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Sarah L. Ryley, Investigative & Data Journalist

Reporting & Editing Experience

The Boston Globe, investigative & data journalist, Boston, Jan. 2021 - Present

Started as a Spotlight Fellow; hired as the team’s data specialist in April 2021. Currently produce data- and document-driven stories on issues from across the state.

  • Series on loopholes in state gun laws resulted in sweeping local and state reforms and federal inspections of 80+ gun dealers. Series on conflicts of interest at Harvard-affiliated hospitals triggered changes in trustee investment policies and was a finalist for a national health care reporting award.

  • Filed 200+ public records requests and won 42 of 46 state appeals.

  • Won company Hack Day with pitch for a newsroom data hub now slated for implementation; presented newsroom brown bag on data tools and database architecture to 50+ staffers.

 

Freelance, journalist & data editor, New York, Feb. 2020 - Dec. 2020

Full-time contracts as a data editor for The Fuller Project and as a reporter for New York Times Opinion video and worked on a book proposal.

  • Produced months of deep reporting on U.S. pandemic preparedness that was spun into several Times Opinion mini-docs, including one featuring Nicholas Kristof that was an Emmy finalist.

  • Led The Fuller Project’s efforts to compile data on the pandemic’s impact on women and hosted webinars to explain the data to outside journalists. Through records requests to every state, was first to quantify women’s disproportionate share of layoffs in a story picked up by wire services.

 

The Trace, investigative & data journalist, New York, April 2017 - Feb. 2020

Produced data-driven investigations on law enforcement response to shootings.

  • Series with BuzzFeed News and Chicago’s WTTW on unsolved shootings helped free a man from prison, prompted agencies to put more detectives on shootings, and won three awards and honors.

  • Led efforts to obtain data and database documentation from 60+ law enforcement agencies. Secured pro bono legal representation from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other attorneys to win public records lawsuits against the NYPD, LASD, and Newark Police.

  • Published standardized and raw violent crime data from 56 agencies since used by scores of journalists, researchers, and policymakers.

 

New York Daily News, data projects editor, New York, Oct. 2012 - April 2017

Started as a Metro editor, then tapped to launch The News’ first data projects team. Oversaw the inclusion of data and data visualizations in stories on all desks, produced my own data-driven investigations, and ran Metro on Sundays.

  • Recognized with 22 awards and honors for work done here, including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a solo-bylined series done with ProPublica and as a distinguished alumna of my alma mater.

  • Investigations into the NYPD’s abuse of “broken windows” policing triggered at least 18 laws and other reforms that reduced police interactions by hundreds of thousands per year.

  • Trained dozens of reporters and editors on data tools and launched a newsroom data hub, increasing data utilization on all desks.

  • Secured partnerships with ProPublica, The Trace, CartoDB, and Tableau.

 

The Daily, investigative journalist, New York, Nov. 2010 - Oct. 2012

Produced quick-turn investigations on everything from tax shelters to celebrity cults and covered high-profile criminal trials. Series on immigration visa fraud relied on dozens of federal sources and became part of a congressional hearing and IG investigation. Other stories contributed to the indictment of a corrupt small-town mayor, uncovered the return of second mortgages through government-backed financing, and tied key figures in the Penn State child molestation scandal to a troubled real estate venture.

 

Freelance, journalist, New York, March 2008 - Nov. 2010

Wrote for various publications, primarily as a regular contributor of trend and quick-hit investigative stories to The Real Deal, a well-known real estate trade magazine, and New York Post. First-ever analysis of 100 years of booms and busts in Manhattan real estate won a national award. Other stories prompted a city sting on illegal hotels and a federal inquiry into a one-stop scheme.

 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, journalist & editor, New York, Sept. 2006 - March 2008

Wrote daily and enterprise stories and a weekly real estate column; edited and laid out the weekly Brooklyn Record. Routinely broke stories that had impact on the highly competitive real estate development beat. Stories helped save an Underground Railroad home from eminent domain and hastened the construction timetable for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

​Academic Teaching Experience

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism | Remote, December 2020 - Present

Advise M.S. in Data Journalism graduate students on their thesis projects.

The New School | New York, January 2016 – May 2016

Taught a semester-long investigative reporting lab class that laid the groundwork for WNYC’s “Judge Your Judges” project, a tool to inform voters about the judicial selection process and candidates. Four students produced research and reporting for the project and presented proposals for an animation and an app.

Guest lectures: Columbia University (2021, 2020, 2019, 2018), Wayne State University (2018), New York University (2017), Hunter College (2017)

Workshops & Panels

2023 - New England First Amendment Institute conference, “Intro to R” half-day workshop; Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University, among a group of data journalists invited to give feedback to the U.S. government’s chief data scientists on data accessibility; The Boston Globe, newsroom training on data tools and government database architecture.

2019 - National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference, “Intro to R and RStudio” and “Data Analysis and Plotting in R” workshops, “Turning Data into Human Stories” panel; The Policing Project at New York University Law School, one of two journalists invited to participate in a two-day interactive workshop with 75 top law enforcement officials and leaders.
2018 - NICAR conference, “Intro to OpenRefine” workshop and “I'm Entitled to a Spreadsheet, Darnit!” panel; Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University, panelist for Public Data Day; 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Reducing Gun Violence Summit, spoke alongside NYPD officials on the panel “Families with Unsolved Homicide Cases Discus
sion."

2017- United Nations, World Press Freedom Day conference, “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media's Role in Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies” panel;  The Pulitzer Prizes Seminar at Columbia University, “Exposing Injustices Around the World” panel; CUNY J+ (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s continuing education arm), paid instructor for two-day workshop “Data Journalism Bootcamp: Excel, Open Refine, Tableau and More;" NICAR conference, “Data Analysis with Tableau” workshop, and “Building Your Own Database” and “The Art and Science of the Data Story Comment Request” panels; Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) workshop, “Intro to Data Journalism” panel; Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, “Not the Enemy of the People: The Future of Local Investigative Reporting” panel.

2016 - IRE conference, “Rolling Your Own Data” panel​; NICAR conference, “Lightning Fast Data Analysis with Tableau” workshop; Justice and Poverty Project at Harvard University, among 18 journalists and scholars selected to participate in the Justice and Poverty Project’s two-day workshop at Harvard; Bridging the Divide initiative at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “Nuisance Abatement and Broken Windows” panel

2015 - NICAR conference, “Lightning Fast Data Analysis with Tableau I” and “Lightning Fast Data Analysis with Tableau II” workshops

2014 - New York Daily News, four-day training workshops in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and OpenRefine (two rounds)

 

Awards & Honors

2023 - Boston Globe Media Partners, Hack Day, Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice, “Newsroom Data Hub”

2022 - National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, Finalist, "Boston’s Elite Hospitals: Personal Enrichment and Profits”

2021 - Emmy Awards, News Analysis: Editorial and Opinion, nominee, "How the U.S. Bungled the Plague”

2020 - The Boston Globe and Participant Media, Spotlight Fellowship; Deadline Club, The Les Payne Award for Coverage on Communities of Color, "Free to Shoot Again"

2019 - Online News Association, Innovation in Data Journalism, finalist, "Free to Shoot Again"; Sidney Award, February, "Free to Shoot Again"

2018 - Wayne State University, Career Achievement Award in the Field of Communication

2017 - Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, "Nuisance Abatement"; James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, "Nuisance Abatement"; Investigative Reporters and Editors, Print/Online - Large, finalist, "Nuisance Abatement"; National Association of Black Journalists, Online Project, finalist, "Nuisance Abatement"; MOLLY National Journalism Prize, honorable mention, "Nuisance Abatement"; Deadline Club, Minority Focus Omnibus Award, finalist, "Nuisance Abatement"; Deadline Club, Local Reporting, finalist, "Nuisance Abatement"; H.F. Guggenheim Foundation, fellowship to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s annual Symposium on Crime in America

2016 - Online News Association, Knight Award for Public Service, finalist, "Nuisance Abatement"; Sidney Award, May, "The NYPD is running stings against immigrant-owned shops, then pushing for warrantless searches"; Newswomen’s Club of New York, Depth Reporting - Online, "Nuisance Abatement"; Journalists Association of New York, Depth Reporting, first prize, "Fight for their Future"

2015 - Deadline Club, Minority Focus Omnibus Award, "Broken Windows"; Fast Company Innovation by Design, Data Visualization (finalist); Journalists Association of New York, Depth Reporting, first prize, "Broken Windows"; Journalists Association of New York, Continuing Coverage, first prize (as part of "Eric Garner" coverage); Journalists Association of New York, Depth Reporting, second prize, "They died at the hands of cops"

2014 - Newswomen’s Club of New York, Nellie Bly Front Page Award, "Beyond Broken"; Newswomen’s Club of New York, Multimedia Package, "The Homicide Project"; Journalists Association of New York, Online presentation, first prize, "Stop-and-Frisk"; Journalists Association of New York, Depth Reporting, first prize, "Stain on the Badge"

2012 - Center for Immigration Studies, Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration, “Rubber Stamp Visas.”

2011 - National Association of Real Estate Editors, Commercial Real Estate - Trade Publication, first prize, "100 Years of Booms and Busts"

Education

Wayne State University, B.A. in Journalism and Distinguished Alumna, Detroit

Interned at The Oakland Press (2005), The Detroit News (2005), and Brooklyn Daily Eagle (2006); offered staff jobs at The News and Eagle. Editor-in-chief, managing editor, and opinions editor of student daily. Recipient of George and Mabel Slocum Foundation Scholarship. Named distinguished alumna in 2018.

Certificates: 

2023 Web Scraping with Python, IRE, remote, four-day course

2017 Data Analysis with R, Boston University, Boston, five-day course

2012 Microsoft Access, Technical Institute of America, New York, two-day course

Skills & Expertise

  • Reporting and editing investigations, enterprise, and daily news​

  • Academic teaching, public speaking, and hands-on training

  • Public records requests and appeals

  • Research tools such as LexisNexis, Accurint, Westlaw, CLIO, PACER, EDGAR, OpenCorporates, LinkedIn, government open data and records platforms, Google Advanced Search

  • Advanced skill level with data tools such as R (primary tool for data cleaning, analysis, mapping, and graphics), Microsoft Excel, Tableau, CartoDB, and APIs; working skill level in Python, SQL, HTML, and CSS

Other Activities

  • Ceramic pottery and sculpting, student and studio member, Art Students League of New York and BKLYN CLAY in New York; Create in Boston

  • PADI-certified scuba diver, with dives in Zanzibar, Colombia, Belize, Cuba, and The Bahamas

  • Trekking, with multi-day treks in Kashmir, Colombia, Belize, Myanmar, Chile, Japan, and the United States

  • CHiPS Soup Kitchen, waitress & kitchen worker, New York

  • Unified for Global Healing, volunteer on two-week trip to Haiti to assist this medical relief team in promoting mirror-feedback therapy for amputees on Haitian radio and in U.S. outlets (2010)

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