web sites to help in our reporting and to a few digital tools (think "Bookmarks on steriods.") to help you save and retrieve what you find.


  • 6:30-8+ p.m. Tuesday, 7 Oct. 2008- "How to track the data's flow upstream."

    A web page and its data are not static events.  (Well, usually they are not.)  Web pages and digital data all carry "signs" of where they came from, who owns the site(s) and sometimes who links to the sites.  We will discuss how investigators can use these attributes to our advantage, and also take a step back to consider the "architecture of sophisticated web searching."


  • 6:30-8+ p.m. Tuesday, 14 Oct. 2008- "Yup, it IS about following the money.  But how to make sense of those numbers?"

    Every election season, new web sites come along that make it easier to follow the money -- election money.  Tonight we will look at some of those and focus on how to get that data off the web site and into a spreadsheet.  Then what?  A short intro to slicing-and-dicing the numbers.  (Even if you are a spreadsheet maven, please come and act as a coach.)


Fee: $20 each session; $45 for three-session-series. Click here to enroll.


Story Ideas:



  • Campaign Contribution Data


  • Grading State Disclousure 2007

    A report of the Campaign Disclosure Project, a collaboration of the UCLA School of Law, the Center for Governmental Studies, and the California Voter Foundation, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


  • National Political Index

    The National Political Index is a web site which provides an index of substantive political information for voters, political activists, political consultants, lobbyists, politicians, academicians, and media editors with a wide range of products, information, services, simulations, games, and polling in an interactive communications environment.  NB: Not complete or always up-to-date, but still a good jumpstation to political race resources.


  • FiveThirtyEight:    There are several principal ways that the FiveThityEight methodology differs from other poll compilations: Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster's historical track record, the poll's sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages. Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our 'polls', which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context. Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.  Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952. The simulation further accounts for the fact that similar states are likely to move together, e.g. future polling movement in states like Michigan and Ohio, or North and South Carolina, is likely to be in the same direction.

  • Fact-Checking Resources


  • Internet Domain Registration Sites

  • Laws and Definitions

  • IRE Tip Sheets

  • Tips for online searching

  • State of New Mexico data (partial)

  • Santa Fe City and County data


(Please add your own unique finds to this section)

  • Center for Responsive Politics (aka "Open Secrets")

    Celebrating its 25th year in 2008, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. CRP's award-winning Web site,

    OpenSecrets.org, is amongt the most comprehensive resource for campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis. For other organizations and news media, CRP's exclusive data powers their online features tracking money in politics. CRP relies on support from a combination of foundation grants and individual contributions. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.


  • National Institute on Money in State Politics

    A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states. Our comprehensive and verifiable campaign-finance database and relevant issue analyses are available for free through our Web site FollowTheMoney.org. We encourage transparency and promote independent investigation of state-level campaign contributions by journalists, academic researchers, public-interest groups, government agencies, policymakers, students and the public at large.


  • Project Vote Smart

    This project is an historic undertaking. Citizens come together, not in selfish interest or to support one candidate over another, but to defend democracy. It is an extraordinary gathering of people committed to one purpose: to strengthen the most essential component of democracy -- access to information -- even as it suffers grave attacks from candidates and political parties, many who are now willing to manipulate information and deceive voters.  (Do you think there are only three, maybe four parties with candidates for president?  Go here to see otherwise.)


  • NewsTrust.net

    A good site for context.  "Nonprofit, non-partisan project provides quality news feeds, news literacy tools and a trust network to help citizens make informed decisions about democracy.

          The free NewsTrust.net website features daily feeds of quality news and opinions, which are carefully rated by our members, using our unique review tools. We rate the news based on quality, not just popularity. NewsTrust reviewers evaluate each article against core principles of journalism, such as fairness, evidence, sourcing and context."


  • Sunlight Foundation

    "The Sunlight Foundation is committed to helping citizens, bloggers and journalists be their own best congressional watchdogs, by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and Web sites to enable all of us to collaborate in fostering greater transparency."


  • MAPLight.org

    "A groundbreaking public database, illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws.

         This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. MAPLight.org makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable.

    The Database

    MAPLight.org combines three data sets:

    • Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics

Combining this data makes visible key information that could never before be determined easily. For example:

     * Contributions given by interests supporting and opposing each bill

     * Average donations given to legislators voting Yes and No on each bill 

               * Timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large donations before

                    or after their vote.


  • HuffPost's OffTheBus Superdelegate Investigation 

    The Huffington Post asked "readers to join with us and profile the hundreds of superdelegates who are likely to decide the Democratic nomination for president. Hundreds of you responded and we can now present our initial findings. Just click on a state or territory and a list of superdelegate profiles, as compiled by our citizen journalists, will pop up. We're still in the process of compiling and uploading these files so please expect more in the coming hours and days."


  • PollingReport.com

    Site claims: "An independent, nonpartisan resource on trends in American public opinion."


  • The Center for Public Integrity

    The Center for Public Integrity is dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern in the USA and around the world.

       Also, John Perry shares the Center for Public Integrity's procedures and policies for computer assisted reporting. It addresses data importation, cleaning, coding, updates and fact checking. It is an extensive explanation of CAR methods. Also included is a summary of the methods used for a story about lobbyists providing legislators with free travel. Perry-Center for Public Integrity procedures.pdf 

    • States of Disclosure

      How easy is it to find information on the private interests of public officials? The Center for Public Integrity researched state requirements on the filing of Personal Financial Disclosures by all three branches of state government — executive, legislative and judicial — to help the public hold officials accountable and determine the potential for conflicts of interest.

    • The Buying of the President 2008 


          Track the latest federal contracts, compiled by the IRE and NICAR Database Library, using raw data from the Federal Procurement Data System. The archived              collection includes 1979 to the present, and the tables are updated monthly. NB: Restricted to IRE members; let me know if you need the data.

             Launched by OMB Watch in October, 2006, this site offers a searchable online database of federal expenditures from fiscal years 2000-2006. It uses data from              the Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Award and Assistance Database (FAADS), which covers spending for grants, loans, and other forms of              federal aid. The site is free, and the databases will be updated every six months. 


               "St. Petersburg Times and CQ.com have launched a new online database called PolitiFact -- www.politifact.com. As Matt Waite of the Times explained on the                NICAR-L Listserv: It's what happens when you take the standard stock "truth squad" newspaper story and wash it through a web development framework.                PolitiFact aims to take things the presidential candidates are saying during this campaign and fact check them -- something every newspaper does or has done.                     "What we've done here is take that story, blow it apart into it's component parts and turned those parts into database fields."

               The site lets users sift through the facts in the databases, and it will offer the benefits of a data archive and regularly updated information about ongoing                political races.

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