Completed Stories

Here are some of the major stories completed using Overview. For a more comprehensive list see here.

A Losing Battle — Alissa Figueroa, Fusion

An obscure Army panel is supposed to correct unjust errors in your discharge record. But if you have PTSD, chances are your appeal was denied and you won’t get medical benefits. This amazing interactive story involved dozens of interviews — and over 100,000 documents analyzed in Overview to determine the rate at which appeals succeeded.


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Competitive edge: What we know from Idaho hospital trial documents – Audrey Dutton, Idaho Statesman

Behind the scenes.

After a judge unsealed 8,000 documents from an anti-trust case, Dutton used Overview to reconstruct a story of fierce competition between hospitals and insurers. Her work led to a six-story series.


For Their Eyes Only — Sandra Peddie and Adam Playford, Newsday

Behind the scenes.

This 2014 Pulitzer finalist story documents how police misconduct in Long Island has been hidden from public view by some of the strongest police secrecy laws in the country. The reporting work included extensive interviews with current and former police officers, combined with a massive document mining project:

In an effort to penetrate the secrecy of the 50-a law and examine Long Island’s system for handling and responding to police misconduct cases, Newsday reviewed more than 900 lawsuits, 7,000 pages of county legislative transcripts, union agreements and 1,700 proposed state laws.

Newsday also obtained from the Suffolk Police Department 300 pages of records from misconduct cases from 2008 through 2013.

Data journalist Adam Playford describes his use of Overview:

We used Overview for our analysis of bills passed in Albany. It seems like a really small part, just a few paragraphs here and there, but that analysis was a crucial part of our nut graf and big-picture conclusion, and Overview made it a lot easier. … One thing that was obvious was the tremendous strides it took even between when I started the project and when it finished. It’s improving at a tremendous rate, and I’m excited to see where we might go with it next.


What did private security contractors do in Iraq? – Jonathan Stray, Associated Press

Behind the scenes.

Many people have heard of a few headline-grabbing incidents involving private military contractors such as Blackwater in Iraq. But were cases of contractors killing civilians common? To find out, Stray pored through 4,500 pages of recently declassified documents, containing every single “escalation of force” report for the period 2005-2007 all over Iraq. Using Overview, he was able to find every instance of civilian injury, trace the evolution of oversight policy, and establish the trends and patterns behind the headlines.


DHHS downplayed food stamp issues — Tyler Dukes, WRAL

Behind the scenes.

Technical troubles with a new system meant that almost 70,000 North Carolina residents received their food stamps late this summer. That’s 8.5 percent of the number of clients the state currently serves every month. The problem was eventually traced to web browser compatibility issues. WRAL reporter Tyler Dukes obtained 4,500 pages of emails — on paper — from various government departments and used DocumentCloud and Overview to piece together this story.


The Brilliance of Louis C.K.’s Emails: He Writes Like a Politician – Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

What’s so appealing about comedian Louis C.K.’s mass email campaigns? Adrienne LaFrance uploaded a sample of his emails to Overview and used the extracted keywords for hints.

I used a document analysis tool from the Overview Project to analyze 16 Louis C.K. emails dating back to 2011. Overview was designed to help people comb through massive sets of data—thousands of pages of government documents obtained in open-records requests, for instance. So, while it was perhaps unusual software to apply to Louie’s email corpus, it found the common thread in an instant: According to Overview, his messages are overwhelmingly characterized by promotional language. Key words that come up again and again are special,  tonight, tomorrow, tickets, ticket, buy, price, sorry, and oops.


Surprise! Many credit card agreements allow repossession — Fred O. Williams,

Nobody likes reading the fine print, especially the pages and pages of a credit card agreement. Williams obtained 1600 credit card contracts from the Consumer Finance Protection Board, analyzed them in Overview, and showed that

numerous cards — even some medical cards used for healthcare purchases — hang the threat of repossession over your goods, according to card agreements filed with regulators. More than 200 publicly filed card agreements give the bank a “security interest” in purchased items as of late 2013, not counting secured cards for rebuilding credit. Capital One-backed store cards from Costco, Big Lots and Guitar Center contain the clause, for example, as do some general-purpose cards issued by Wells Fargo’s high-rate lending unit Wells Fargo Financial.


Ryan Asked for Federal Help as he Championed Cuts – Jack Gillum, Associated Press

Behind the Scenes.

Congresspeople are not subject to Freedom of Information requests, but Federal agencies are. For this story, Gillum filed over 200 requests with every agency for their correspondence with then-VP candidate Paul Ryan. The results trickled in, and two months later, he had over 9000 pages of documents — that’s a stack nearly two feet high. He used Overview to sort the relevant from the irrelevant, and was able to show that Ryan was relying on many of the same government programs he was publicly criticizing.


TPD Working through flawed mobile system — Jarrel Wade, Tulsa World

Behind the scenes.

Wade had heard that the Tulsa Police Department had wasted millions of dollars on new squad car computers that didn’t work — and that there was an internal ethics investigation into the purchasing decision. He asked for the emails documenting the problems, and got them, all 7000 of them. He used Overview to find the half dozen that explained the story.

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