On the Road : May 2012

Ghost Factories: Behind the Story and Interactive

By Anthony DeBarros
USA TODAY

In April, after USA TODAY published its Ghost Factories investigation into forgotten lead smelters, we heard from several people who wanted to know more about how the project came together — particularly the online package that included details on more than 230 of the former factories.

The following is an expanded version of a post I originally sent to IRE’s NICAR-L mailing list:

Alison Young was the lead reporter who conceived the idea for the project. In late 2010, she came to me with a couple of PDFs showing a list of suspected lead smelter ...

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Behind the Story: Multiple government websites help journalists get around FOIA requests


USASPENDING.GOV


Not having access to the list of firms disqualified from the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program didn’t stop Dayton Daily News reporters from determining which companies were debarred from government contracts or from identifying some of the companies under investigation or disqualified from the program.

The article, “’Rent-a-vet’ scam proves costly to taxpayers, businesses,” gives readers a comprehensive look at the problems of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program and a specific look at businesses operating in Ohio.

Government watchdogs say hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds have gone to ineligible companies under the program, which calls ...

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Behind the Story: Battling attorneys and judges for documents


Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

Photo credit:
Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

In a season of cutbacks, Seattle Times reporter Christine Willmsen was surprised to see the state government proposing a budget increase.

"I noted an add-on of an addition of over $20 million, and I thought that was odd," Willmsen said.

The budget listed a line item increase for civil commitment, which is a program that allows the state to detain sexually violent predators indefinitely. It also mentioned a Washington State Supreme Court decision that would require annual civil commitment trials for violent sexual offenders. This would give the sexual offenders more opportunities to ...

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