Let’s talk about data.
Working with data can be scary, it can be frustrating and it certainly can be complicated. But almost always, it is illuminating.
That’s why I try to bring a data-first view to my reporting whenever possible.
Whether it’s looking at immigration arrest stats to highlight how undocumented Oklahomans without a criminal record are increasingly facing deportation, or analyzing Environmental Protection Agency numbers to find that Oklahoma’s air quality appears to be getting worse, I use data as a storytelling tool.
In the past year, working with data has also helped me report on key goings-on at the State Capitol. This includes revealing how the state purged thousands of voters from its registration rolls and how Gov. Kevin Stitt’s inaugural committee paid thousands in questionable expenses to a Republican lawmaker.
But my most data-intensive story of the year came when I investigated how many Oklahoma hospitals regularly sue their patients over unpaid medical bills.
For weeks I combed through thousands of court documents searching for these types of lawsuits. I slowly built a database that we eventually shared with our readers showing how dozens of hospitals filed 22,250 lawsuits against former patients.
And it didn’t stop there. We know numbers can only tell part of the story. So I spent days finding out who these patients are and getting their stories on how the litigation affected them.
That’s the kind of work we are able to do as an independent, nonprofit news organization. The ability to take enough time to thoroughly investigate questions is becoming a luxury in the news industry, as layoffs leave fewer and fewer journalists in the profession.
Oklahoma Watch needs your support to continue this mission – to dig deep and examine significant issues facing our state. And while I’m at it, if you happen to have a story tip, or an Excel file, that you can share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.