Insult to Injury: The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

Michael Grabell, ProPublica, Howard Berkes, NPR, Lena Groeger, ProPublica, Yue Qiu, ProPublica, and Sisi Wei, ProPublica, Insult to Injury: The Demolition of Workers’ Comp. ProPublica and NPR, 4 March 2016. “Over the past decade, states have slashed workers’ compensation benefits, denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers.”

One of three winners of the 2016 IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Award for Investigative Journalism. “Judges’ comments: This project masterfully details how states across the nation have dismantled their workers’ comp programs, cutting benefits and sticking taxpayers with a growing bill for injured workers. Tackling an often overlooked topic, the reporters built databases tracking legislative changes in each state over the past dozen years, obtained benefit plans from some of the country’s largest companies and combed through thousands of pages of depositions. They used heartbreaking stories and interactive tools to present complex material in an elegant way. Their work paid off in legislative changes in several states, investigations and a wider discussion about needed changes. We are awarding this project an IRE Medal for its wide impact and its fresh approach to showing how employers continue to benefit at the expense of workers.”

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Missing and Murdered: The Trafficked (in Canada)

Tavia Grant, Missing and Murdered: The Trafficked. The Globe and Mail, 10 February 2016. “Indigenous women and girls are being exploited by gangs and other predators with little being done to stop it. Missing and Murdered: The Trafficked: The story behind our investigation into the exploitation of indigenous women and girls, by Tavia Grant, 10 February 2016: “The Trafficked project sprang from an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. In the course of that reporting, the issue of human trafficking surfaced as a factor that puts some aboriginal women at even greater risk of disappearing or being killed. The Globe and Mail spent three months investigating the subject, dedicating one reporter full-time to delve into who the victims are, how the crime is committed, what the long-term impact is and how the federal government has responded.”

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Baby Doe: Why Can’t We Stop Child Abuse?

Jill Lepore, Baby Doe: Why Can’t We Stop Child Abuse? The New Yorker, 1 February 2016. “Last June [2015], a woman walking her dog on Deer Island, in Boston Harbor, came across a black plastic garbage bag on the beach. Inside was a very little girl, dead. The woman called for help and collapsed in tears. Police searched the island; divers searched the water; a medical examiner collected the body. The little girl had dark eyes and pale skin and long brown hair. She weighed thirty pounds. She was wearing white-and-black polka-dot pants. She was wrapped in a zebra-striped fleece blanket. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that no child matching her description had been reported missing. “Someone has to know who this child is,” an official there said. But for a very long time no one did.”

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How Did the Flint Water Crisis Happen?

Cynthia Gordy, How Did the Flint Water Crisis Happen? ProPublica, 25 January 2016. “The water crisis in Flint, Michigan – in which the city’s drinking water became contaminated with lead, bacteria and other pollutants – has come to national attention in recent weeks. President Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint, freeing up $5 million in federal aid, but Flint’s water problems have been unfolding for almost two years. Ron Fonger, reporter for The Flint Journal and MLive, has been writing about the water contamination since 2014, when the city began using the Flint River as its water source. From covering city council meetings and town hall forums, where almost immediately residents complained about discolored, tainted water, he has had a front-row seat to the crisis. On this week’s podcast, Fonger speaks with ProPublica editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg about what caused the problem, who dropped the ball, and what happens next.”

Other resources:

Anna Clark, How an investigative journalist helped prove a city was being poisoned with its own water. Columbia Journalism Review, 3 November 2015. “It was not a typical evening of reporting. In early September [2015], Curt Guyette was knocking on unfamiliar doors in Flint, Michigan—not to ask for interviews, but to ask residents to test their water for lead. Local activists were doing the same thing on sidewalks nearby, and in other parts of town. The task: Muster tests from as many ZIP Codes as possible to give a complete picture of what, exactly, was flowing out of the taps in Flint.”

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The Counted: the number of people killed by police in the U.S. in 2015

Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey, Ciara McCarthy, The Counted. The Guardian US, 31 December 2015. From the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy: ” The Guardian documented the number of people killed by police in the U.S., telling the stories of who they were, and establishing the hidden trends in how they died, through a database, special reports, and multimedia. The investigation’s final tally for 2015 of 1,134 deaths was two and a half times greater than the last annual total recorded by the FBI. After the publication of “The Counted,” the FBI announced at the end of 2015 that it would overhaul its system of counting killings by police. The Department of Justice also began testing a new program for recording arrest-related deaths, drawing on Guardian data.”

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The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The Atlantic, October 2015. “American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they’ve failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report ‘The Negro Family’ tragically helped create this system, it’s time to reclaim his original intent.”

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Failure Factories: Five elementary schools in Pinellas County, Florida

Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia, Failure Factories. Tampa Bay Times, 14 August 2015. Five-part series. “How the Pinellas County School Board neglected five schools until they became the worst in Florida. First they abandoned integration. Then they failed to send help. Now, five once-decent schools in St. Petersburg are among the very worst in the state.”

Winner of the 2015 IRE [Investigative Reporters & Editors] Medal for Investigative Journalism. “Judges’ comments: With its deep reporting, clear writing and detailed data analysis, the Tampa Bay Times shamed and embarrassed Pinellas County school leaders for completely failing black children in the district. This story is the epitome of why desegregation was ordered in 1954 – to level the educational playing field for black children. In a few short years after the Pinellas district abandoned integration, its schools again became havens for the haves and have nots. One expert said what school leaders did was nothing short of ‘educational malpractice.’ Unqualified teachers churned through the schools, leaving in their wake students who couldn’t read or write. The schools became dangerous battlegrounds for bullies and sexually-aggressive children. One young girl, so traumatized by daily life at a place that is supposed to be safe, lay down in the road, hoping to be run over by a car. Reforms are now underway because of the impressive commitment by the newspaper to right an alarming wrong.”

Winner of the 2015 George Polk Award for Education Reporting. “… a deeply researched series that traced the decline of black student achievement in Pinellas County to a 2007 school board rezoning decision that effectively re-segregated five schools. After spending 18 months analyzing data on black student performance and behavior, interviewing hundreds of students and teachers from the affected schools and gathering documents from the 20 largest school systems in Florida, Times reporters demonstrated that black students had the least qualified teachers, attended school on the most violent campuses and were far more likely to be suspended for minor infractions. After the series ran U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan flew to St. Petersburg to meet with black families, accusing the district of ‘education malpractice.’ ”

Winner of the 2015 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism.

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How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa

Bryan Christy, How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa. National Geographic, 12 August 2015. “…[T]he African elephant is under siege. A booming Chinese middle class with an insatiable taste for ivory, crippling poverty in Africa, weak and corrupt law enforcement, and more ways than ever to kill an elephant have created a perfect storm. The result: Some 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered every year, more than 100,000 between 2010 and 2012, and the pace of killing is not slowing. Most illegal ivory goes to China, where a pair of ivory chopsticks can bring more than a thousand dollars and carved tusks sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Update: Paul Steyn, African Elephant Numbers Plummet 30 Percent, Landmark Survey Finds. National Geographic, 31 August 2016. “An unprecedented census gives a sobering baseline for managing what’s left of Africa’s elephants.” The finding of the Great Elephant Census, a continent-wide wildlife survey, is worrying: “Africa now has 352,271 savanna elephants left in 93 percent of the species’ range. The aerial survey covered 18 African countries. In 15 of those, where information on previous populations existed, 144,000 elephants were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade. The current yearly loss—overwhelmingly from poaching—is estimated at 8 percent. That’s about 27,000 elephants slaughtered year after year…. The census was funded by Microsoft founder Paul G. Allen and took just under three years to complete. Led by the nonprofit Elephants Without Borders, which is based in Botswana, the survey involved a team of 90 scientists, six NGOs, and two advisory partners: the Kenya-based conservation organization Save the Elephants and the African Elephant Specialist Group, made up of experts who focus on the conservation and management of African elephants.”

Update: Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gettleman, China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching. The New York Times, 30 December 2016. China announced on Friday that it was banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017, a move that would shut down the world’s largest ivory market and could deal a critical blow to the practice of elephant poaching in Africa.”

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A Choice for Recovering Addicts: Relapse or Homelessness

Kim Barker, A Choice for Recovering Addicts: Relapse or Homelessness. The New York Times, 30 May 2015. “After a lifetime of abusing drugs, Horace Bush decided at age 62 that getting clean had become a matter of life or death. So Mr. Bush, a homeless man who still tucked in his T-shirts and ironed his jeans, moved to a flophouse in Brooklyn that was supposed to help people like him, cramming into a bedroom the size of a parking space with three other men.

Mr. Bush signed up for a drug-treatment program and emerged nine months later determined to stay sober. But the man who ran the house, Yury Baumblit, a longtime hustler and two-time felon, had other ideas.

Mr. Baumblit got kickbacks on the Medicaid fees paid to the outpatient treatment programs that he forced all his tenants to attend, residents and former employees said. So he gave Mr. Bush a choice: If he wanted to stay, he would have to relapse and enroll in another program. Otherwise, his bed would be given away.”

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Where Are the Children? For extortionists, undocumented migrants have become big business

Sarah Stillman, Where Are the Children? For extortionists, undocumented migrants have become big business. The New Yorker, 27 April 2015. “Tougher border security has made migrants [from Central America] more vulnerable. Routes are more perilous, and organized crime controls many smuggling operations. One activist says, ‘The harder you make it to cross, the more people can charge, the more dangerous the trip becomes.'”

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