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Miami Herald uses timeline to track fraud’s impact on one borrower

Miami Herald screen grab of mortgage-fraud victim storyToluse Olorunnipa of The Miami Herald tells a compelling story about a woman whose story of possible eviction illustrates the fraud that led to so many foreclosures. He starts the story:

“All she wanted was $50,000 from the equity in her house to help pay the bills while looking for a job in nursing. What Imogene Hall got was a brutal lesson in the sometimes shady ways of the mortgage industry.

It’s a lesson learned by untold numbers of homeowners in Florida, epicenter of the foreclosure crisis gripping the nation.”

In a column about the front-page story, executive editor Aminda Marques Gonzalez says Hall called Toluse after she read another mortgage-fraud story he’d written. Aminda writes:

“He jotted her name and number, then headed to the courthouse to dig up details. He went through dozens of documents, finding a connection among the cast of characters: All had been involved in a string of mortgage fraud.

Olorunnipa’s reporting found that she had been victimized at every step, from the original lender to the attorneys who were supposed to help Hall save her home.”

Today’s Tip: Create a timeline of important events for yourself, Toluse says.

 

Toluse Olorunnipa, reporter for The Miami Herald

Toluse Olorunnipa

 

“It helped me organize my thoughts and organize my story by highlighting the key moments in chronological order.”

With this story, dozens of court records were involved because of all the many players, he says. The timeline allowed him to keep track of all the moving parts, highlighting key moments in Hall’s crisis.

“This timeline turned out to be priceless as I tried to craft a story that explained the complexities of the case with an easy-to-digest narrative,” he says.

Here’s a new timeline tool that Sarah Cohen, Knight Professor of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University, shared with those on the NICAR (National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting) listserv. It’s called TimeFlow, and she explains:

“It’s designed for exploration and analysis rather than for publishing. Here are some of the cool things it does:

  • Lets you zoom in and out on years, days or hours.
  • Lets you tag your notes with names or other keywords and color-code and filter them using a faceted-browsing type selection
  • Lets you filter using a simple word search or a regular expression
  • You can look at it on a timeline or a calendar
  • If you have numeric values, they can be displayed as different size bubbles
  • Copy and paste from a spreadsheet, or edit in place.”

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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