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Tom Meagher


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The data behind a disaster

Amidst the shock and tragedy of last week’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis, journalists around the country embraced the power of computer-assisted reporting to enhance their reporting. One such reporter compiled a cool list of many of the great stories they produced.

Some of the praise for this response is owed to IRE and its database library. Many in the industry knew immediately that IRE keeps a copy of the national bridge inspection inventory database created by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hundreds flooded IRE with requests for the database. I was one of them. With little time, my colleagues and I managed to pull together a story telling readers about the troubled bridges in our area. My only regret was that we did not have the time to throw our own local “structurally deficient” bridges into a map for our readers.

Without IRE’s help, though, we likely would not have had a story at all. If you’re not already familiar with their tipsheets and databases and help, then acquaint yourself quickly. So the next time news of public safety breaks, you’ll be ready.