Extra Extra : November 2007

Property tax deliquency costs county

The Dallas Morning News investigated the widespread property tax delinquency that plagues Texas. Reporters Kevin Krause and Molly Motley-Blythe attacked the problem from all angles, including which types of organizations are likely not to pay taxes, what sorts of excuses they use, and how the delinquency affects tax-run programs and other tax payers. Furthermore, the investigation reveals that some organizations still receive government funds, even though they've fallen behind on their property taxes.

A glimpse into the counterfeit trade

This series by The Columbus Dispatch delved into the origins of fake goods that are so common throughout the U.S. The paper sent reporter Jeffrey Sheban and photographer Jeff Hinckley to China, Hong-Kong, Taiwan and Thailand to trace the path that brings counterfeit goods from Asia into the U.S. The series covers how fakes are made, how they find their way to the U.S. and how some companies are trying to fight them.

"13 Seconds in August" details bridge collapes

The Star Tribune spent months reconstructing the locations and identities of the more than 150 people who were on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis when it collapsed into the Mississippi River on August 1. With the help of an aerial photo, an interactive Flash graphic titled "13 Seconds in August" offers the most comprehensive archive of victims' stories (including video, audio, still photos and text) accessible by clicking on individual vehicles in the photo. The Star Tribune has encouraged readers to comment as well as submit additional information to flesh out the story of the bridge collapse.

Some Houston banks more prone to ATM robberies

This investigation by KHOU-Houston used crime data to map the locations of ATM robberies. The analysis showed that some bank branches seem to be hot spots for robberies. Reporter Jeremy Rogalski spoke with police about why some areas are more vulnerable than others and how consumers can protect themselves from being robbed at an ATM.

The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a joint program of IRE and the Missouri School of Journalism assisted in the data analysis for this story.

Dallas property values derived from small sampling of sales

Paul Adrian of KDFW-Dallas/Ft. Worth investigated disparities in property taxes set by the Dallas Central Appraisal District. Fox 4 learned that values for neighborhoods are set by home sale data reflecting an average of 3 percent of the properties, while assessors said that 10 percent or more would be ideal. A database of appraisals includes information on the property that was used to set the valuation.

The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a joint program of IRE and the Missouri School of Journalism, helped with the data analysis and mapping for this story.

Inside the Seminoles' ascension from poverty to profit

The last three decades have seen the Seminole Tribe of Florida ascend from extreme poverty to substantial wealth thanks to their lucrative Indian gaming endeavors. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation found that, while this wealth is shared throughout the tribe, a "a handful of tribal leaders have especially benefited, steering millions of the tribe's money and business to themselves, their families and their friends." As a sovereign nation, the Seminole's are not obligated to open their records, but the Sun-Sentinel obtained thousands of pages of documents and conducted extensive interviews providing a rare glimpse inside the tribe.

Consumers unknowingly exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals

Susanne Rust, Meg Kissinger and Cary Spivak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed more than 250 scientific studies and examined thousands of pages of regulatory documents for their investigation detailing the failure of the federal government to regulate chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. The Environmental Protection Agency promised a decade ago to screen 15,000 chemicals, yet this is still not being done. Consumers are unknowingly exposed to these potentially hazardous compounds in the contents and packaging of countless everyday products.

Plenty of holes in drug screening for college athletes

A survey by The Salt Lake Tribune of Division 1-A schools exposed extreme differences in how drug-testing programs are administered from school to school. Through FOIA requests, The Tribune "requested detailed information on student-athlete drug testing programs administered by the schools themselves, separate from the NCAA." Findings show that broken systems allow students to abuse performance-enhancing drugs with little risk of being caught. The data gathered in the survey is available online.

Police cruisers involved in hundreds of accidents in Massachusetts

An investigation by Maggie Mulvihill and Joe Bergantino of WBZ-Boston shows that Massachusetts state troopers are causing numerous accidents on those same roads they're monitoring. Internal police data revealed that troopers have caused "nearly 500 crashes in their own cruisers in the past seven years." Many troopers investigate their own accidents excusing themselves of fault 55 percent of the time. The accidents have cost taxpayers $2 million in settlements and repairs.