As long as I've worked here, the Spokesman-Review has had a data library on its website. As a reporter, I use it pretty regularly: to look up a city staffer's salary or check which homicide cases we're tracking.
But most of us don't poke around the Internet looking up random data points in spreadsheets. Anyway, I've always found the story behind the data more compelling. What sticks out? What doesn't make sense? What's interesting?
This month, we're launching a new monthly column called Know Spokane. Once a month, our job will be to take a spreadsheet* and make it sexy.
(*Or a database or Census table or something else that sounds boring.)
More specifically, we're going to find a story pouring over spreadsheets and public records to tell you something surprising or interesting about the place you live.
This month, we tackled parking tickets. Many people know about the "scofflaw list," where people with four or more unpaid parking tickets end up. But did you know there's a handful of people getting tons of parking tickets - one a week or more - and paying them off?
We thought that was odd, so we talked to a parking enforcement officer, downtown businesses and more trying to figure out why that might be happening. And while we didn't get a definitive answer, we came up with some good theories and discovered Spokane is one of the cheapest cities in the region for parking tickets.
In the coming months, we''re hoping to look at how the diversity of Spokane's culinary offerings compares to other Washington cities and whether our roads are really as bad as everyone says. Have ideas or questions? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you want to follow along with random tidbits we pull from spreadsheets or nerdy jokes about Excel, Know Spokane is on Twitter here.