Tags : Behind the Story

Behind the Story: The Indianapolis Star’s probe into the billion-dollar deer farming industry

Ryan Sabalow

It’s like a gold rush. There’s money to be made, but the cost of those riches is a host of harmful, unintended consequences.

A recent Indianapolis Star investigation uncovered evidence linking lucrative deer farming operations to the spread of invasive lice and diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease in wild deer populations. The detailed story, told in five chapters each accompanied by a video, chronicles the rise of commercial deer farming from one Amish farmer with pet deer to the profitable industry that exists today.

“No one really saw this coming,” said Indianapolis ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: How USA TODAY pieced together a confidential FBI database to count fugitives who go free

Brad Heath

Lamont Pride was a wanted man the day he fatally shot a New York City police officer during a 2011 robbery. Officials had already passed up opportunities to lock up Pride, who was wanted in connection with a North Carolina shooting. And when the fugitive appeared in a Brooklyn court on a drug charge, a judge aware of the warrant also decided to let him go. A few weeks later Officer Peter Figoski was dead.

USA TODAY reporter Brad Heath followed coverage of the high-profile case.

“This must be out of the ordinary,” Heath remembered thinking. “I wonder ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: How the Chicago Sun-Times helped bring a nephew of Mayor Richard M. Daley to justice in a 10-year-old homicide

By Paul Saltzman, Chicago Sun-Times

On Jan. 31, 2014, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a death a decade earlier.

Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko admitted doing exactly what an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times had revealed in early 2011 he did — and what police and prosecutors had twice refused to charge him with doing:

Punching a much smaller man named David Koschman in a drunken encounter outside the late night bars on Division Street in Chicago’s Rush Street nightlife district. Knocking him to the ground with a single punch ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: How the Los Angeles Times turned an anonymous tip into a front-page story

Paige St. John

No such records exist. That’s the message Paige St. John received when she requested audit records on the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s GPS monitoring program.

Despite the rocky start, the Los Angeles Times reporter went on to break the story about trivial alerts from GPS monitors overwhelming probation officers in LA County. Officers had been using the monitors to track thousands of felons moved out of California prisons due to overcrowding. Receiving as many as 1,000 alerts a day, officers had come to frequently disregard the notices.

St. John began her investigation back ...

Read more ...

Using new nonprofit law center, Hawaii’s Civil Beat wins access to police misconduct records

In the flood of paperwork that made its way each year to the Hawaii legislature, a shocking statistic slipped under the radar: About once a week the Honolulu Police Department was suspending or firing an officer for misconduct.

Often the offenses were serious – abusing suspects, lying to federal investigators, tipping off drug dealers. And for nearly two decades the information was kept quiet. Legislators paid little attention to the annual reports. Officers who resigned or got suspended for misconduct were shielded by a political loophole in the state’s public records law. Paperwork documenting the wrongdoing was often destroyed.

Civil ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: The Boston Globe’s 4-year battle for secret settlement records

Todd Wallack

Boston Globe reporter Todd Wallack thought it would be a simple, short-term project to look into settlements made between the state of Massachusetts and some of its employees. After all, he’d done the same thing in California, uncovering an agreement between UC Davis and one of its administrators to avert a nasty lawsuit.

But the response he got from Massachusetts was completely unexpected.

“This is the first time I came across a state saying, ‘no, this is confidential,” Wallack said.

The records he initially received were heavily redacted. Officials had blacked out reams of crucial information, including names, dates ...

Read more ...

Google Hangout Dec. 9th with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Deadly Delays Team

On Dec. 9th at 10:00 a.m. CST, IRE will host another live Google+ Hangout with Ellen Gabler and Allan J. Vestal of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Watchdog team.  Tune in as we learn about their Deadly Delays series on processing failures in newborn screening programs.  Topics for discussion will include how the team uncovered delayed testing and how other news teams can use the information to begin their own investigations.

After the broadcast, the recorded Hangout will be posted to ire.org.  Please visit our Hangouts page to view previous sessions on investigating America's worst charities ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: Maine pharmacists get licenses despite history of drug abuse

Would you feel safe if your pharmacist had lost his license because of drug abuse or theft, yet had regained it and was dispensing your prescriptions? What about if he had lost his license twice?

Naomi Schalit and John Christie of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting found that since 2003, thirteen pharmacists with histories of drug abuse in Maine were allowed to practice despite having previously lost their licenses. The discovery was part of a broad examination of Maine’s Board of Pharmacy discipline records that resulted in a two-part series published in September. The project was led ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: Two Cleveland reporters raise the issue of rape kits that sat untested for 20 years

Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi wanted an answer to a seemingly simple question: how many untested rape kits did the Cleveland Police Department have in storage?

The answer: “We don’t know.”

The reporters’ question prompted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2011 to ask all Ohio law enforcement agencies to send their rape kits to labs for testing, some of which had been collecting dust for twenty years.

Two years later, 59 people have been indicted for rapes committed in Cleveland up to two decades ago. In some cases prosecutors had to race against time to file indictments within ...

Read more ...

Reporter finds hundreds of unpunished water violations in Minnesota

By Mark Steil

Minnesota Public Radio

I’ve always enjoyed looking through large piles of data in my job as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. My primary beats are the agriculture and energy sectors. I’ve been on the job 35 years now, and for most of that time a document hunt generally meant one thing: going to an office and watching someone haul out several cardboard boxes stuffed with folders and paper. I’d sit down and go through every page. But over the past decade, much of that information has moved online. I got a good reminder ...

Read more ...