Tags : databases

Using new nonprofit law center, Hawaii’s Civil Beat wins access to police misconduct records

In the flood of paperwork that made its way each year to the Hawaii legislature, a shocking statistic slipped under the radar: About once a week the Honolulu Police Department was suspending or firing an officer for misconduct.

Often the offenses were serious – abusing suspects, lying to federal investigators, tipping off drug dealers. And for nearly two decades the information was kept quiet. Legislators paid little attention to the annual reports. Officers who resigned or got suspended for misconduct were shielded by a political loophole in the state’s public records law. Paperwork documenting the wrongdoing was often destroyed.

Civil ...

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Data leads way to suspect tutoring companies

A little creative thinking and some simple tricks using Microsoft Access and Excel allowed us to report how criminals, cheaters and insiders were benefitting from subsidized tutoring in Florida.

Federal law requires the state to pay contractors to tutor poor kids in failing schools, and, because of the loose way in which the program was run, I expected to find abuses.

While trying to test this theory I did some seriously jury-rigged data work, but it got the job done.

First, I visited an online state directory of so-called supplemental educational services providers and exported a list of more than ...

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Online data and tools for environmental investigations

By Gwen Girsdansky

Lisa Song of InsideClimate News, Ingrid Lobet of the Houston Chronicle, David Sheppard of the San Antonio Express-News and Jim Morris of the Center for Public Integrity gave suggestions for online resources available for investigating environmental issues on Thursday at the IRE Conference.

Lobet mentioned a good tactic is thinking about what information you want and then working backward, because a database probably exists for that information. A few databases they suggested:

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This Valentine's Day, background your date using public records

Don't let love get in the way of investigating. The old saying in journalism goes something like "if your mother says she loves you, check it out,” and if that's true for your mother then it's certainly true for your Valentine's Day date. So let's begin our walk through of how to make use of publicly available information to background your date.

First, checking property records, criminal records and civil filings is going to be much faster if you have access to Nexis. But if you don’t, you can still navigate your way to ...

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Behind the Story: Post-Dispatch mapping finds 'hot spots' of pedestrian railroad deaths

Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In December, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch released Death on the Rails, a special report on the surprising number of pedestrian deaths that have occurred on railways.  Reporter Todd Frankel explains how he cross-referenced databases and resources to build his own map of the accidents, which he used to further investigate ”hot spots” of pedestrian death and injury.

You began investigating for the series after a pedestrian fatality in June.  What inspired you to look into these rail-related accidents?  Did you expect to discover so many when ...

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Resources for covering the federal budget, fiscal cliff

As the White House and Congressional Republicans inch toward an agreement before the fiscal cliff deadline, the opportunity remains for digging deeper into the federal budget and the impact of a deal -- or lack of deal -- on both the country's broad economic health and local communities. Find help in these links and resources.

Econocheck
A collaboration between IRE and the Sunlight Foundation, Econocheck is free to both members and non-members. It offers a wealth of data for covering the economy, including the following topics:

  • Jobs and Employment
  • Taxes, Government Finances and Debt
  • Health Care and Insurance 
  • Prices and Inflation ...
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SBA disaster loan data updated in NICAR Database Library

In the wake of a disaster, individuals and business owners are often left with severely damaged property. Many turn for help to the Small Business Administration, which approves low-interest loans to help rebuild. For declared disasters in 2011 alone, the Small Business Administration approved over $1 billion in loans.

NICAR has updated the SBA database of these loans, which is now current through Sept. 2012. 

WHAT'S IN IT?
Disaster loans through the SBA are one of the primary forms of federal assistance for individuals and non-farm, private-sector businesses who have suffered losses. The data have information on the borrower ...

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Behind The Story: Comparing databases on bullying

Students head to lunch at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs. The school district reported 58 alleged incidents to the state in five years, arguably a low rate for an urban district of 9,000 students. David Purdy/The Register

In reporting, timing is everything.  For Des Moines Register reporter Kyle Munson, the topic of bullying in Iowa schools was reaching a climax as his work was being finalized.  During the release of his series “Bullying in Iowa,” Iowa had faced two deaths related to bullying incidents, the most recent involving a northwest Iowa teen who committed suicide after ...

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Health care reporting: AHCJ announces yearlong fellowship, and IRE resources to help coverage

Working on a project about health care systems? About to start one? Here are some resources to help:

The Association of Health Care Journalists is offering Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance, a yearlong program that funds reporting on health care systems in the United States. The program is designed for mid-career journalists, who continue their regular jobs and pursue the project with the support of their newsroom, which would publish the final product.

The fellowship offers up to $4,000 for field visits, data and research. Fellows also get guidance through AHCJ seminars, conferences and email consultations, as well ...

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Data to fact check economic claims

Economic issues have taken center stage during this year's elections. Candidates for office are trying to tap into voters' discontent about unemployment, government spending and housing.

It's easy for journalists and the public to get lost when politicians toss out economic statistics to score points. So IRE and the Sunlight Foundation have teamed up to bring you EconoCheck, which provides details about these key economic stats and links to the source data.

Bill Allison, Sunlight's editorial director, offers examples of recent candidate claims that EconoCheck can help you evaluate in your reporting.

EconoCheck is funded by a ...

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