Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "Chicago Tribune" ...

  • The Henry Pratt Mass Shooting

    On the afternoon of Feb. 15, disgruntled warehouse employee Gary Martin opened fire during a termination hearing at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Ill., killing five people and wounding several police officers before being fatally shot by law enforcement. Before police publicly identified Martin, the Tribune learned his name from sources and began investigating his background. One thing quickly became clear: Martin, a convicted felon who had served prison time for attempting to kill his girlfriend, never should have been allowed to purchase the gun used in the shooting. This discovery – aided by carefully worded Freedom of Information Act requests, unparalleled sourcing and a review of extensive court records – prompted the Illinois State Police to disclose hundreds of pages of documents related to Martin’s firearms license and gun purchase within days of the shooting. It was an unprecedented release of information, in terms of both expediency and subject manner. Illinois law expressly prohibits the disclosure of records related to firearm owner’s identification cards or concealed carried permits, but Tribune reporters were able to convince law-enforcement officials that Martin’s firearms history should be exempt from such protections because he fraudulently obtained his license by lying on his permit application. Upon receiving this information, reporters submitted further FOIAs in an effort to understand the depths of the state’s problem. A reporting project that started within hours of a mass shooting grew into an investigation that found 34,000 Illinois had their gun permits revoked – and that the state has no idea what happen to their guns. That meant 78 percent of people stripped of their gun licenses failed to account for their weapons. The responsive records – some of which required difficult fights and keen sourcing to obtain - exposed serious flaws in the national databases relied upon to conduct criminal background checks, as well as the state’s failure to ensure that people surrender their weapons after their Firearm Owner's Identification cards are revoked. In an analysis of data released for the first time, the Tribune found as many as 30,000 guns may still be in possession of people deemed too dangerous to own firearms. The Tribune also was able to create an online-lookup that allowed readers to look up how many people in their town had their gun permits stripped, the reason for the revocation and how many times that person had made a serious inquiry about purchasing a gun.
  • Chicago Police kept secret dossiers on public speakers

    Tribune reporters discovered that Chicago Police were running secret background checks on public speakers at the police board’s monthly disciplinary meetings. Speakers included men and women whose loved ones had been killed by police, attorneys, activists, a religious leader, and even cops themselves. The police department secretly created profiles on more than 300 different speakers, potentially violating a court decree meant to prevent police spying on First Amendment activities. The Tribune also discovered a major discrepancy in how long police ran the secret checks, leading Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to order an inspector general investigation into the matter.
  • Kaiser Health News: Nursing home investigations

    In a series of data-driven stories, Kaiser Health News revealed that tens of thousands of nursing home residents are dying because the facilities are woefully understaffed and painful infections are routinely left untreated or poorly cared for. In the most horrific cases, patients are cycling in out of hospitals with open wounds or bedsores that trigger sepsis or septic shock, a deadly bloodstream infection that is the leading killer in hospital ICUs.
  • Nursing home staffing-related investigations

    More than 1.3 million Americans spend their final months or years in a nursing home and many suffer from inattention, poor care, or outright neglect. But just how much they suffer – and why many die as a result – was hidden until now. In a series of data-driven stories, Kaiser Health News revealed that tens of thousands are dying because the facilities are woefully understaffed and painful infections are routinely left untreated or poorly cared for. In the most horrific cases, patients are cycling in out of hospitals with open wounds or bedsores that trigger sepsis or septic shock, a deadly bloodstream infection that is the leading killer in hospital ICUs.
  • BETRAYED: Chicago schools fail to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, leaving lasting damage

    In “Betrayed,” Tribune reporters for the first time quantified the staggering prevalence of sexual violence against students in a large U.S. school district. Using confidential records, innovative data analysis and sensitive interviews with young people, the team discovered and verified 523 times when police investigated a case of sexual assault or abuse of a child inside a Chicago public school in the last decade. Reporters told the wrenching stories of young victims and uncovered child-protection failures that extended from neighborhood schools to the district's downtown offices and the state capital. For years, media outlets attempted to measure the problem of sexual violence against students by examining the cases of disciplined educators or those convicted of crimes. But those efforts failed to account for cases where students are abused by peers or the adult abuser was not punished. By pursuing crimes against students that were documented in police records, the Tribune shed light on a hidden injustice. The reporting proved to be a catalyst for change, leading to massive reforms by district officials, 12 state reform bills and enforcement efforts by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
  • College of DuPage investigation

    The Chicago Tribune’s investigation of the College of DuPage – accomplished despite court orders and deception -- exposed egregious spending by top officials, exclusive contracts to insiders and ethical violations at the state’s largest community college, prompting criminal investigations, a new state law, and the college being put on probation by its accrediting agency. This entry includes 10 stories and a supplemental file that contains the accreditation agency letter citing our reports, Tribune follow-up stories showing results of our work, another publication’s article about our investigation and lawsuit, and a sample of the overwhelming response we have received.
  • Harsh Treatment

    An unprecedented 18-month investigation in which 50 interns took part in gathering reports and records nationwide exposing widespread problems at residential treatment centers nationwide that posed danger to children and teenager with severe emotional, mental and behavioral problems. The work, done parallel and in collaboration with a Chicago Tribune series on residential treatment centers, found children being brutally attacked, and underpaid staff ill-equipped to protect them; found staff, struggling to maintain control, at times seriously injuring youth they were charged with protecting; found children running away, posing dangers to themselves and to the surrounding community; and found facilities directing staff members to tone down reports so as to minimize the incidents that occurred.
  • Playing With Fire

    For decades, manufacturers have packed the foam cushions inside sofas, loveseats and upholstered chairs in homes across America with toxic flame retardants. Companies did this even though research shows the chemicals – linked to cancer, developmental problems and impaired fertility – don’t slow fires and are migrating into the bodies of adults and children. That began to change in 2012 when the Chicago Tribune’s investigative series “Playing With Fire” exposed how the chemical and tobacco industries waged a deceptive, decades-long campaign to promote the use of flame retardant furniture and downplay the hazards. As a result of the series, historic reforms are underway, and flame retardants became one of the top public health issues of the year. The series sparked two U.S. Senate hearings and the Environmental Protection Agency began a broad investigation. Most importantly, California announced it would scrap the rule responsible for flame retardants’ presence in homes throughout the nation.
  • Empty-desk epidemic

    For years, Chicago officials published upbeat statistics that masked a crisis in the city's schools: Nearly 32,000 of the city's K-8 grade students — or roughly 1 in 8 —miss a month or more of class per year, while others simply vanish from school without a trace. This devastating pattern of absenteeism, which disproportionately affects African-Americans and children with disabilities, came to light only after Chicago Tribune reporters dug it out during a years-long FOIA battle to obtain internal district data.
  • Doubt Cast on Police Shooting

    In conjunction with the Chicago Tribune, Columbia College journalism students found evidence that questioned whether a Columbia Police shooting was justified. The man who was shot, Seneca Smith, was sent to prison for 35 years for attempted murder of a police officer. Yet, the reporters found evidence that contradicted the official police statements that led to his conviction.