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What's new in journalism tech tools

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Apply technology to muckraking and what do you get? The recent Techraking conference, sponsored by Google and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The 10,000 Words blog has a rundown on some of the top tools discussed in a session on using technology to improve the reporting process, including LiveScribe (a "smartpen that records audio and syncs it with your handwritten notes"), and NodeXL ("a tool for finding connections between people").

The good and bad in patient safety data

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Teaching hospitals did poorly in Medicare's new patient safety data ratings, and the objections aren't at all spurious, Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News tells CJR: "These metrics, which measure such things as serious blood clots and accidental cuts and tears, were created for a different purpose. The original aim was to help hospitals look at and track internal problems. They were not set up to compare one hospital with another." Rau's story.

Showtime for the Higgs boson (the what?)

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons

Pity the poor science writer who has to translate the latest Higgs evidence into something an average reader can grasp. Luckily, Fermilab, source of the newest Higgs news, has posted a Frequently Asked Questions page about the Higgs and the history of its search. Elsewhere, John Timmer, Jon Butterworth, and Adam Mann discuss what the latest findings mean, and what's next.

Detecting doctored entries in Wikipedia

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Maybe you heard that Newt Gingrich's communications director made more than five dozen changes in his candidate's Wikipedia entry and related pages since 2008. Rob Pegoraro on Discovery News offers a guide to Wikipedia tools that can help flush out the rogue editing: "Even if the assertions in an entry or the references provided for it don't seem fishy, the encyclopedia also provides a good set of tools to spot mischief," including the "talk" and "history" pages.

How to be a statistics skeptic

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"Number hygiene for journalists" is the provocative title of a post on Getstats, a project of the UK Royal Statistical Society. The original Word document is posted in a more accessible form here. A sample: "The wording of a question can hugely influence the answer you get ... What the public understands may not match the survey researcher's idea." Comment here and an interview with the director.

The tyranny of garbage search results

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OJR's Robert Niles has a good rant about "crap data." "Whenever I'm stuck searching for information via Google or Bing, I inevitably have to scroll past link after link to scraped websites — pages written not by any human being, but slapped together by scripts created to blend snippets from other webpages into something that will fool Google's or Bing's algorithm into promoting them." His solution? A return to Yahoo-style web indexes, collated by human editors.

A bookmark list for data journalism

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It consists of six blogs from places like the New York Times and ProPublica, and the [10,000 Words] site has the full list in two parts. The second part also includes details about a data journalism handbook now being group-written by some of the discipline's brightest lights: "The goal is to have a comprehensive draft completed by the end of the year, said Liliana Bounegru of the European Journalism Centre."

New restrictions on the doctor database

Leaders of seven journalism organizations including NASW are protesting the government's republishing of the National Practitioner Data Bank under new restrictions. "We believe these rules are ill-advised, unenforceable and probably unconstitutional," the groups wrote Thursday to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services. "Restricting how reporters use public data is an attempt at prior restraint." Read the letter.

A guide to the latest Facebook updates

The social media giant says its recent changes contain some useful features for journalists even though they are causing a backlash among some users. In a post on the Nieman Journalism Lab, Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalist program manager, explains how the new "subscribe" feature and related tools can help journalists separate public and private content without setting up two distinct pages. More from the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Shining a light on hospital quality data

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A non-profit group that does hospital accreditations is under pressure to make its survey data public, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The Association of Health Care Journalists notes that the Joint Commission findings are a basis for hospital licensing in many states, even though most of the data it collects is not available for public review. The AHCJ site also includes links to past coverage of the Joint Commission.