Friday, February 10, 2006

Forceful Story

A fight between off-duty cops and two men carrying a bag of steak fajitas prompted the San Francisco Chronicle to investigate the use of excessive force by members of the city's police department. To report "The Use of Force," Susan Sward, Bill Wallace and Elizabeth Fernandez used public records to create an electronic database that showed a core group of fewer than 100 violence-prone officers -- out of 2,200 in the department -- were involved in many of the use-of-force incidents. Even more disturbing, Sward, Wallace and Fernandez found that the department hasn't developed an effective system for identifying problem officers, instead promoting them or using them to train other officers. In addition to their database reporting, the Chronicle team conducted 155 interviews to show how problem officers affect the city's residents.
I got information about this story from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hell Hole

In his four-part series "Predators Among Us," reporter Jason Grotto of the Miami Herald takes a searing look at the failures of a Florida program that is supposed to treat sexual offenders. Using extensive interviews and document reviews, Grotto shows how inmates at the Florida Civil Commitment Center often don't get the treatment they are supposed to receive, leaving them as threats to molest women and children once they get out. Grotto uses strong examples to show how violence, drugs, alcohol and pornography have overtaken the supposedly therapeutic center. Grotto traces the troubles to lack of funding and oversight by the state.
Thanks to Brian Summers for this tip.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Home on the Firing Range

In today's Boston Globe, reporter Megan Woolhouse has a lively trend story on how suburban hunters are increasingly finding their targets close to home. "Suburban Deer Hunters" describes how the booming deer population has inspired more hunters to shoot their guns in heavily populated eastern Massachusetts than in the less densely packed western Massachusetts, much to the consternation of some suburban dwellers. I like how Woolhouse identified this trend and then presented it with vivid examples and solid data.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Modern Slaves

Director Ric Esther Bienstock's documentary "Sex Slaves," shown on PBS's Frontline tonight, is a stunning and important work of reporting. Bienstock, producer Felix Golubev, soundman Peter Sawade and cameraman Mike Grippo traveled from Ukraine and Russia to Moldavia and Turkey capturing the world of traffickers and the women they enslave. The heart of the documentary follows the efforts of Viorel, a Ukranian man desperately trying to save his pregnant wife, Katia, who was kidnapped and sold to pimps in Turkey. I highly recommend Bienstock's explanation, "The Making of this Film," which describes how she and her crew tracked down sources and went undercover to create this documentary.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Searching for her Daughter

I originally meant to quickly skim "Missing Shannon: Family Wants Closure" by Donna Ladd in the Jackson Free Press. But once I started, I couldn't put it down. It shares the sad tale of Theresa McKinney, who has spent more than six years trying to find out why her daughter, Shannon, disappeared. Along the way, she's had some very unsettling encounters with a Mississippi sheriff. This story has the drama of a mystery movie.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Paying the Bill

Wal-Mart isn't the only big employer that lets taxpayers pick up the health-insurance tab for its workers, Kirsten Stewart of The Salt Lake Tribune reports in today's paper. In her investigation, "Utahns Foot Insurance Bill," Stewart reveals that Medicaid covers the health insurance costs of 7,220 low-wage workers in the Salt Lake City area. In addition to Wal-Mart, employers whose workers are relying on Medicaid include Convergys Corp., McDonalds, the University of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a good example of following the money to develop a story that could have a big impact on government policy.
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