CAR just keeps on growing

This corner of Media magazine isn’t feeling quite as lonely as it once did. In fact, it’s getting downright crowded

The last year has been something of a blur in the world of computer-assisted reporting in Canada

Natalie Clancy of CBC-TV in Vancouver built a database to probe a string of gangland murders (Please see the Winter 2002 edition of Media).A team at the Toronto Star analyzed police data to reveal a persistent pattern of racial profiling and sweep up the 2002 Michener award and a National Newspaper Award. David McKie of CBC Radio used Health Canada data to investigate faulty medical devices. My own newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator, makes CAR a regular part of the daily file

CAR is coming of age in Canada, and is shedding its image as a reclusive, numbers-driven obsession of a few lonely die-hards

There was proof of that once again at the recent CAJ annual convention in Toronto as the lineup for the fifth annual CAR award was like an awards show in its own right

For those of us who have been around since nearly the beginning, since the days when the CAR room at the annual convention was a good place for a bowling tournament, it’s more than a little satisfying

These days, it’s hard to find a chair in the CAR room, and the training sessions fill up quickly with people eager to learn the mysteries of rows, columns and queries. I marvel at it all

I remember well the Vancouver convention in 1999,when McKie spent long hours in the CAR demo room, learning how to use Excel. This year, he was one of the teachers, and shows other journalists, and journalism students at Carleton University, how to avoid being overwhelmed by data when writing and broadcasting CAR stories

These days, CAR skills are showing up as a requirement on job postings. Canada’s journalism schools are making CAR part of the mainstream curriculum, and reporters are having more and more success prying newsworthy databases from the clutches of reluctant governments

It’s a good time to have CAR skills, and a good time to learn.