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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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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HMDA data updated in the Database Library

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data have just been updated in the NICAR Database Library — and we’ll help you turn it into a story. WHAT’S IN IT?This Act requires all banks, savings and loans, savings banks and credit unions with assets of more than $33 million and offices in metropolitan areas to report…

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