IRE Radio Podcast | Hooked on Fines

When protests rocked Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, few realized the tensions could be traced to a policy-based problem — local police were fining residents at abnormally high rates to fund the city’s operating budget. Mike Maciag of Governing Magazine spent a year looking into other communities reliant on fines. He found a trend that’s destabilizing…

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IRE Radio Podcast | Wards of Neglect

What happens when a state cuts $100 million from its mental health budget? Reporters from the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent 18 months finding out. Their Pulitzer-winning investigation exposed deadly violence in Florida’s mental hospitals, where staff shortages, regulatory fumbling and years of neglect were, for years, hidden from the public eye. In…

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Strategies for getting the data and documents you need

By Quint Forgey In our seemingly endless quest to obtain government documents, it’s important to recognize and alleviate the often tense relationships between reporters and public information officers. During Friday’s panel discussion, “They’ve got it, you want it: Getting data and docs,” Rich Orman, senior deputy district attorney of Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, said bureaucrats…

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IRE Radio Podcast | Chicago’s Secret Cash Machine

Chicago drivers have forked over more than $600 million for traffic fines captured by red light cameras. But an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that the largest robotic camera system in the country ­hasn’t done much to make the streets safer. Instead, city officials have used Chicago drivers like a network of cash machines. Reporter…

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IRE Radio Podcast | Ghost Schools

For years, the U.S. has pushed education as one of its major triumphs in Afghanistan. The government helped build schools, train teachers, issue textbooks and educate scores of girls. And for years, that legacy went relatively unchecked. But when Azmat Khan of BuzzFeed News began questioning the numbers and visiting schools in the region this…

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Special inspector general offers tips for finding fraud in government programs

By Rachel Premack Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko talked government programs and accountability with approximately 100 journalists at the annual IRE Conference in Philadelphia. This inspector general’s job duties are not unlike that of an investigative journalist. Sopko leads an independent governmental department aimed at ensuring Afghan reconstruction programs are effective and…

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Buying influence: How to track lobbyists

By Liz Essley Whyte When New York Times reporter Eric Lipton got a tip that powerful political associations were asking lobbyists for $125,000 contributions in exchange for phone calls with states’ attorneys general, he knew he had to find out more. So he got on a plane to California to attend a conference, uninvited. He…

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Kansas AG: Private emails on public topics protected

Kansas’ attorney general said Tuesday that emails sent by state employees through private accounts aren’t public record, even when they deal with public business. Attorney General Derek Schmidt was responding to a question from state Sen. Anthony Hensley about whether such an email would constitute public record. Schmidt, who interpreted “private email” to be an…

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Federal agencies fail FOIA test conducted by Syracuse University

Card If you report on the government, it may not surprise you to read that only seven of the 21 federal agencies recently FOIAed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) have provided records more than two months after the requests went out. TRAC, a research center that administers the FOIA Project out of Syracuse…

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Tips for keeping an eye on public spending

By Kasia Kovacs  TIPSHEET View presentations from Joanna Lin and Cezary Podkul. Journalists didn’t have to look far to prove that Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was using taxpayer money to pay for surfing in Waikiki, parasailing in Argentina and renovating his office with Downtown Abbey flair. All the reporters had to do? Check Schock’s Instagram account. …

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