Homework: Document the Sources of an Investigative Story
Read an investigative story, then document all of its sources with a spreadsheet. You should get an idea of how many people and organizations were contacted, as well as the document trail that was followed.
padjo-2016folder, create a spreadsheet named
Read one of the investigative stories below.
For every source in the story – human, document, dataset, etc, comment or no comment, create a row and log some information about that source.
It’s a bit tricky to log everything on one spreadsheet, so I don’t mind if your columns are a bit disorganized.
At the very least, each source should have a name (e.g.
Death certificate for Jane Doe), a type, e.g.
Document, , an affiliation/organization, e.g.
California State Coroner; and a description that paraphrases their quotes and contributions to the story.
My example: The Uncounted
As an example, I read this story from Reuters: The Deadly Epidemic America is Ignoring: The Uncounted
This was the spreadsheet I created.
Hint: It might be helpful to read the story (it's good!) and see how I mapped it to my sloppy spreadsheet.
As you can tell from the screenshot, it's pretty messy:
In future spreadsheeting, we'll breaking the task of documenting a story into several sheets. For now, just do what comes easy. There's no set specifications of what columns you should use, other than you need a few to describe each source, the type of source, and whatever other labels you think is relevant. My example was probably not the best way to go about it, but I had about 45 sources (not counting the 50-states that Reuters individually surveyed).
Pick one of the stories below:
- You may be in California’s gang database and not even know it
- Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?
- Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers
- Criminal Past Is No Bar to Nursing in California
- Safety Lapses and Deaths Amid a Building Boom in New York
- Dismissing the Risks of a Deadly Habit: Multitasking on the Road
- Till death do us part: Legislative Inaction
- State pushes prescription painkiller methadone, saving millions but costing lives
- Sixty Million Car Bombs: Inside Takata’s Air Bag Crisis
- Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General
- Take the Money and Run for Office
- Trends with Benefits
- The FBI Built a Database That Can Catch Rapists — Almost Nobody Uses It
Wait there's more…
Note: There's a second part to this; research the story you read with LexisNexis.
Human friendly formatting tips
The spreadsheet component of this assignment is just more practice for getting comfortable with spreadsheets on a daily basis. But it defeats the purpose if you create spreadsheets that are just hard to read. Use this easy data-entry assignment to practice a few other spreadsheet-formatting techniques (hopefully freeze row and columns is second nature to you):
Reading a solid straight line of text is difficult:
Highlight a column (click the header), then…click the icon that depicts an arrow breaking past a line. That opens to a dropdown with an option for wrapping text:
Freeform text in a cell
In the story I read, some sources had multiple pieces of information. Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC, for example, told Reuters several things about how death certificates were clunky, and how hard it was to adapt codes to include drug-resistant infections.
To write in a cell as if it were a kinda-free-form text box, double-click the cell so that it's active, and the text-cursor is inside of it:
To make a line break, hit the key combination of Ctrl-C: