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Great stories on your local economy lurk in the 2010 County Business Patterns data from the U.S. Census, set to be released this summer. In this one-hour, free webinar on Aug. 28, your guide to ferreting out those telling local business tales will be Paul Overberg, database editor for USA Today.
SO, WHAT’S IN THESE NUMBERS?
Reported annually, County Business Patterns data include the number of business establishments by industry, plus the number of employees, and total payroll for the first quarter and the year. The stats go down to the ZIP-code level.
AND HOW CAN YOU USE THE DATA?
Here are some examples of how other reporters have used the data to develop enterprising local business stories:
- For a story on the loss of manufacturing plants and payroll in Memphis, Ted Evanoff of The Commercial Appeal used County Business Patterns data to document the loss of 14 paper plants in Memphis in the decade that ended in 2009 (PDF).
- Jan Norman of The Orange County Register used the data to show the effects of the recession on the number of businesses (PDF), and therefore jobs, in Orange County.
- Elaine Rose of The Press of Atlantic City found that the number of furniture stores in Cape May County had held steady (PDF) but that they were operating with fewer employees.
IS THIS WEBINAR FOR YOU?
Some of stories in the Census’ County Business Patterns data are accessible even without a working knowledge of Excel or some other spreadsheet software. Of course, to get the maximum mileage out of this data, a bit of Excel will carry you a long way. To get up to speed on spreadsheets, you can consult:
- The Knight Digital Media Center at Berkeley has this self-guided training on the free spreadsheets in Google Docs.
- The Centre for Investigative Journalism at City University London has an online handbook on data journalism, which includes the basics of Excel, starting on page 7.
- The Reynolds Center has self-guided training on computer-assisted reporting for business journalists, as well as a free workshop in Missoula, Mont., on Oct. 6 that includes Excel training.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
This hourlong webinar will use a case-study approach that will teach you how to use the County Business Patterns data to:
- Compare one county’s economy to another county. For example, an urban county with a suburban or exurban neighbor. Or your local county to a competitor county elsewhere.
Additional online tutorials available after the webinar will coach you through using the data to:
- Compare current data for a county with data from five or 10 years ago. County Business Patterns has been published annually since 1964; similar data were reported for various periods since 1946.
- Compare the representation of various industries in your county to that of your state or the nation. What industry clusters do you have, and how do they reflect (or not) local economic-development efforts?
Paul Overberg has been USA TODAY’s database editor since 1993. He is one of the foremost experts among journalists on the U.S. Census and has trained journalists through the Reynolds Center, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists in how to cover the Census. He describes his job as finding news in data. ”Often, it’s demographic data. But I analyze lots of numbers — airport security wait times, stream flows, Gallup poll data, campaign contributions,” he writes on USA Today’s website. ”And data isn’t just numbers. I analyze speech texts and social networks and spatial patterns, too.”
Before working at USA TODAY, he was a science and environmental reporter and editor at Gannett News Service in Washington and held a variety of reporting and editing roles at The Courier-News in Bridgewater, N.J. He holds a B.A. in history from Rutgers University.
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ABOUT THE PROGRAM
This free Webinar is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
The Reynolds Center is funded by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas. Besides its free regional workshops and online training, the center runs BusinessJournalism.org, offering daily tips, training and resources for those who want to do a better job of covering business.
Those who successfully complete three regional workshops or Webinars presented by the Reynolds Center are eligible to receive a “Circle of Achievement” award certificate. If you have any questions about the Webinar or the center, please email Executive Director Linda Austin or call 602-496-9187.