Using data and documents

Since joining IRE in 2012, I’ve learned how to incorporate data into journalism and get beyond anecdotal reporting. I try to use those skills to improve on daily stories and develop ideas for more substantial reports. Below are a few reports that depended on my ability to find, organize and create data sets. I then sought out the people to tell the story behind the spreadsheet or map.

Investigating ambulances in Wisconsin is a one-man job
I learned Wisconsin only has one inspector assigned to check more than 1,200 ambulances every two years – and the standards for those inspections haven’t been updated for more than a decade. I created a database of the inspection records, giving people a first look at the documents which aren’t available online through the state. A follow-up report featured a former EMT who was paralyzed in an ambulance crash, in print and in a video report.

Thrill-ride accidents spark new demands for regulation
After two high-profile accidents on thrill rides in the summer of 2016, a team of AP reporters analyzed government data and academic studies on how safety is checked before riders climb on board. We learned that, in many cases, that doesn’t happen. I contributed analysis of federal data on reported injuries and interviewed researchers who studied that data.

A year after legalizing, counting fireworks injuries a struggle in Georgia
A year after Georgia legalized most fireworks, I planned a quick data-based story on how the change had affected reported injuries. But instead, I learned that the state insurance agency wasn’t getting the information from hospitals as required for burn injuries by state law.

Chemical vapors can cause lingering effects in homes, businesses
Cleanup projects at an unknown number of chemical spills in Wisconsin skipped a key step — investigating whether potentially carcinogenic chemicals could seep as vapor into nearby homes or businesses — according to a state database of spill sites.

Dangerous algae flourishes as Wisconsin slogs through permits
My review of state records found that Wisconsin was not fully enforcing strict phosphorus limits adopted years earlier to reduce lake-algae blooms that make people sick. I also created a database of lakes and rivers affected by the contaminant.

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