How to survive your first CAR story

By Jennifer Johnson, The Grand Forks Herald

Spreadsheet programs like Excel have always intimidated me. Sure, I dabbled in them a few times. I pulled up pre-formatted sheets and leafed through them. I used basic formulas and figured out percentages. And I also attended a two-day IRE training with fellow reporters at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, where I'm the education reporter.

Anyone with experience will tell you that the only way to learn a program is by consistent use. Our newsroom had the training in February and by the time I started the project in earnest last ...

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Data breach mystery leads from Arizona counterterrorism site to China

Lizhong Fang, a Chinese national and computer programmer, had access to a variety of sensitive information during his short time at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center in Phoenix. His work on facial recognition software allowed him to view the Arizona driver’s license database as well as law enforcement records.

Fang disappeared in 2007, and those responsible for hiring him say the privacy of up to 5 million people has been compromised. Officials never disclosed the possible privacy breach.

Read the story by The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica.

Federal, state data used to track civil asset forfeitures in Virginia

When police seize cash, cars and other property, it’s usually taken through a legal process known as civil asset forfeiture.

Critics say the system gives police a financial incentive to take property with relative ease and makes it difficult for people to get it back.

We wanted to take a look at how much money is flowing through local departments as a result of this process. It turned out to be a lot.

In Virginia, agencies received more than $57 million over the past six years, according to the findings of a Virginian-Pilot examination of state and federal data ...

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Politicians' food tab takes $14.5M bite from donations

House members and candidates have spent at least $14.5 million of their donors' campaign contributions on food since Jan. 1, 2011, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The expenses range from thousands of dollars to underwrite big fundraising lunches in their home districts to meal tabs at country clubs, glitzy New York hotels and Washington steakhouses. Politicians and their aides also spent donors' money at far less glamorous destinations, such as Dunkin' Donuts and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Extra Extra: Ferguson deep dives, nursing home inspections, penalties for speeders

St. Louis County police forces often don't reflect communities | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

No known agency tracks the racial makeup of police departments, so the Post-Dispatch contacted 36 St. Louis County police departments in cities where at least 10 percent of the population is African-American. In 30 of the 31 communities that responded, the percentage of black residents is higher than the proportion of black officers.


Darren Wilson’s first job was on a troubled police force disbanded by authorities | The Washington Post

The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension ...

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General Assignment & Investigative Reporter (WATN-WLMT)

WATN-WLMT, the ABC/CW affiliate in Memphis, TN, is seeking a general assignment reporter who has a background in news investigations, to join our new investigative team. 

We need an aggressive reporter who will break local stories and get exclusive interviews.  Emphasis will be placed on advocacy journalism. 

Must be a strong writer, skilled at developing contacts and pitching original, enterprise stories. Candidate will be responsible for doing live shots, posting stories to the web, and reporting via social media. 

We’re looking for a creative story teller, who doesn’t rely on the day planner, the newspaper, and/or ...

IRE Radio Podcast | Beyond Breaking News

When a story breaks, speed is key. But so are depth, context and accuracy. So how do you cover the news while simultaneously digging deeper? This week we’re talking about investigating breaking news. Our speakers will cover everything from identifying sources on the scene to developing a plan for watchdog coverage. Here’s the lineup:

  • Scott Friedman from KXAS-TV in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas explains the station’s three-step process for turning breaking news coverage into an ongoing and in-depth investigation.
  • Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post, talks about how the paper got creative to find ...
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How to use Helium Scraper to grab data online

South Dakota lobbyist database

We've all visited websites that contain valuable information we want to analyze, such as inspection reports, lobbying expenditures, or a list of jail inmates. We’re glad those agencies have made this information available, but as data journalists it doesn’t do us much good locked in HTML: We can’t sort, filter, sum or join it to other data in this format.

What we want to see is the DOWNLOAD button, and while that’s catching on (at both local and federal levels), most of the time downloading is not an option.

So how ...

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