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Analysis: Computer-Assisted Reporting in story about Tracking Pharmaceuticals

There was no indication as to what spurred the story idea for research in a story by The Associated Press about pharmaceutical concentration in water throughout the United States.

It was clear, however, that the writers (and those working with them) poured over data from government documents and data from companies and institutions. The reporters were not handed the comparisons that they presented within the story. In fact, the story often referred to an AP investigation.

Naturally, the reporters would have had to pick out the key statistics or facts among thousands of less meaningful, non-newsworthy data. The story likely also required manipulation of many of the data to even allow for comparisons.

The reporters were careful to draw on other sources, but not before a thorough analysis of most, in not all, of the data.

It was typical in the latter part of the story for the writers to present data of a particular case or institution, and then state the response by that institution or organization. It seems probable that the reporters would have presented their findings to these people, asking them to comment. The reporters included a comment or reaction (or non-reaction) from almost every institution or company mentioned.

Careful record-finding skills was critical to the story, and a statistical grounding was likely necessary. It seemed that the reporters had at least a basic knowledge of the chemistry and biology behind the subject.