Tags : local government

Mississippi town could make text messages readily available

A town in Mississippi could soon become the first in the state to archive and make available the text messages of public officials, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The pending policy comes in response to a Mississippi Ethic Commission ruling against Tupelo, after the city had denied the Daily Journal text messages between the mayor and another city official.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History laws already require that cities hold on to text messages. As local government records, the texts should be open to the public. But state officials have openly stated that municipalities don’t ...

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Behind the Story: How KATC exposed problems with early animal euthanasia in Louisiana

Video by KATC-Lafayette

You don’t need to work in a large newsroom to pull off an investigative story with impact. Earlier this year KATC-Lafayette’s Tina Macias and Allison Bourne-Vanneck revealed that in 2013 a Louisiana animal shelter euthanized a quarter of the dogs that passed through its doors in less than four days – the hold time stipulated by the parish’s animal control ordinance.

Macias, an investigative producer, used public records requests to track down documents on intakes and euthanasia drugs. When the shelter tried to charge the station thousands of dollars, Macias looked up the law and ...

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Learn how to investigate local government on a shoestring budget

IRE and Poynter announced a low-cost investigative workshop: Investigating Local Government on a Shoestring Budget.

With growing Medicare and pension costs, 2013 will be a rough year for local governments that face significant budget deficits in a slowly recovering economy. These governments face critical decisions, IRE and Poynter are offering  training to ensure journalists are well equipped to cover them.

In this training you will learn how to use spreadsheet programs like Excel, you will learn critical thinking skills that look beyond announcements and events and you will discover corners of the "hidden web" where some of the best story ...

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Investigating tax credits, subsidies and incentives

By Zachary Matson

Each year local and state governments provide private companies with billions of dollars of tax credits, subsidies and other forms of incentives to mover or open new facilities in their communities. These deals are shrouded behind layers of quasi-public agencies, weak disclosure rules and secretive businesses, but rarely the economic benefits turn out as originally billed.

IRE board president and columnist David Cay Johnston and Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First provided insights into exploring these deals and their true costs to the public on a panel at the recent IRE Conference in San Antonio.

Johnston said ...

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Behind the Story: Orange County Register reporter stays patient and follows the money trail

Melody Petersen of The Orange County Register has two pieces of advice to offer reporters: stay patient and follow the money trail. Petersen investigated school bonds in Orange County after realizing schools were opting for expensive agreements that would push costs onto taxpayers decades after the initial bond was distributed. She found that school districts were accepting deals that would cost taxpayers more than 10 times the original amount in a special bond known as a capital appreciation bond.

Other reports from the Orange County Register state that the bond deals will cost Orange County districts $2 billion over the ...

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Behind the Story: How Gannett Wisconsin Media gathered salary data from cities, counties and state agencies

In the wake of the budget reforms proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, known as Wisconsin Act 10, Eric Litke of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team felt the public debate over salary was all rhetoric with little factual backing.  In February, Litke tried to change the public dialog by publishing the salary data for Wisconsin public sector employees making more than $25,000 a year.  The five-week report entitled

“What We Pay:  Your Tax Dollars and the Salaries They Support” took six months of research and cost almost $9000 in reimbursements for data.  By the end of ...

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Public records in Arlington County, Va., come at high price

The Arlington Gazette Packet reports that public records in Arlington come at a high price compared to neighboring areas in northern Virginia. Throughout Virginia, access to open records remains spotty. The State Integrity project, which ranks states based on their level of transparency, placed Virginia 47 and gave it a failing grade. Now, Michael Lee Pope reports, open government advocates are claiming Arlington's costly request system serve as an added barrier to public access.

"Want a booking photo in a high profile case? Get ready to hand over $24," Pope writes. "Want to see a copy of a report ...

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FIRST VENTURE: Pothole complaints

My palms become sweaty just thinking about math. Taking on a dataset of 25,000 records? Turn on the armpits.

I’m a fellow with an investigative news organization in Pittsburgh called PublicSource. At 30, I’m a pup reporter on nearly every level. My first crack at a data story was terrifying. And incredibly empowering.

After a three-day IRE and NICAR Computer-Assisted Reporting Bootcamp, I was hooked.

Back in the newsroom, we used records from Pittsburgh’s 311 non-emergency call center to analyze how the city was handling pothole complaints. We found that between 2006 and 2012, the amount ...

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Behind the Story: Colorado's untested rape kits

Keli Rabon and KMGH Denver purchased their own rape kit over the internet to help understand the different elements of the process. Credit: KMGH Denver

In November, a KMGH Denver investigation revealed that Colorado police departments had failed to test hundreds of rape kits -- 44 percent of the 1,064 kits that Denver Police have received since 2008. Those untested kits prevent police from entering DNA into a national database that could help identify serial rapists. Keli Rabon, lead reporter on the story, shared with IRE how she found the story, what steps she took, how she handled a sensitive ...

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Adding depth to coverage of election results

For help in the scramble to provide instant results and analysis -- all while sorting through close decisions on the local and federal level --  check out these resources for adding depth to your election night coverage, the day after stories and long range post-election stories. Also, check out our look at data-driven stories leading up to election day.

What's being done

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