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Tom Meagher


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"My dog is better than yours"

From the shameless self-promotion department, here’s a couple of nice stories we ran this weekend that I had a hand in.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been editing full-time, so I haven’t had a lot of bylines of late. But my latest project, which I put together in conjunction with our intrepid cops reporter, looks at the worst intersections in our county for pedestrians.

It all started when I found that the New Jersey Department of Transportation posts all of its crash records–the databases listing every accident in the state in which a report was filed–online. We took a look at the last six years to see what intersections have proved most dangerous, and deadly, for walkers and cyclists. Once I got the data, the hardest part was figuring out how to standardize the names of the intersections. One accident might be listed at Main and Market streets. The next accident would be listed at Market and Main streets, but they’re really the same interesction. With a little help from the everready NICAR listserv, I leapt over that hurdle and kept running.

We used the state DOT’s formula for weighting the severity of each accident. Those with more serious injuries got a higher score. Those with a complaint of pain or simply property damage got a very low score. Then we just added up the scores for every accident at each intersection. Pretty straightforward, although it took us some time to pull it all together.

The product, a nice explainer piece for our readers, ran Sunday. Judging by the early chatter on the local message boards, forums and blogs, it seemed to get a good response from readers. It was accompanied by a cool sound slides that we put together with the help of our photo staff. Of course, there was also the de rigeur Google map showing the clusters of the worst intersections and highlighting the 12 where pedestrians have been killed by drivers since 2001.

Then, this morning, we ran a project that I had coached and edited from the beginning on the dogfighting underworld in New Jersey. Despite the headlines generated by Michael Vick’s arrest and downfall over the summer, very few outlets really took the time to understand the allure of dogfighting and related blood sports like cockfighting.

Reporter Heather Haddon spent weeks cultivating sources to do just that, to get into the dogfighting landscape that is surprisingly popular here and to explain why thousands of people are attracted to it. I think she did a great job. I hope you agree.

Let me know what you think of these projects. Any reactions? Criticisms? Advice?