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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  • 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.
  • Superpower: One Man's Quest to Transform American Energy

    The book, Superpower, uncovered and reported for the first time ways that Tennessee politicians and Tennessee Valley Authority officials were working clandestinely to stop a major renewable energy project. Through interviews and documents, many obtained through FOIA requests, the book showed how incumbent utilities and their political allies could collaborate to slow the growth of renewable energy in order to preserve political power.
  • Reuters: Immigration under Trump

    Over the last two years, the Trump administration has driven rapid and unprecedented change to the United States immigration system, implementing tougher apprehension, prosecution and detention policies for migrants who come to the country illegally. Reuters has stayed ahead of policy changes, often breaking exclusive news before official announcements. We have also used data to expose where administration policies have failed and to highlight inequities in the system. In these stories, we have relied heavily on a Department of Justice database known as the Case Management System. Reuters obtains the data set, which is used by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to schedule all court appearances, through monthly Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Silicon Valley’s Hidden Figures

    Silicon Valley has a big diversity problem. But no one has been able to comprehensively quantify it until now. Some of the multibillion-dollar companies that fuel the global economy have sought to hide how few women and people of color they have in their organizations, refusing to release the data, claiming the information is a trade secret. We built the largest and most comprehensive database of diversity employment data for Silicon Valley available. Through a groundbreaking collaboration with a University of Massachusetts Amherst sociologist, we got Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) data for 177 of the largest tech companies through public records requests and a successful FOIA lawsuit. Through this data, we uncovered disparities and ranked companies based on their diversity scores. By establishing a baseline of comparative data, we were able to hold companies accountable for their diversity hiring practices for the first time. Because of our analysis, the public now knows some of the worst companies when it comes to diversity in Silicon Valley. But we also found that diversity is not an impossible goal to achieve for technology companies: some are doing much better than their peers.
  • Reuters: Immigration under Trump

    Over the last two years, the Trump administration has driven rapid and unprecedented change to the United States immigration system, implementing tougher apprehension, prosecution and detention policies for migrants who come to the country illegally. Reuters has stayed ahead of policy changes, often breaking exclusive news before official announcements. We have also used data to expose where administration policies have failed and to highlight inequities in the system. In these stories, we have relied heavily on a Department of Justice database known as the Case Management System. Reuters obtains the data set, which is used by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to schedule all court appearances, through monthly Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Toronto Star: Rise of Ghost Hotels

    The data investigation began with the question: Is Airbnb exacerbating Toronto's rental crisis by enabling short-term operations to flourish at the expense of long-term rental stock? We analyzed more than 20,000 Airbnb listings data scraped by independent third-party website insideairbnb.com. We also filed requests for documents on business incorporation to validate our findings about commercial operators.
  • ’Drag this out’: Atlanta mayor’s office directs delay of public requests

    In a unique partnership, WSB-TV joined resources with investigative journalists at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Reporters, producers and editors crafted stories for the needs of their audiences and platforms but broke them in tandem. Management from both media outlets collaborated to make a formal complaint with the state after reporting on city officials frustrating Georgia’s Open Records Act. WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both owned by parent company Cox Media Group
  • You, Too - The Public Cost of Sex Harassment

    In a three-month investigation, NBC5 Investigates, Telemundo Chicago, and the Better Government Association tracked down case after case of government employees in the Chicago area, accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault, or even rape. We filed nearly 2,000 public records requests for documents from local governmental agencies, and – so far – found it cost taxpayers $55 million over more than 400 cases. Tracking hundreds of lawsuits, complaints, and internal investigations filed over the past ten years, we found scores of complaints with local police departments, city halls, public schools, community colleges, park districts, townships and more.