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 rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "ProPublica" ...

  • Surgeon Scorecard

    ProPublica analyzed Medicare claims data, and published, for the first time, the risk-adjusted complication rates for almost 17,000 surgeons who perform certain elective operations. These operations are: hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, gallbladder removals, and prostate removals or prostate resections. Until now, there was no national public database that named surgeons who had the lowest and highest complication rates. ProPublica found that patients are at risk of medical mishaps even when undergoing these relatively low-risk procedures. We identified more than 65,000 cases where patients were harmed or died. Surgeon Scorecard allows patients to make better-informed decisions about where to go for care. It also provides surgeons and hospitals with a benchmark for how their performance compares to their peers nationally -- which is important because the medical industry does so little now to track complications. One of our most important findings was about the distribution of these mistakes. Many surgeons had complication rates 2 or 3 times the national average. But these surgeons weren’t exclusively operating at sub-par hospitals. Instead they could be found at prestigious institutions, sometimes in positions of leadership. Even more striking was the variation between high and low complication rate surgeons performing the same procedure at the same hospital.
  • The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster

    The American Red Cross has botched recent disaster relief efforts and been serially misleading about how it uses donors’ money.
  • Temporary Workers, Permanent Insecurity

    The investigation into the issue of workplace safety of temporary workers emerged as a joint investigation between ProPublica and Univision News' investigative unit. Univision's investigative unit then continued investigating and exposed different cases of injured temp workers, including the death of a temp worker in a sugar plant. Blue-collar temp work is the fastest-growing and more dangerous segment of the U.S. labor market. Since the 2008 recession, companies have increasingly turned to temporary employees to work in factories and warehouses and on construction sites. In some states, temp workers are six times as likely to be injured than permanent employees doing similar jobs.
  • Contract to Cheat

    Contract to Cheat told an overlooked and poorly understood story of a construction industry dominated by companies willing to cheat on the backs of laborers and honest competitors. Using payroll records submitted for federally funded projects, reporters in eight McClatchy papers, the company's D.C. bureau and ProPublica examined the extent of the problem and exposed the government regulators who let it happen.
  • Free The Files

    To learn more about how dark money groups spent the money they were secretly raising, ProPublica launched the “Free the Files” project. First, we enlisted volunteers to gather files from local TV stations detailing political ad buys and share them with us to release online. These records, previously available only on paper to people who visited the stations in person, provided details about spending often not included in the groups’ reports to election authorities. The FCC later ordered some stations to put ad buy data online, but the jumble of documents posted could not be digitally searched. To make the information useful, ProPublica created a news application that showed volunteers how to sort the records by market, amount and -- most critically -- by candidate or group. More than 1,000 people helped us create a database that logged up to $1 billion in ads. Tapping this data, ProPublica reporters were able to show how massive infusions of dark money influenced races in Ohio and New Mexico.
  • Message Machine

    “Message Machine,” a news application, takes an innovative approach to decode how the presidential campaigns were shaping fundraising appeals and other communications to potential voters. Going into the election cycle, there were reports that the presidential campaigns were gearing up to use "data science" -- sophisticated quantitative analysis and statistics -- to "microtarget" messages as never before. They had little interest in explaining what they were doing, however, for obvious strategic reasons. When a couple we knew told us they'd received similar emails simultaneously from the Obama campaign, each asking for donations, but in language that differed in subtle, but important ways, we set out to reverse engineer how the campaign was altering its tone and content to specific audiences. ProPublica News Application Developer Jeff Larson created a system to automatically gather tens of thousands of campaign emails and analyze how they were targeted. He used the same sophisticated techniques, such as machine learning and natural language processing, used by the campaign. There were a huge number of stories done after the campaign about the “geniuses” at Obama For America, but ProPublica was virtually alone in providing real-time, deep analysis of the operation while the campaign was still happening.
  • Death Takes A Policy

    In a look at how the insurance industry has transformed from its traditional bread and butter of selling life insurance to selling complex financial products, ProPublica's Jake Bernstein and This American Life's Alex Blumberg explore how one man used variable annuities to make a fortune at the expense of other people dying. The story is told through the lens of Joseph Caramadre - a Rhode Island lawyer who is adept at exploiting fine print. Caramadre would offer $2,000 to $10,000 dollars to people who were close to death in exchange for their personal information so that he could buy an annuity on their life and then pocket any profit when that person died. Some involved with Caramadre's plot viewed him as a modern-day Robin Hood, offering sorely-needed financial support during their last days, while others cast him as a criminal taking advantage of people in a vulnerable state. While the ethics of his scheme are debatable, insurance companies and the government don't think there's much to dispute as criminal charges were brought against Caramadre for engaging in identity theft, conspiracy, and two different kinds of fraud for preying on the sick and deceiving the terminally ill to make millions for himself and his clients.
  • Big Money 2012

    Big Money 2012 is an unprecedented multi-platform project to investigate campaign finance in the post-Citizens United era. Spanning television documentary, radio and online news outlets, this initiative draws on the award-winning talents of some of the best in the industry to dig deep into a story that goes to the foundations of our democracy. FRONTLINE’s pre-election TV broadcast of Big Sky, Big Money in partnership with American Public Media’s Marketplace formed the center of this multiplatform investigation, Big Money 2012, which continued on the radio and on the web. Further coverage of this timely story also continued online as part of ProPublica’s Dark Money series featuring reporting by ProPublica investigative reporter Kim Barker with Rick Young and Emma Schwartz reporting for FRONTLINE. Big Money 2012 tells a tale of money, politics, and intrigue in the remote epicenter of campaign finance, Montana. The investigation led the teams from big sky country—to a meth house in Colorado and to a UPS store in D.C. as they followed a trail of documents. What they find exposes the inner-workings of a dark money group. In all, it’s a unique collaboration a year in the making, which has led to robust journalism with real impact. And, the story is still unfolding.
  • The Real CSI

    Evidence collected at crime scenes—everything from fingerprints to bite marks—is routinely called upon in the courtroom to prosecute the most difficult crimes and put the guilty behind bars. And though glamorized on commercial television, in the real world, it’s not so cut-and-dried. A joint investigation by FRONTLINE, ProPublica and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley examines the reliability of the science behind forensics in The Real CSI. From the sensational murder trial of Casey Anthony to the credentialing of forensic experts, “The Real CSI” documents how a field with few uniform standards and unproven science can undermine the search for justice. The investigation follows a landmark study by the National Academy of Sciences that called into question the tenets of forensic science. For the first time, Harry T. Edwards, a senior federal appellate court judge and co-chairman of the report, sits for an interview to discuss what the report means. And, FRONTLINE examines one of the most high-profile terrorist investigations since 9/11: the case of Brandon Mayfield, an attorney who was wrongfully identified and arrested as a suspect in the Madrid commuter train bombings after the FBI erroneously matched his fingerprint to a partial print found at the scene. In “The Real CSI,” FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman finds serious flaws in some of the best known tools of forensic science, wide inconsistencies in how forensic evidence is presented in the courtroom and no system in place for establishing the credibility of so-called “forensic experts” whose testimony can lead to a conviction.
  • Cell Tower Deaths

    A ProPublica/Frontline analysis of every cell tower-related fatality since 2003 found that tower climbing has a death rate roughly 10 times that of construction, making it one of the most dangerous jobs in America. AT&T, in particular, had the worst track record with more fatalities on its subcontracted jobs than its three closest competitors combined. Yet cell-phone carriers’ connection to tower-climbing deaths has remained largely invisible, because climbers do not work directly for the communications giants whose wireless networks they enable. They are subcontractors – and a microcosm of a larger trend in American labor, in which companies increasingly outsource their riskiest jobs, avoiding scrutiny and accountability when workers die. Our reporting team penetrated deeply into the world of climbing, examining each of the 50 cell-tower deaths since 2003. Our reporters found climbers were often shoddily equipped, poorly trained and compelled to meet tight deadlines, sometimes by working through perilous conditions. And our investigation also revealed OSHA’s struggles to improve safety in tower climbing and fields like it. Labor experts and even former OSHA chiefs described the agency as woefully ill-equipped to handle enforcement issues that have come with the growth of subcontracting.