Recent Articles

INN members big on sharing at NICAR

INN members love to share. You'll be able to learn from quite a few of your fellow INN members at next month's NICAR conference in Atlanta. By our latest count, 34 staffers from INN and our members are scheduled to speak on panels or give hands-on classes at the conference. That number likely will keep growing as more panels are finalized and lightning talks are voted on ahead of the conference March 5-8. Reporters, editors and technologists will be sharing best practices on all kinds of data analysis, mapping, statistics, news app development and design, programming, and newsroom management. Continue Reading →

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INN members find top election ‘Power Players’

They are heirs and heiresses, self-made millionaires and philanthropists. They are health care CEOs, financial analysts, venture capitalists, general contractors, scientists, authors and lawyers. They are some of this nation's biggest "Power Players." The Investigative News Network and some of its member newsrooms have taken a unique look at the largest campaign finance donors from each of these states to candidates and committees in federal elections and all 50 states. INN used data from two of its members, the National Institute on Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics, to analyze the top individual donors from about a dozen states. Continue Reading →

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Food imports overwhelm FDA safety net, INN collaborative investigation finds

The rising number of food imports into the United States is overwhelming the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is tasked with inspecting much of the seafood, fruits, spices and other food items shipped from abroad, a collaborative investigation by two Investigative News Network members has found. FairWarning's reporting found many concerns with the FDA import inspection system. The FDA today rejects about the same number of shipments of foreign food as it did a decade ago – when imports were less than half the current level. The Food and Environment Reporting Network drilled down more closely on seafood, finding that though the FDA and some other federal agencies inspect a portion of imported seafood, the safety net still doesn't catch all of the potentially diseased or unsafe food. The FairWarning story also was published by some McClatchy newspapers and other INN members, and the FERN story was picked up by Medium. Continue Reading →

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Introducing the INN Toolbox

If you've ever found yourself wishing for a list of reporting, data and visualization resources among INN members, today is your lucky day! We are happy to bring you the INN Toolbox, a collection of searchable databases, Github repos, APIs, embeddable widgets and more that can help with reporting and online presentation. Continue Reading →

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Deadline extended: Three members team up to offer campaign finance, dark money training

Political parties, super PACs, hybrid super PACs, corporate disclosures, nonprofits, corporate disclosures — tracing the flow of money through campaigns is only becoming more complicated. Three investigative newsrooms well versed in covering campaign finance— Center for Public Integrity, Center for Responsive Politics and Sunlight Foundation — are teaming up to offer training that helps reporters make sense of all this data ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The in-depth training starts with the basics of campaign finance and moves into super PACs and dark money in the post-Citizens United landscape. You'll learn where to find data and how to use online tools from Sunlight, OpenSecrets and more. You'll also hear from veteran political reporters and discuss how to turn all this data into impactful reporting when you return to the newsroom. Continue Reading →

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Little tracking for hazardous materials transported through states

Each day, potentially hazardous chemicals — like paint, gasoline and compressed and flammable gases — are transported on the nation’s railroads, highways, waterways and through the air. In many cases, these there is very little tracking of these chemicals unless something goes wrong, according to the findings of a collaborative investigation conducted by several INN members. The project used data from the Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting Subsystem maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The data has collected, cleaned and curated by the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting at Investigative Reporters and Editors, with which INN has a partnership. Using the data, our members could analyze:
City and route where the incident occurred
Name and quantity of material released
Carrier name and the company that shipped the material
Information about injuries, fatalities, road closures, evacuations, damages, amount of damages and cost of response

More than half a million hazardous materials transportation incidents have occured since 1973, when the system began collecting records. Continue Reading →

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Methodology for ‘Exhausted at School’ project

To find schools that could be in hazardous pollution zones, INN members in the 'Exhausted at School' project used two sets of data for each state or area analyzed: One was a set of roadways and corresponding traffic counts from the state department of transportation and the other a set of school addresses from the state department of education. Using mapping software known as ArcMap, roadways were selected with an average of 50,000 or more vehicles per day, based on the annualized average daily traffic number as calculated by state traffic engineers. Then the schools were mapped, and the schools within 500 feet of those highways were selected. INN journalists took care to select only schools where children were present (eliminating administration buildings and closed schools) and verified the location of each school in the potential pollution plume. Some INN member newsrooms also looked at day cares and private schools within that zone. Continue Reading →

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INN members pinpoint schools in potentially dangerous traffic pollution zones

Each week across the country, children spend hours in school buildings located close to busy highways — potentially exposing them to high levels of toxic exhaust and diesel fumes, an investigation by Investigative News Network member newsrooms has found. Exhausted at School is an investigation into toxic road pollution and its effect on kids’ health at school. Using a detailed data analysis based on existing research, members pinpointed dozens of schools in states across the country that could pose a health risk to students based on their location near the nation’s busiest highways. The project, which was generously supported by the IRE and Google Ideas Data Journalism Fund, is being led by INN and InvestigateWest, an award-winning journalism studio in Seattle. Among the findings and impacts:

In San Diego, Voice of San Diego found 39 schools in the pollution danger zone around the city. Continue Reading →

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Deconstructing the “Data Tower of Babel” To Do Real Journalism


"There's a story in the Bible, where the different peoples of the earth get together and start building a tower.  God gets jealous, or maybe he thinks it's a bad idea, and he makes them all speak different languages," says Travis Swicegood of the Texas Tribune, leading a session on data journalism.  "We journalists don't have that problem.  We're not even building a tower yet." Swicegood outlines the state of cross-organization cooperation today. Continue Reading →

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