Analysts told me Amazon is getting ready to launch its grocery delivery system, Fresh, here in New York. What does that mean for supermarkets and customers? My latest for Uptown Radio.

WNYC: Google Glass Behind the Wheel? Lawmakers Say No

WNYC picked up a version of a piece I first reported for Uptown Radio a few weeks back. It aired during today’s broadcast of Morning Edition.

Dave Letterman is retiring and I did a pretty weird day story about it. I think you’ll dig it.

Google Glass and other wearable technologies aren’t commonplace yet, but lawmakers are already trying to ban Google Glass behind the wheel.

I gave opinion writing a try in my Covering Education seminar: Op-ed: Letter grades hide real school data.

What does the proposed Comcast / Time Warner Cable deal mean for you? My latest for Uptown Radio.

“As teachers of journalism students from around the world, we recognize that Egyptian civil society is in a time of debate and transition, but such times are precisely when the mission of independent journalism is most relevant. Journalism is not terrorism. Neither is dissent whether printed or online.”
The faculty of the Columbia Journalism School. Really proud to see some of my own professors — Bruce Shapiro, John Dinges, and Lynnell Hancock, each of them brilliant — have signed this powerful letter supporting imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalists.

Uptown RadioI watched all 13 new episodes of “House of Cards,” then asked a Vulture writer if I’m even allowed to talk about the show on the radio. 

In my first commentary for Uptown Radio, I tell talk about my induction into the unlucky fraternity of New Yorkers with ancient, broken steam radiators.

Why don’t more people use digital locks? An interview I helped produce for WNYC’s excellent podcast New Tech City.


WNYC Bike Room, 7 degrees.

I will definitely be taking advantage of this bike room.


She came. She saw. She coded. (And she was nervous…)

New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi takes a one-day computer programming class, builds an app and “loses her mind.” More here:

One of my future co-workers learns to code in this great video. Can’t wait for Monday, when I join the team on WNYC’s business and economics desk (where I’ll be their only — and hopefully favorite — intern).

A data story that doesn’t read like one

Late last semester I reported a piece on homicides in Brownsville, Brooklyn — part of a larger series on crime in the borough — with my classmates Renny Grinshpan and Nicola Pring. We told the story of a 25-year-old Mervyn Spann and looked at how that fit into broader trends in a city where crime is down but clusters of violence remain.

There aren’t numbers or data in the story, "The Man Who Couldn’t Escape Brownsville," but there was plenty happening behind the scenes. Here’s a breakdown of the data work behind the story.

First, I manually inputted about four months of NYPD news releases into a dataset. (This step was not fun.)

The division that releases these news releases, DCPI, doesn’t seem to follow any standard format in these emailed releases, so writing a program to scrape the emails didn’t seem like it would do me much good.


But after a few hours, I managed to create a CSV that listed the name of each homicide victim, information like age, gender, and race, and both the victim’s address and the location where he or she was killed. The data ultimately looked like this:


Next, I built a map. I used R to geocode the addresses and plot the location of each homicide between August and December onto a map. It was really basic — each dot showed where someone was killed — but it let us identify the neighborhoods with clusters of homicides. We had breakdowns by precinct, yes, but this gave us a better geographic understanding of where things were happening.


I also ran some other analysis — looking at factors like age, race, and gender — but it seemed to use that location told the most important story here.

Finally, we headed to Brownsville. (Other classmates headed to other neighborhoods, like the nearby Ocean Hill.) The data showed us that there had been several recent homicides in this poor, out-of-the-way Brooklyn neighborhood. So we made a list of victim addresses and the location of homicides, and pounded the pavement. Yes, we got lucky finding people who knew one of the victims, but we also knew where to look.

In the end, the story doesn’t read like a data story (and I didn’t even think of it that way myself, at first). But that’s exactly what it is: I used data to figure out where news was happening, and that led us to report a powerful human story. And I’m certain we were able to report a better piece this way than if we just skimmed the DCPI releases, made an educated guess of the best place to go report, and hit the pavement. 

And if you’re interested in more data about homicides in Brooklyn, check out this companion piece by Nicola Pring and Chen Wu, complete with awesome maps and infographics.

Mervyn Spann had a daughter, turned his life around, and was getting ready to move to Florida. He never made it out of Brooklyn.

The Man Who Couldn’t Escape Brownsville — The Brooklyn Ink