Recent Articles

Help for reporters covering Tax Day

Tax Day. It happens every April 15. And many of us have to cover it year after year. If you're looking for a new way to cover it this year — one with context and easy-to-understand federal budget data — these resources will help. The National Priorities Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Massachusetts with the mission of making the complex federal budget easily understandable and accessible for the public. Continue Reading →

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Stories of the Week, April 1 — No fooling here!

Coffee break, and we guarantee, no obnoxious April Fool's trolling here -- nothing but the straight up news you won't hear elsewhere:

Sometimes I read the headlines from Investigative News Network member newsrooms, and my first reaction is, "Now who in the heck thinks that's a good idea?!" That was definitely my first thought on this story from the Maryland Reporter, where someone seriously proposed a ban on running for higher office if you were ever elected for school committee.  Seriously.  Those school committee people. Rascals! Continue Reading →

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Hope for dealing with those pesky pdfs: Join Overview Project training

You got the documents -- now what? Turning pdfs into structured data and organizing thousands of documents are two of the most common and most frustrating problems journalists deal with. Jonathan Stray tackles this question in this great step-by-step post on Source that you will want to bookmark. This post takes you through all the steps of determining whether your pdf is saved as text or an image, several different ways to turn a pdf into structured data and ways to organize thousands of documents online. One of those ways happens to be Jonathan's project, the Overview Project, a free, open-source tool that can take uploaded pdfs, scan the text and sort them into topics and subtopics, allowing you to easily drill down into the most common phrases and terms. For those already working with Document Cloud, Overview can accept documents directly from your DC account and help you identify trends and themes. 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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Editing Data Projects — Even If You’re Not a “Data Person.”


"I was one of those editors who worked at big places like the Washington Post for thirty years," says Sharon Walsh of PublicSource, an INN member.  "We had *people* who did that!  We had CAR people who did things we didn't really understand and we had good people and we just trusted them." "Now I'm the editor of the Pennsylvania Public Source, and I live in a place where residents might want to know about things like, say, amusement park safety.  (Natasha Khan and Allie Kanik worked on this project.)  Our governor says that it's the safest place in the country to take your kids to an amusement park. 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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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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Coffee break? A little bird told me these stories were the best of the week

A little bird told me that these were the best stories of the week.  Have a few to go along with your coffee! Maryland Reporter: Who will enforce minimum wage laws in Montgomery County, MD?  Don't look at us, says the state of Maryland. ProPublica: Because just when you think things can't get any more comes the NSA dressed as a giant virtual panda: "Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents...Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels." 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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Snowfall for All: Small Newsrooms Can Do Immersive Storytelling — Just Like The Big Guys


Sure, big organizations like The New York Times can create immersive storytelling experiences like Snowfall -- but is that a useful example for small or midsize organizations? The good news is that new tools are making large staffs and budgets unnecessary even for projects that seem like they must take a lot of custom development times.  These tools allow you to create fullscreen, scrolling, and (sometimes) responsive features.   Adam Schweigert of the Investigative News Network and Jessica Plautz of Skift presented. Creatavist -- Created by the Atavist magazine, this mini-cms creates fullscreen "magazine experience" minisites. Continue Reading →

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