Check out this story from the Winnipeg Free Press on dirty restaurants. It’s a great example of how far we have come in doing this kind of probing journalism.
The earliest reporters doing the restaurant story, and I was one of them, had to fight long battles with government officials just to get the data. Jen Skerritt got it in a few weeks just by asking.
Skerritt came to the CAJ conference in Vancouver in May and took the day of CAR training I did with David McKie of CBC. She was so pumped when she left that she headed right back to Winnipeg and asked the city and province for restaurant inspection data. The two levels of government share responsibility for health inspections.
Winnipeg already posts its inspection information online, but the province doesn’t. Skerritt put data together, put a human face on it, and came up with her story. There’s even an interactive map. This is a great example of how CAR (dare I call it just good reporting?) can have big, short term payoffs.
Check it all out at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Dishing-the-dirt-49338292.html
Skerritt has other stuff in the works, and her colleague Mary Agnes Welch attended the 2009 King`s Summer School in Computer-Assisted Reporting. So watch out for more from the Freeps.
By the way, my rough list has it that the restaurant story has now been done in Toronto, Hamilton, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Did I miss any?