Moiz Syed

Country/area: United States

Organisation: ProPublica

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

I was originally drawn to data journalism because of its ability to rigorously document our world, putting large amounts of information into the hands of the public. As reporters, I believe one of the most important services we can provide is unearthing and communicating data that empowers readers to understand what is shaping their lives, and act on it.

Historically, some of the most inspirational and effective advocates for communicating information in the public interest have at heart been data reporters — figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells. The work of heroes like these ran counter to power structures of the time, and sparked revolutionary change that had direct benefits for the lives of Americans. Today, I think the best of our efforts share some of the same goals that they had: accessibility, equity, accountability, and free, actionable data.

I came to journalism from working within the tech space, including at the Wikimedia foundation, which runs Wikipedia. This job taught me how important journalism’s role is in our society, as Wikipedia itself cannot be written without good journalism as its primary source. I decided to move into journalism from there, starting at The Intercept in 2016 as a data journalist and designer. When a position opened up in ProPublica’s News Applications team in 2019, I jumped at the chance to be part of a team whose core mission was discovering, vetting, and freeing large datasets to help readers understand what their governments were doing and keep them accountable.

Data journalism has given me a chance to use my academic and professional background in design, data analysis and computer science to tell powerful visual and data-driven stories. As I continue my career, my hope is to continue to learn and grow from a field that cares deeply about free information, and serves its readers with rigorous, empowering storytelling.

Description of portfolio:

Coronavirus Contracts: Tracking Federal Purchases to Fight the Pandemic

This project was built over the course of a few weeks during the early days pandemic in the U.S., tracking how the federal government was spending money to combat the virus. We designed a searchable database to allow readers to explore who the U.S. government was buying from, what it was buying and how much it was paying. This news application became an engine for many ProPublica stories throughout this year investigating the government’s COVID response contracting apparatus.

My role in the project was design, development and data analysis. I collaborated with my colleague, Derek Willis, to build the app, with him leading data analysis and me leading design.

Tracking PPP Loans: Search Every Company Approved for Federal Loans Over $150k

This news app tracks the almost 5 million loans that the federal government distributed as part of the first phase of the Paycheck Protection Program. Readers can search the app for PPP loans by organization, lender, zip code or business type.

My role in the project was design, development and data analysis. I again worked with my colleague, Derek Willis, who led data cleaning and analysis while I designed and built the app.

The NYPD Files: Search Thousands of Civilian Complaints Against New York City Police Officers

This project published a searchable database of disciplinary records of almost four thousand NYPD police officers. Soon after New York state repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records a secret, ProPublica obtained those records from the civilian board that investigates the NYPD and decided to publish them. The design and development of this project happened, under tremendous pressure, in just over a few days as NYPD unions were suing to block the city from making this data public.

My role in this project was design, development and data analysis. My colleague, Derek Willis, helped with development and data analysis.

We Reviewed Police Tactics Seen in Nearly 400 Protest Videos. Here’s What We Found and We Are Tracking What Happens to Police After They Use Force on Protesters

This set of projects focused on demonstrating and contextualizing the violence that police used against Black Lives Matter protesters following the death of George Floyd. Using public footage of police violence from social media, we presented video alongside expert commentary and our own research to help bring accountability to the actions of officers.

My role in these two projects was to lead design, development and data analysis, collaborating with a team of reporters and video journalists to gather and report the story.

Charting the Long-Term Impact of Trump’s Judicial Appointments

This project is a comprehensive overview demonstrating how effectful the Administration was in appointing not just a record number of federal judges, but also large numbers of younger judges, many who are likely to remain in the judiciary for decades to come.

This interactive graphic charts out each federal judge by their current age, and shows how long they will likely serve before retirement.

I was the sole byline on this project, carrying out all design, development, data analysis and reporting.

Tracking the Trump Administration’s “Midnight Regulations”

The Trump administration rushed to implement dozens of policy changes in its final days. We built this project to track some of the most consequential and controversial of those policies. As policies rolled through passage and implementation in the final weeks of the Trump presidency, we kept the tracker updated on an almost-daily basis

I worked with a team of reporters on this project, and led the design, development and data analysis.

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