Pitch: The Changing Face of Veteran Homelessness

With Veterans Day less than a month away, our team (Lothar Krause, Ezra Eeman and Lindsey McCormack) will examine the changing face of veteran homelessness.

In the wake of the US occupation of Iraq and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, millions of young veterans are facing the challenge of reintegrating into society.  A growing percentage of the homeless veteran population is comprised of young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a 2011 government report, young veterans are more than twice as likely to be homeless as their non-veteran counterparts.

For this project, we will use currently available data to map the US veteran homeless population state by state. Unfortunatley, the Veteran’s Administration has not released the raw data on geographic distribution of Iraq/Afghanistan vets. Our maps will include the total veteran population in each state, as well as the portion of each state’s overall homeless population that is comprised of veterans. This approach has already yielded some surprises. For instance, Kansas has a very small number of homeless veterans compared to states like California and New York, but almost 1 out of every 3 homeless people there is a veteran.

We will also include charts and other illustrations of the changing face of homeless veterans. The stereotypical picture of a homeless vet is a white man who fought in Vietnam. However, veterans who served since 2001 include many more women, African-Americans and Latinos.

Finally, we are interested to see if overall VA expenditures per state correspond to those states that have a high rate of veteran homelessness.

Our data sources include:

For homeless vets: the Veteran Administration’s 2011 Point-In-Time Census of Homeless Veterans


For overall veteran population: the VA’s VetPop2007 data set, based on a 2007 census with population estimates up to the year 2036.


For state-level expenditures on veterans programs: the Geographic Distribution of VA Expenditures (GDX) Report, released in May 2012.


Expert Sources:

  • Dennis Culhane, Director of Research for the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  •  Paul Rieckhoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Director of the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University

Pitch by Alberto Brea and Kevin Convey

Data-Driven Journalism

Pitch for The Happiness Project:

Healthy, Wealthy, Wise (and, maybe, Sexy)

Alberto Brea and Kevin Convey

17 October 2012




Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts the largest poll on the subject of happiness in the United States, measuring dozens of metrics and producing a happiness heat map of the states. We want to know how the age-old metrics of health, wealth, wisdom – and, we hope, sexual satisfaction, and possibly religious belief – correlate with happiness by state.



Why this subject and why now?


The subject of happiness – why we’re happy, why we’re not, and how we can achieve, intensify and maintain our happiness – is of perennial interest around the world. It sells millions of books, magazines and television shows every year. As we enter what for some is the happiest time of the year – featuring, in rapid succession, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – and what for others is the gloomiest, coldest, darkest period of the year, the subject of happiness takes on renewed interest and newsworthiness.



The Data



We begin, of course, with the basic happiness index Gallup prepares for the states:


To that, we add August’s unemployment figures as the latest relative indicator of statewide wealth: http://www.bls.gov/lau/ and/or per capita income figures by state: http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm

Next, a measure of relative health by state: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/Rankings

Next, the U.S. Census tabulation of educational attainment, looking specifically at either the rate of attainment of a bachelor’s or high school degree by state. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/education/educational_attainment.html

And, finally – we hope – a measure of sexual activity or sexual satisfaction by state, from data yet to be discovered. One starting point could be the birth rate by state: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=35&cat=2


Failing that – or perhaps in addition to it – we may examine a correlation between happiness and religious affiliation and/or practice:


Most of the data above we have already spread-sheeted in Excel. It remains only to map/graph/chart it.

Potential Sources


We’ve already corresponded with the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the University of Indiana and the Kinsey Institute in an effort to locate the sexual satisfaction statistics we’re looking for. We’ll also discuss our overall findings with a demographic expert at the Pew Center and a psychologist and/or sociologist, both of whom should be easy enough to contact via the phone or email to help us put our findings into context and perspective.




We plan to present our findings as a series of maps and/or charts organized in a Hype/Tumult slideshow.



Kuriyama/Thorne pitch

It’s 2008, and Barack Obama’s just been elected President. One of his first vows in office: that transparency will be a “touchstone” of his term. Four years later, has the Obama administration lived up to this promise?

Using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data provided by the Department of Justice, we want to assess accessibility and openness of government agencies. How many FOIA requests does each agency get per year? How many does it fulfill, and how many does it reject? How long does it take to respond? Are some agencies more responsive than others? Has their responsiveness changed over time and under different presidents?

To place our findings in context, we’ll be going after interviews with:
– Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government and lawyer with FOIA/FOIL expertise
– Danielle Ivory, Bloomberg reporter focusing on FOIA issues and government accountability
– Representative from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group advocating greater government transparency

Now is the time to ask these questions. With the debates in full swing and the election just three weeks away, what better moment to see whether the President’s lived up to one of his central campaign promises?

Labor Data Story Pitch

Elizabeth Henderson & Malik Singleton

1. Thesis and Questions

A total of 163,000 jobs were added to the U.S. labor market last July. Another 96,000 in August. While these numbers show slowly improving economy, they do little to tell us how people are making a living these days. We want to uncover data about working people that paints a real picture of the current workforce. How many people are moving from manufacturing the retail work? And how is this switch playing out along gender and class lines?

2. News Hook

In 1972, almost a quarter of workers in the United States worked in the manufacturing industry. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number shrank to nine percent. Meanwhile, employment in the service and retail industries are on the rise. Even the President stressed in the second debate that certain jobs just aren’t coming back to the United States. So which people and cities are hit the hardest by this trend? Our report will find answers to this.

3. Description and Link to Data

This EEOC dataset shows how private companies reported to their agency the demographic makeup of their employees. We will use these numbers, plus BLS data to find details for our story.

4. Potential Expert Sources

In our reporting we will find sources who are real people doing real work, in addition to the experts in the labor research field listed here.

a. Gary Steinberg, National press officer, Bureau of Labor Statistics
(202) 691-5902, Steinberg.Gary@bls.gov
Regional press office, New York/New Jersey, Bureau of Labor Statistics

b. Stanley Aronowitz, Professor of Sociology, City University of New York
(212) 817-2001, saronowitz@gc.cuny.edu
* Stanley Aronowitz has written over 20 books on labor in the United States, and his work includes research on how race, gender and class intersect with labor.

c. Mark Brenner, Editor, Labor Notes
718-284-4144, mark@labornotes.org
* Labor Notes has covered the labor movement for over 15 years, specifically focusing on the decline of manufacturing jobs and the rise in the retail and service industries — and that this change means for workers.

d. Kevin J. Berry, Director EEOC New York District Office