The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal (JS Online) is nominated for a Data Journalism Award for their production on how the system allows Milwaukee Police officers to keep their jobs despite run-ins with the law. ‘Data has been an important part of journalism for as long as data has been around. Our newspaper formed an investigative team and hired a data editor about five years ago’, says JS journalist Gina Barton. ‘Our project, “Both Sides of the Law“, found that 93 Milwaukee Police officers kept their jobs despite run-ins with the law. We wanted to show readers who these officers were and what they had done.’
What inspired you to make “Both Sides of the Law”?
This interactive graphic was inspired by the desire to show the officers’ faces as well as the records detailing their discipline. We used the same color coding in the print version of the story, to show readers that not each offense was the same.
Did you work by yourself or in a team?
As the reporter, I collected the information and came up with some rough ideas of what I wanted the interactive graphic to look like and what it should do. Bill Schulz took it from there, designing and creating the interactive graphic.
How did you get a hold on the data you needed?
I used the state public records to compile paper records concerning police discipline. I used that information to create an Excel spreadsheet.
Which tools were used making this production?
I first created an Excel spreadsheet. The programs used to create the interactive elements included Adobe Flash and jQuery.
How did it take to make “Both Sides of the Law”?
The entire project took approximately two years to report and write. The interactive elements took about three to six months to complete.
Were there any bumps in the road?
We had to proof the interactive graphic very carefully, querying it every way possible, to be sure the correct pictures and documents were together. We also had to be sure online headlines and text were accurate.
Do you have a useful tip for starting data journalists?
If something seems to amazing to be true, it probably is. Have someone check your analysis, no matter how confident you are. Do an audit of your data against the paper records.