Tags : Uplink

Nurses with criminal records allowed to keep working in Minn.

Our data-driven investigation, “When Nurses Fail,” found that hundreds of nurses with records of unsafe practice, patient harm, criminal charges or convictions continue to practice in Minnesota. A state monitoring program for drug-addicted health professionals allowed nurses to continue despite abusing drugs or alcohol, stealing from their patients and failing numerous drug tests.

Nurses with histories of drug use, crime or neglect were able to obtain licenses and find jobs because of flaws in the state background check system. Patients were unaware that their nurses had troubled backgrounds. One parent inadvertently hired a nurse with a history of making crystal ...

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How to use free tools to create and display online polls

Online polls provide quick and easy ways to invite audience engagement in stories. The only problem is that few polling tools are ideal; either they lack flexibility, or they just don't look very nice.

Take PollDaddy. It's great at polls, but you're only allowed one question per poll (a survey allows more questions, but displaying the results isn't as nice). You also need a corporate account to get a lot of the options that make it attractive, and not all publications have the budget for it.

Google Forms also allows multiple-question polling, but once again the ...

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Database used to highlight lax police misconduct oversight

We knew early in our investigation of Long Island police misconduct that police officers had committed dozens of disturbing offenses, ranging from cops who shot unarmed people to those who lied to frame the innocent. We also knew that New York state has some of the weakest oversight in the country.

What we didn’t know was if anyone had ever tried to change that. We suspected that the legislature, which reaps millions in contributions from law enforcement unions, hadn’t passed an attempt to rein in cops in years. But we needed to know for sure, and missing even ...

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Financial data shows Okla. hospitals spend little on charity care

The idea to look at hospital finances and charity care came shortly after Oklahoma decided against expanding its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

After the state’s decision, the Oklahoma Hospital Association and others warned that the state’s hospitals – especially small rural hospitals – were already operating on slim budgets and the decision not to expand Medicaid and give more people health coverage would make the situation worse, including leading to closure of some hospitals.

To test this claim, Oklahoma Watch set out to get financial data for each hospital in the state. Along the way, we also ...

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Records shed light on lax landlords, broken housing code system

The deaths of a young couple and a 4-year-old child in a Christmas Eve fire exposed significant problems with landlords renting dilapidated and dangerous properties in Columbus, Ohio.

In the immediate aftermath, city officials – acting on public outcry – made promises to fix its broken housing code system. But when the outcry died, so did those promises, prompting The Columbus Dispatch’s “Legacy of Neglect” series.

The four-day series produced such overwhelming results that the mayor, other city officials and their housing code enforcement unit immediately declared war on slumlords who, our reporting found, regularly rented houses with unsafe electrical systems ...

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Fire data helps show scope of arsons

Convicted arsonist Kenneth Allen paused for a moment during an interview in front of our television cameras at his Muncie, Ind., home. Then he offered a remarkable admission.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think: ‘Man, I was a monster.’ I’m just thankful no one was hurt,” said Allen, who had spent nearly four years in federal prison.

Allen helped lead a ring of 46 men and women who were convicted of setting at least 73 home and vehicle fires and collecting at least $3.8 million in insurance payouts – the largest known ...

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Searches, scraping, help uncover massive data breach

They called us “hackers,” alerted the FBI and threatened a civil suit. But we were only doing our jobs.

The conflict arose as my colleagues at Scripps News and I reported on a trove of 170,000 highly sensitive documents that we’d found publicly posted online via a Google search. As we pursued the story, the company that had failed to secure its records forced us to address allegations that we’d broken the law.

Our experience provides several lessons for other newsrooms collecting and using sensitive records, including:

  • Record your process. A Scripps broadcast journalist shot footage of ...

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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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Medicare data reveals improper prescriptions

When ProPublica’s Charlie Ornstein filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request for Medicare prescribing data, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

For good reason: the U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General has found over the years that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was not monitoring how physicians prescribe under the 10-year-old, $62-billion program.

ProPublica worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to get the data and protect the agency’s concerns.  Reporters met with people from multiple departments to explain why we wanted prescriber data and why the ...

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Flaws in hazardous chemical data

An explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, killed 14 people in April and destroyed about a third of the town. The town middle school was ruined, the high school was condemned. A nearby apartment building and a senior living center were blown to shreds.

In pursuing this story, Reuters’ data team obtained the TIER II hazardous chemical storage data from 30 states. The data includes a variety of information about hazardous chemicals stored at sites around the country including the chemical name, a description of the chemical, the physical state of the chemical and the location of the ...

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