by Sarah See
Computer-assisted reporting was used in a story by msnbc.com about the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that revealed holes in federal data.
The records used to produce the story were from the National Bridge Inventory, the Federal Highway Administration, federal audits of the bridge inspection process, pitches from vendors of safety equipment, and inquiries from members of Congress.
The analysis used to produce the story was made by msnbc.com applying the Freedom of Information Act and receiving about 500 internal e-mails from officials when the investigative reporter requested information.
The computer skills that the reporter needed to do this reporting include knowledge of how to search and find the necessary records, reports, documents, etc., along with who and what types of sources to contact.
Moreover, the story shows that the reporter searched through many state records, especially those concerning federal funding and bridge data, in order to write about the specific problems in certain states.
The reporter must have had to go through the hundreds of e-mails that were released to compile them as .pdf files, so they could be posted on msnbc.com for the public to read and gain more information on the issue.