Friday, March 31, 2006

Country Roads

In "65 Minutes from Crash to Hospital," Jim Sloan and Steve Timko of the Reno Gazette-Journal investigate how long it takes Nevada's rural rescue crews to reach emergency victims. After doing a computer-assisted analysis of state accident reports and federal data, they found that Nevada has the worst response times in the nation, even compared with other Western states with long, empty stretches of highway. Sloan and Timko look at why the problem is getting worse and give strong examples of how it affects people in different counties.
My thanks to the good people at Investigative Reporters and Editors for highlighting this story on their Web site.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Having a Ball

Robyn Dixon of the Los Angeles Times has crafted an inspirational story about a group of men who have turned their sorrow and pain into moments of joy. "Playing After a Big Loss" tells us how the members of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club, who lost limbs during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war, returned to their love of playing soccer. Dixon uses her descriptive powers to show us how these men delight in playing the game despite the agony of being able to use only one leg.,0,1834204.story?track=tottext

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hurray for the Home Teams

Both of my hometown Chicago dailies published excellent investigative stories over the past week that have already made a difference. Cheryl L. Reed of the Chicago Sun-Times continued her forceful coverage of veterans issues with "Reservists Fight to Keep Jobs," which shows how many of the 542,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists who have been deployed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have struggled to find and keep jobs. Reed reported that in Illinois only 34 percent of unemployed vets who sought help from the Illinois Department of Employment Security found jobs last year, the lowest rate in the country. In response, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered new initiatives to help the state's veterans with employment.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune's Ray Gibson uncovered that two jurors in the high-stakes trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan gave false answers on their jury questionnaires. Gibson revealed that both jurors had apparently concealed arrest records at the start of the six-month trial, something that the judge, prosecutors and defense attorney had failed to learn. The Tribune's stories prompted U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer to dismiss the two jurors, putting the fate of the trial in doubt even though the jury has already started deliberating.,1,7884746.story?coll=chi-news-hed

Monday, March 27, 2006

He Knows Jack

The Washington Post is continuing its groundbreaking coverage of the congressional lobbying scandals. "Former DeLay Aide Enriched By Nonprofit" by R. Jeffrey Smith reveals that Edwin A. Buckham, a former top advisor to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and his wife, Wendy, made more than $1 million over five years from the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit group created by the Buckhams. The money mostly came from clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy and bribery. I'm glad the Post isn't resting on its well-deserved laurels and is continuing to investigate the Abramoff mess.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Letting the Poor Pay

Poor people are twice as likely as wealthy people in North Carolina to live near one of the state's new 5,000 lottery retailers, Jim Morrill and Adam Bell report in today's Charlotte Observer. In "Lottery Vendors Bunched in Lower-Income Locations," Bell and Morrill used mapping software to determine that some upscale neighborhoods and towns will have only one lottery vendor while one low-income neighborhood will hold as many as 28. They also examine how low-income people in neighboring South Carolina spend nearly three times as much on the lottery as do people who make more than $50,000 a year. I like how Morrill and Bell go beyond the news of the state's new lottery and use computer-assisted reporting to see how it is likely to affect real people.
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