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.

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  • Almost Forbidden

    As vaping-related youth nicotine addiction surged across the United States, we exposed a key political decision to ignore the clear warning signs years before the crisis. Government documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times revealed that, four years ago, the Food and Drug administration attempted to ban vaping flavors that were hooking young teenagers to nicotine. But after a deluge of over 100 lobbyists visited the White House, senior political officials overruled experts at the FDA and eliminated the flavor ban, along with much of the scientific evidence calling for it. Later that year, the national youth vaping rate skyrocketed.
  • 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.
  • "Healthy Holly" and University of Maryland Medical System Investigation

    The “Healthy Holly” scandal began with a suggestion from a source, a state legislator who told Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater she thought there might be some irregular contracting practices going on at the University of Maryland Medical System. Broadwater, busy covering the General Assembly session, filed a public records request. The documents showed that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and other members of the hospital network’s board of directors had no-bid contracts with the medical system -- though the extent of those contracts, especially Pugh's, were not fully described. Broadwater's story -- written quickly as a daily as soon as he received the documents -- was breaking news that got the attention of Maryland's political establishment: University of Maryland Medical System pays members of volunteer board hundreds of thousands in business deals. Immediately, Broadwater and other Baltimore Sun reporters followed their instincts and tips that were coming in -- including that Pugh had failed to print many of the books she’d been paid to produce, while thousands of others were sitting unread in a Baltimore school system warehouse. Meanwhile, Sun reporters pulled ethics forms, poured over tax records, filed public information requests and worked sources, breaking story after story that exposed a widening scandal that rocked the state of Maryland, perhaps more than any other series of articles in decades. Their work led to the resignation of the mayor, the UMMS CEO and other top officials, including every member of the medical system's board of directors.
  • In the hot seat

    When reporters at NBC News began probing OSHA severe injury data in February 2019, an interesting takeaway emerged: UPS had a higher rate of heat injuries than any other company. At least 107 UPS workers in 23 states had been hospitalized for heat illnesses since 2015. In severe cases, heat can lead to organ failure and death. But regulators have little enforcement ability on this issue because there is no OSHA standard protecting workers from heat--even as climate change brings record-breaking temperatures. NBC News filed more than two dozen public records requests for state-level data -- to supplement the federal OSHA data -- and hundreds of pages of incident reports, and spoke with dozens of UPS employees, uncovering a corporate culture that exacerbated the problem. Long hours, heavy routes, fear of retaliation and sweltering trucks and warehouses pushed workers workers past their limits. Managers pushing workers to continue working when sick, and employees too intimidated to report their injuries. UPS claimed that their iconic brown trucks do not get dangerously hot, but NBC News sent five temperature loggers in packages across the country, during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. The results showed that each package exceeded 100 degrees while on a truck, with one hitting nearly 115 degrees. Drivers around the country also sent us images of temperature readings they took in their own trucks -- the hottest clocked in at 158 degrees. Between rising temperatures and the growing demands of the two-day delivery economy, dozens of UPS drivers said conditions are getting worse. Follow up stories uncovered additional injuries and more examples of UPS poorly protecting its workers from the heat. Following our story, OSHA fined UPS for a heat injury for the first time in nearly a decade.
  • #UkraineDocs

    Our principal three stories — written by Smith and published on Dec. 13, Dec. 20, and Jan. 2 — revealed first that the Trump administration was hiding critical information about the potential legality of the President’s holdup of Ukraine aid, second that officials at the Pentagon were worried that the holdup violated a spending law, and third that the holdup ignited increasingly strident protests by Pentagon officials who said it was illegal and that it should have been disclosed to Congress.
  • Newsday Investigation: Pathway to Power

    In a panoramic, 30,000-word narrative, reporters exposed the underpinnings of Long Island’s corrupt political system through the life of a onetime street hoodlum who would eventually own a castle-like estate that became the Island’s unofficial political clubhouse and the site of a startling attempt on his life. Drilling deep below decades of numbing public scandals, the project is the defining document of how local power works on Long Island, how the public gets exploited and why unscrupulous operators persistently prevail.
  • Unintended Consequences: Sex Offenders in Motels & Hotels

    In a six-month investigation, NBC5 Investigates found 667 sex offenders living at 490 motels and hotels throughout Illinois and nine surrounding states. Though many check in to these motels for a few weeks or months at a time, we found that approximately half of these offenders stay there for at least six months or more – and sometimes for years. With few exceptions in just a handful of towns across the country, it is perfectly legal for any registered sex offender to take up residence at a hotel or motel. Often these offenders have few other places where they can legally reside – because they can’t live near parks or schools, which dot most residential areas. There’s also somewhat of a trend away from funding for halfway houses and mental health re-entry facilities, where these offenders might otherwise go.
  • The Hartford Courant's five-year fight for Adam Lanza documents

    The Hartford Courant waged a five-year battle for documents seized from Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza's house and the resulting stories provided the most-detailed picture of one of the country's most-notorious mass killers.
  • Squatters take over dead woman's house

    After a Colorado Springs woman passed away, News 5 Investigates learned squatters took over her house, stole her property and even used her car. Her family tried calling police, only to be told the case would have to be handled in civil court.
  • 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.