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.

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  • 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.
  • ProPublica: Civil Wrongs

    Nowhere has the Trump administration's pullback on civil rights been more pronounced or damaging than in education. Under Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has deep-sixed thousands of civil rights complaints — especially those alleging systemic discrimination by school districts and colleges. In their series, "Civil Wrongs," reporters Annie Waldman of ProPublica and Erica L. Green of The New York Times exposed the department's indifference, and the toll on African-American, Latino, and Native American students from Virginia to Montana. Their work has already had significant impact, and is likely to be even more influential in 2019 as Democrats who now control the U.S. House of Representatives tackle DeVos’ civil rights record. Alongside their reporting, the team, which included news app developers Lena Groeger and David Eads, created two interactive databases: one allowing readers to look up civil rights investigations into their school districts and colleges and another illustrating racial disparities in educational opportunities and discipline.
  • NYT: Using FOIA To Open Access to the Government in the Trump Era

    The regulatory and legal system that for the last 50 years has protected the environment in the United States--the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the toxic chemicals we encounter--is facing an assault unlike anything since the modern environmental movement began in the 1960s. The New York Times in the past year has committed an extraordinary amount of resources not just to investigate the controversies inside the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. But we also have fanned out across the United States to document the real impact this radical shift in regulatory policy is having, via an ambitious investigative project that demanded all of the skills journalism can deliver from FOIAs, to databases, to litigation, to government sources, narrative storytelling and innovative online and print presentations. It is one of the biggest stories of our times. And no one has covered it as aggressively as The New York Times. FOIA, for almost every piece we have published, has been a critical part of our reporting.
  • NYT: Trump's Assault on the Environment

    The regulatory and legal system that for the last 50 years has protected the environment in the United States--the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the toxic chemicals we encounter--is facing an assault unlike anything since the modern environmental movement began in the 1960s. The New York Times in the past year has committed an extraordinary amount of resources not just to investigate the controversies inside the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. But we also have fanned out across the United States to document the real impact this radical shift in regulatory policy is having, via an ambitious investigative project that demanded all of the skills journalism can deliver from FOIAs, to databases, to litigation, to government sources, narrative storytelling and innovative online and print presentations. It is one of the biggest stories of our times. And no one has covered it as aggressively as The New York Times.
  • NYT: This Is Our Reality Now

    The regulatory and legal system that for the last 50 years has protected the environment in the United States--the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the toxic chemicals we encounter--is facing an assault unlike anything since the modern environmental movement began in the 1960s. The New York Times in the past year has committed an extraordinary amount of resources not just to investigate the controversies inside the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. But we also have fanned out across the United States to document the real impact this radical shift in regulatory policy is having, via an ambitious investigative project that demanded all of the skills journalism can deliver from FOIAs, to databases, to litigation, to government sources, narrative storytelling and innovative online and print presentations. It is one of the biggest stories of our times. And no one has covered it as aggressively as The New York Times.
  • Freelance: Abandoning American coal mines

    Since reaching a historical high in 2008, U.S. coal production plummeted by a third in the ensuing decade. Companies accounting for nearly half the coal dug across the country declared for bankruptcy in 2015 and 2016, and President Donald Trump’s rhetorical ending of the “war on coal” has shown no meaningful signs of reviving the industry. With the writing on the wall for U.S. coal, I investigated the system meant to guarantee that funds are available to pay for environmental cleanup. I built first-of-their-kind databases to determine how much money was in this system, where it was held and other trends in the industry such as levels of oversight and types of post-mining land uses. A combination of data analysis and ground-level reporting from around the country resulted in stories that showed myriad issues in protecting cleanup funds, which result in scarred land and polluted air and water.
  • The Digilantes Try to Find Out Who Is Behind Mugshot.com

    The Digilantes uncovered a multi-million dollar extortion-based industry that’s wreaking havoc upon tens of millions of Americans’ lives, especially minorities. It’s the business of mugshot websites. Operators of these sites scrape public arrest records from online police databases, put them on their own websites, making them easily searchable on Google, and then charge hundreds of dollars to remove them, whether you are guilty or not. These mugshots, which can live forever online, are a form of digital scarlet letter ruining people's’ reputations, job and housing opportunities, even their dating lives. http://fusion.net/story/252451/digilantes-mugshots-dotcom-investigation/
  • Inside the Shady Industry that Profits off Mugshot Photos

    “Mugged,” which premiered on Fusion on March 6, 2016 as part of the network’s monthly investigative “The Naked Truth” series, explores the multi-million dollar extortion industry of mugshot websites, which is wreaking havoc on the lives and reputations of tens of millions of Americans, especially minorities. In a completely legal process, operators of these websites collect public arrest records and photographs from online police databases and post the records on their own websites, often making the content more prominent via search engine optimization. These mugshot websites then charge the arrested individuals hundreds of dollars to remove their records and photos, despite the fact that many of these individuals have been falsely arrested, found innocent, or have yet to stand trial.
  • Watched

    Police forces across the United States are stockpiling massive databases with personal information from millions of Americans who simply crossed paths with officers. A person can end up in one of these databases by doing nothing more than sitting on a public park bench or chatting with an officer on the street. Once there, these records can linger forever and be used by police agencies to track movements, habits, acquaintances and associations – even a person’s marital and job status. What began as a method for linking suspicious behavior to crime had morphed into a practice that threatens to turn local police departments into miniature versions of the NSA. In the process, critics contend, police risk trampling constitutional rights, tarnishing innocent people and further eroding public trust.
  • Degree of Debt

    “Degree of Debt” is a multi-state investigation by Raycom Media that exposes one of the most crippling impacts on the U.S. economy, the virtual explosion of student debt. The numbers are staggering. Over 41 million students owe a collective $1.4 trillion; a figure that dwarfs credit card and auto loan debt combined. Of that $41 million in debt, nearly 8.1 million of those people are currently in default. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next decade the federal government will make $81 billion in profit from student loans, over $8 billion a year. The Raycom investigative series used several federal databases along with shoe leather reporting to educate our viewers/readers on the biggest offenders and what needs to change. http://www.vimeo.com/leezurik/IREDegreeofDebt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y09_yQ9Bwo&feature=youtu.be