Reporter 'makes it click' with database skills from conference
Jeff Sturgeon, a reporter for The Roanoke Times, used skills he learned at a conference on computer-assisted reporting to detail in a series of stories how nearly half the deaths of unbuckled drivers in Virginia, especially those in rural areas, could have been avoided.
He found one of the greatest disparities among drivers of pickup trucks, only 60 percent of whom use seat belts in rural areas. The statewide rate for all drivers is 82 percent. Extrapolating the data, he concluded that of the 1,700 unbuckled drivers who died in Virginia from July 2007 to June 2012, at least 600 could have been lived.
The conference he attended was held by Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, with funding from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Another was held last year at the University of Kentucky, where the institute is based.
Here, the reporter tells how he wrote the "Make It Click" series.
By Jeff Sturgeon
In the summer of 2011, Virginia posted a statewide seat belt usage rate of 82 percent. In the lengthy annual seat belt survey, Carole Tarrant, editor of The Roanoke Times, found a detail likely to interest the paper’s readership: Southwest Virginia, where the paper is based, posted a subpar, regional belt-use rate of 76 percent. People in pickups in the southwest region scored close to 60 percent.