Michigan schools fail to improve

Michigan schools are not improving. Even worse, they seem to be in decline.

Ron French’s story on Betsy DeVos’ “60 Minutes” interview aggregated stats that indicate Michigan’s school systems by and large have been in getting worse.

In some instances Michigan has been seen in last place among improvements in math and reading, according to French’s source at Brookings.edu. Third-grade reading scores have also been shown to be in decline, according to Bridgemi.com.

What these sources show is that according to experts and other reporting, despite Michigan spending money to improve, it is not working.

What French’s story shows is that studies from a variety of places, and statistics from multiple sources as well as experts, indicate the lack of improvement among Michigan’s schools.

The liberal bias

All people hold bias in their minds. Confirmation bias. Belief bias. The background of a person will affect how they report the news and there is no way around it.

For myself, part of what I have to deal with comes from my political beliefs. Being liberal means that I am more likely to want to report on things that confirm what I believe.

The same can be said for being atheist, being white, being a man, being raised upper middle class, and being American.

All of these can contribute to what I am willing to believe, what I want to report on, and, unfortunately, how I report it as well.

Being aware of the bias can help. Always making sure that I hear both sides of the story and listen to all arguments surrounding it can at least make my reporting fair. Removing myself from the story helps as well, so that only the facts are reported.

Lastly, being up front about my own beliefs and biases can help any potential readers determine for themselves whether or not what I say is trustworthy.

Verifying CBS data claims

Part of the process of researching on my data story involved diving into news outlets claims about data and finding the source of the information.

One example included a news story done by PBS which claimed that ACT and SAT scores did not matter. So looking into the article I found the source of the data that backed up the claim.

At first finding the data was difficult as the page which the article linked to did not appear to exist, however I continued to search for the source of the information based on context provided from the article like the creator of the data and key words. Eventually I found the study that was cited.

The study confirmed the information as well as provided a valuable primary source of data that I could use in my story.


This American Life’s investigation into the supposed immigration crisis

NPR has a unique quality compared to other news organizations. It is publicly funded which allows it far more room to do interesting stories that might not be competitive in the news market, but provides important information that may not get reported.

This American Life has been a radio show since 1995, but is highly prevalent among the most popular podcasts today. It is a personal favorite of mine.

Recently TAL did a story called “Our Town” about immigration, taking a deep dive into a small town that has been heavily affected by the “immigration crisis.” The story takes place in two parts, and analyzes all perspectives of those affected from illegal immigrants to politicians and everyone in between.

The story took eight months to collect and write and is accompanied by a data analysis of the affected area.

With so much talk about illegal immigration by politicians nowadays, hearing what the truth of the situation is, by those who are actually affected, provides an interesting perspective.

Google Fusion Tables and the Michigan voter turnout

Gathering data off of the internet and arranging it into easily digestible information is an important tool for journalism online. This week we took a look at the Secretary of State’s voter turnout rate for the 2016 election, and turned it into an interactive map using Google Fusion Tables.

The first step was to take the data set from the SOS website and format it leaving only the information we needed.

Then uploading it to Google Fusion Tables we get a map of our data that looks like this.

Screenshot (23)


The map is interactive and will allow the user to click on each individual county to find out the voter turnout for that area.