Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Center for Housing Policy Report

This 12 page report researched by the Center for Housing Policy examines housing affordability trends for working households. Even though housing prices are falling, affordability is going in the other direction.

This report defines - severe housing cost burden - as spending more than 50 percent of income on housing costs, including utilities. The number of working households that spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing rose from 18 to 20 percent in the past 3 years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator uses a numbers-based rating system to assess the financial health of over 5,000 of America's best-known charities. Each charity receives a rating of one to four stars. At their web site they now have up their Top 10 lists. You can also search their database by keyword or charity name.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Accessing a million pages

Govpulse allows you to use filters, search and respond to the mounds of documents that the federal government releases. Browse the Federal Register from 1994.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More research material on Google Scholar

You can now find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. Click the button, Legal opinions and journals, and type in a subject. The search seems to be full text searchable. The "how cited" link gives you list of other opinions that cite a particular opinion. The major cases are there as well as lesser known ones.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mark your calendars

Sunshine Week celebration has been set for March 14-20, 2010. The N.C. Open Government Coalition will host a workshop on Tuesday, March 16th in Greensboro at Elon Law.

North Carolina's Creative Industry

According to a recent study prepared by the Policy, Research and Strategic Planning Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce,  North Carolina has a $41 billion creative industry that employs almost 300,000 people or more than 5 1/2 percent of the state's total employment.

The creative industry includes arts, design and entertainment and new media.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trends in Higher Education

The College Board just released a series of reports:

Trends in College Pricing 20 page report includes the latest information on tuition, fees, room & board and other expense.
Highlights: Published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose at an average annual rate of 4.9% per year beyond general inflation from 1999-2000 to 2009-10, more rapidly than in either of the previous two decades. The rate of growth of published prices at both private not-for-profit four-year and public two-year institutions was lower from 1999-2000 to 2009-10 than in either of the previous two decades.

Trends in Student Aid - 20 page report has the latest data on grants, loans and other avenues to help pay for college.
Highlights:  2008-09, undergraduate students received an average of $10,185 in financial aid per full-time equivalent (FTE) student, including $5,041 in grant aid and $4,585 in federal loans. Graduate students received an average of $22,740 in aid, including $7,558 in grant aid and $14,598 in federal loans.

Education Pays - 48 page report shows private and public benefits of a college education

Monday, October 19, 2009

Useful Twitter Searches

From: Bates Information Services, www.BatesInfo.com/tip.html

Seeing the word "useful" next to the word "Twitter" might seem oxymoronic to some... kind of like jumbo shrimp or deafening silence. We forget that the main complaint of Twitter -- that the signal-to-noise ratio is so low -- can be said of the web as a whole. Go to ten web pages at random and see how few web pages are even remotely relevant to what you do. What differentiates the web from the Tweetosphere is the existance of robust finding tools. Search engines play that role in the general web, enabling us to avoid most of the web pages that would not interest us. Most Twitter interfaces overload new users with unfiltered tweets, leading sensible people to throw up their hands and walk away.

However, I have found several real-life uses for Twitter lately, with just the search feature on Twitter. Let me know what other ones you come up with.

Use one of the word-cloud generators (I use Search Cloudlet, an add-on for Firefox) and see what words are most frequently used in conjunction with a news event. I searched Twitter to see what words most frequently came up in the context of health care reform. Right now, the buzzwords are public option, doctors, congress and include. Interesting that insurance companies aren't being mentioned very frequently.

Monitor live news, as reported by people nearby. If, for example, I want to see if there's a jump in the mentions of the H1N1 virus near me, I might search for "swine flu" OR h1n1 near:denver within:25mi

Monitor mentions of your organization's names, particularly those when the tweet includes an outbound link. If I was monitoring Crocs, the shoe company, I might search for #crocs filter:links

Gather hightlights from a conference. Within a week of the conference, just search for the hashtag for the conference on the Twitter web site ( for example, I'll soon be speaking at Internet Librarian, which has #IL2009 as its "official" hashtag). Keep clicking the "Older" link at the bottom of the search results page until you have all the tweets on one screen. Copy and paste that to a word processor, and you can easily skim through it to see key ideas. In fact, take all the words and throw them into Wordle.net, which generates a word cloud from any body of text you give it. You'll see the dominant themes of the conference, and can identify the key speakers.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Report

The Center for Responsible Lending recently issued this 13 page report (PDF) titled, "Overdraft Explosion" . Bankdraft fees for overdraft protection has increased over 35 % in the past 2 years. At an average fee of $34 per overdraft, and over 50 million Americans  overdrawing their checking accounts at least once over a 12-month period, that adds up to over $24 billion in fees for the baking industry.

No wonder banks push this "service" to customers even though a survey says most would prefer a denial of service rather than overdraft protection.

Numbers and charts are included in this report.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Watch What You Wish For

This new movie/TV database is now in public beta. Jinni  will find movies/TV shows based on mood, plot, genres, time/period, place, audience, award winning.

Want someone to really listen to you? Sometimes it takes a machine. (from the get started video)

To celebrate their public beta launch Jinni will make a donation to Best Friends Animal Society for every person who signs up for their free registration.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Where is the money going?

Recovery.gov is tracking what agencies/organizations are getting stimulus money by state. They have a cool interactive map that allows you to search by zip to find local recipients.

Some general N.C. awards:

90 contracts - $80,465,108
1802 grants - $3,678,194,703
433 loans - $275,204,830
Total awards: 2325 - $4,033,864,641

Sugared Beverages, Obesity and Taxes

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has issued a new report titled: "Taxing sugared beverages would help trim state budget deficits, comsumers' bulging waistlines, and health care costs" (PDF)

The report contains a spreadsheet with numbers for the different states. Here are the numbers for North Carolina:

Budget Deficit (2010) & Potential Revenue from nickel-a-drink* Tax

FY 2010 Budget Gap          Annual New Revenue          
4,600,000,000                    220,000,000

New Revenue Share of Budget Gap - 4.78%                       

North Carolina's state obesity rate is 29 percent.

* A drink is defined as a 12 oz. serving

Monday, October 05, 2009


Trust for America's Health has a new report out saying that if 35 percent of the population gets the flu, 15 states could run out of hospital beds at the height of the flu season.

 That would be 3,227,845 North Carolinians. According to the report , 42,464 people in North Carolina may need to be hospitalized.

North Carolina is one of the 12 states that would be at 75 to 99 percent of their hospital bed capacity.

This is the part of the report that deals with North Carolina.

Code of Ethics

The Society of Professional Journalists has posted a Code of Ethics:
1. Seek Truth and Report It
2. Minimize Harm
3. Act Independently
4. Be Accountable

The SPJ Code of Ethics is voluntarily embraced by thousands of writers, editors and other news professionals. The present version of the code was adopted by the 1996 SPJ National Convention, after months of study and debate among the Society's members.

Sigma Delta Chi's first Code of Ethics was borrowed from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1926. In 1973, Sigma Delta Chi wrote its own code, which was revised in 1984, 1987 and 1996.

Click the link above to read the entire code.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Government Information

From an L.A. Times article on Monday:
Government pooh-bahs live by the credo Information is Power. Here are a few of the guerrillas working to overthrow the resulting dictatorship.
The article informs us about (with links) free web sites that offer information that you would have to pay for at other sites. One web site Datamasher.org is a Sunlight Foundation grant winner who writes software that slices and dices government data. Check out what they have done with  high school graduation rates mashed up with income. You might be surprised at North Carolina's ranking.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speaking of Google...

A new application from Google called Wave promises to revolutionize internet communications. It combines e-mail, chat, Wiki documents, blogs and photo-sharing sites.

One of the app's creators, Jens Rasmussen, says "We really have a much too strong tendency to just take things we know and just adapt them to the digital world...Wave will be something new, a real-time communication system designed specifically for today's faster-paced, multitasking Internet."

Life Magazine

Last week Google announced that they had partnered with Life Magazine to digitize their magazine covering the years from 1936 to 1972.  Well, here it is. Access is free. It is even searchable by keyword.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PDFs of your stories using the e-archive

The DTI e-archive has a PDF version of your stories. Haven't ever used the e-archive? Here is how to access it:

1. You MUST have Mozilla Firefox installed on your computer. Don't have it? Call 7378 or email Help Desk to get it installed. Once installed, open the application and copy and paste this web link into the browser: http://nrearchivesvr/eArchive/login.jsp - the database is on an internal server and will not work outside the building.

2. Your Username and Password are the same as when you log-on to DTI. Remember the e-archive is DTI, just a web version of it.

3. Use the drop boxes to choose a year and month to search; search all years at once by leaving those boxes blank. But remember if you are searching all years, there are 20 years of archive there, so your search had better be specific - use quotes for phrases. (There will be PDFs of stories only since 2005)

4. Check the box to the left to select a particular story. Click the View PDF button. Your jump should be included in a separate page.

5. Once the PDF is open, you can email it, copy and save it, or print it.

6. To make sure the page is large enough to read, click Print Setup, under File and choose a larger size paper.

Monday, September 14, 2009


2008 Poverty Tables

Historical Tables

From the Census Bureau

American Community Survey

From the Census Bureau:
The U.S. Census Bureau will release data from the 2008 American Community Survey on Tuesday, Sept. 22. This release will include all one-year estimates from data collected in 2008 — including income and poverty estimates. In addition to the full complement of social, economic and housing data, this release will also include estimates on health insurance coverage, marital history and veterans’ service-connected disability ratings for the first time. These estimates will be available for the nation, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, every congressional district and all counties, places and metropolitan areas with populations of 65,000 or more. The data will be available Sept. 17 on an embargoed basis for media use.

Crime in the United States

The FBI has just released a group of statistics on crime for 2008.  The data is sorted by offense, region, state, and by local agency.

This is just one set of data:
NC State total murders 586
Total firearms 362
Handguns 261
Rifles 22
Shotguns 25
Firearms (type unknown) 54
Knives or cutting instruments 54
Other weapons 102
Hands, fists, feet, etc. 68

Other type of data:  Crime by type - violent, property; trends rates and weapons used; Data on the persons arrested - age, gender, race - for 29 separated offenses, including murder; Police employee data: Includes data about sworn officers and civilian employees.

Law enforcement officers killed and assaulted data will be available in mid October.

The 2008 edition of the annual report Hate Crime Statistics is tentatively scheduled for release on November 23, 2009.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our e-archive

Of course everyone in the newsroom is using our e-archive (with Mozilla Firefox), but if not, message IT to download Firefox and I will send you the web link to the archive. Your DTI log-on and password work with this version too. The e-archive IS DTI, just a web version of it, so wire stories are there too.

E-Archive does have some quirks. I recently discovered it will not search special characters, such as the apostrophe (') . I was searching the name "Clyde O'Ferrell" but the story was not returned. Alina, in IT did some digging and discovered that our e-archive version doesn't like special characters. So instead of using the apostrophe, use a question mark -- like this "Clyde O?Ferrell".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Google Squared

This tip from Mary Ellen Bates @Bates Information Services Inc.: Google Squared is a search engine that tries to provide answers instead of web sites. It builds a database of answers. For example, type in Blue Dog Democrats and you get pictures, names, birthdates, latest news. Or try one of Google's predefined subjects, such as US presidents or roller coasters.

Some tweaking is still needed - when you add North Carolina to roller coasters, you get Carowinds - good, but also the Miky Way galaxy and the Gemini constellation. Still -- way cool.

update: you can also add to the database yourself!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Infant Mortality and other health statistics

North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics has links to the 2008 Infant Mortality Statistics

The Census Bureau has put together some statistics, reports and related links on health insurance, including some historical tables.

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center has created an interactive map detailing the whereabouts of over 900 hate groups in the U.S. Here is the map with locations for 30 hate groups in North Carolina.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Ars Technica tells us about a new Firefox extension created by the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton aims to tear down the federal judiciary's PACER paywall. It uploads legal documents to a freely accessible mirror that is hosted by the Internet Archive.