Stories

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

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "Chicago" ...

  • Dying for Attention

    While Illinois’ overall homicide rates dropped by 26 percent from 2000 to 2011, The Chicago Reporter found that the number of children who were killed after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had investigated their cases for alleged abuse or neglect has remained stubbornly steady—except for a dip in 2010—during the same period.
  • Waiting in Vain

    The Chicago Reporter examined wage-theft records from the Illinois Department of Labor and found that workers face a bureaucratic log jam and steep odds in recouping wages. Workers face long waits and only a few are able to recoup owed wages.
  • Abusing the Badge

    Each year, the City of Chicago pays millions to settle police misconduct lawsuits. And millions more are spent on an effort to keep the names of officers who are the subject of police abuse allegations under wraps. For the better part of the past decade, city attorneys have sparred with public interest lawyers over whether the names of police officers repeatedly accused of misconduct should be on the public record. Thus far, the city has been successful in sealing the officers’ identities. Last year, The Chicago Reporter became the first Chicago news outlet to make some of that information public. Through our investigation, “Abusing the Badge,” we dug through every police misconduct lawsuit settled by the city--in the local and federal courts—during the past three years and compiled a database of every police officer involved. We also charted the location where the alleged abuse occurred and the circumstances behind each case.
  • 98 Minutes

    "98 Minutes" is a collaborative multimedia investigation by WBEZ and the Center for Public Integrity. The project examines the death of a temporary worker due to burns he suffered on the job at a Chicago-area factory. It also examines crucial workplace-safety enforcement issues affecting temporary workers, a growing part of the U.S. labor force. Our reporting found that these temp workers face distinct hazards and that the federal government isn’t keeping close track of their injuries. Highlights of the investigation include (a) data, acquired and analyzed by WBEZ, that expose the lack of federal record-keeping concerning temp-worker injuries and (b) a U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration internal memorandum, acquired by CPI, that recommends criminal prosecution for alleged safety violations found during inspections triggered by the death, (c) recorded comments from top national OSHA officials recorded in ambush-style settings after the agency had failed to grant repeated interview requests and (d) recorded comments from a recently retired top regional OSHA official who suggested a way for the agency to step up inspections of temp-worker job sites. The project, co-reported by WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell and CPI’s Jim Morris, includes five components: (1) a 12-minute broadcast story, (2) a 3,500-word text story, (3) a timeline with still photos and text enabling web visitors to follow the 98 minutes between the worker’s accident and his arrival at an appropriate medical facility, (4) data visualizations showing the growing number of U.S. temporary workers and the lack of federal records about their injuries and (5) a 25-minute conversation about temporary-worker hazards and safety enforcement. The conversation, broadcast live and recorded for web streaming, includes experts and listener callers.
  • Lawbreakers, lawmakers

    In some parts of Chicago, violent street gangs and elected officials form an unholy alliance, quietly trading money and favors for mutual gain. The thugs flourish, the politicians thrive—and the public loses.
  • Better Government Association

    The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonpartisan, nonprofit news operation that engages in investigative journalism on government throughout Illinois. Our organization is asking for consideration for the IRE FOI Award based on our commitment to public-sector transparency, which we pursue through news reporting, Freedom of Information submissions, litigation, media partnerships, policy initiatives and direct citizen engagement, among other avenues. After consulting the IRE office, we decided the best way to enter this category was to include basic information on the online submission form, and much more detailed information in a letter, which we are including as an attachment. We appreciate your consideration.
  • Grandma can’t accept your call: Inmates disconnected by phone costs

    This series of stories started with a simple question. Why does it cost so much for inmates to make calls from the Cook County Jail? In the course of my reporting on criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, I had heard numerous people complain about the high cost of phone calls. Some digging confirmed that the price could be as high as $15.00 for 15 minute calls. Three or four calls a week at that price gets expensive even for financially stable middle class folks, but the people paying these fees were mostly the poorest residents in Chicago. That’s because most of the people in the Cook County Jail are there because they and their families couldn’t afford to post bond of a couple thousand, or sometimes even just hundreds of dollars to secure their freedom while awaiting trial. They are the people who are least able to afford such expensive phone calls. A few FOIA requests revealed the scheme (and scheme is the right word… I just looked it up: a crafty or secret plan of action). Cook County gave an exclusive phone contract to a company called Securus Technologies. Securus charged inflated phone rates and their exclusive deal in the jail meant inmates wanting to talk to their families or arrange their defense had no choice but to pay the rates. Securus then paid back to the county 57½ percent of the revenue from the calls. It netted the county about $4 million a year. Securus wouldn’t tell us their take but I imagine they did alright too. All of the money was coming out of the pockets of the poorest residents in Cook County, people who couldn’t even afford to post bond for their freedom. (As an aside, this isn’t just an issue in Cook County. According to its website Securus provides the phone systems for 850,000 inmates in 2,200 jails and prisons across the country.) Our reporting shed public light on a hugely profitable contract that no one was paying attention to. We documented the lives of the impoverished people getting hammered by the policy and then turned the hammer on the local elected officials to ask them to explain how this was a good policy. The public officials responded in a way that once again proved the genius of democracy. Our efforts and the results are detailed in subsequent answers below.
  • Maywood Confidential

    On the evening of Oct. 23, 2006, as a premature snow fell in parts of the Chicago area, Maywood (Illinois) Police Officer Tom Wood pulled his marked SUV to a dimly lit corner known for drug sales, rolled down his window part of the way and began talking to somebody, likely a person he knew. Within minutes gunfire exploded from the street, ripping through the car and hitting Officer Wood in the head and elsewhere, killing the 37-year-old father of five almost instantly. More than six years later, the murder is still unsolved, and an eerie pall has been cast over the official investigation, and Maywood itself. The nonprofit Better Government Association (BGA) and WFLD-TV/FOX Chicago set out to determine what happened – why Officer Wood was killed and why the official investigation into his death had failed to produce an arrest or criminal charges. In a figurative sense, our findings (which form the basis for our entry) indict not a person, but a culture of corruption and apathy in Maywood that may have contributed to Officer Wood’s death, and certainly played a role in the subsequently botched homicide probe.
  • Murder, Money and Politics

    A $54.5 million program touted by Illiinois Gov. Pat Quinn to reduce violence consisted of teens handing out fliers to promote inner peace, take field trips to museums, march in a parade with the governor and even attend a yoga class to reduce stress. Two years after the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative began, the murder rate was nearly 20 percent in Chicago.
  • 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.