IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) just announced the 2016 Phili Meyer Award winners: Data news projects top the list. First-placed “Doctors & Sex Abuse” by Atlanta Journal-Constitution, second-placed “How Fire Feeds” by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and third-placed “The Tennis Racket” by BuzzFeed are all data-driven investigations. Bravos to data news again.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “took data analysis for a story to new levels of sophistication,” according to the judges. The investigation found that doctors in every state had abused patients, and even when caught, still went unpunished. The goal of the project was to root out instances in which doctors had abused patients and gone unpunished, but the task was more than daunting. According to IRE, the team built 50 scrapers to pull in more than 100,000 documents. They used machine learning tools to analyze all of those documents, searching for keywords that alluded to cases of sexual misconduct. They also backed up their findings with other sophisticated data analysis and shoe-leather reporting. The sheer scope of their project and the results were simply impressive.
The Revel team used satellite imagery and eight other government data sets to examine three large wildfires in creative, groundbreaking ways. Readers are guided through an interactive, visually appealing online presentation of the analysis, enabling them to explore how fire and topography intersect to create deadly blazes. “The project provided a cautionary tale of potential wildfire outbreaks that may pose ongoing risk for years to come,” according to IRE.
In a “first-of-its-kind” analysis, BuzzFeed News teamed up with the BBC to use a million simulations of a series of tennis matches to discover suspicious patterns in shifting betting odds and players who lost matches they statistically shouldn’t have. What emerged was “a pattern of match fixing among a small group of professional tennis players,” according to IRE. As a result of the investigation, professional tennis stars have called for greater transparency in corruption investigations surrounding the sport, and several government entities have conducted hearings.