Highlights of investigative stories reported solo or as part of a team. Generally, these stories were driven by data analysis.
Data analysis shows Toyota tops speed control complaints: USA TODAY, March 26, 2010. Since 2004, components related to vehicle speed control showed up at a higher rate in consumer complaints about Toyota vehicles than in five other major manufacturers, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. James Healey wrote the story based on my analysis of hundreds of thousands of records in a NHTSA consumer complaint database.
Beef recall didn’t include school lunches: USA TODAY, Dec. 2, 2009. Part of the “Trouble on the Tray” series on school lunch quality, this report with Peter Eisler and Blake Morrison examined a supplier of ground beef to the nation’s school lunch program — a company the government continued to use even after it had been suspended several times due to food contamination. Our analysis examined hundreds of thousands of government records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act on microbial testing and vendor contracts. Link: Series page
More parents move in with kids: USA TODAY, Sept. 23, 2008. Analysis of American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census showed a growing number of parents, siblings and other relatives living with adult heads of households.
In air, health emergencies rise: USA TODAY, March 12, 2008. Using data from 911 dispatch centers, a NASA safety database and a medical company that services airlines, Robert Davis and I reported that in-air medical emergencies were rising — prompted, in part, by longer flights and an aging population.
Women feed jump in college enrollment: USA TODAY, Sept. 12, 2007. The 2006 American Community Survey showed women accounted for larger portions of undergraduate and graduate enrollments, part of a long-term trend of men have a decreased presence on campus. Also from the ACS: Young adults delay marriage.
First year in college is the riskiest: USA TODAY, Jan. 25, 2006. Robert Davis and I built and analyzed a database of 620 college student deaths that occurred from 2000 to 2005 at four-year colleges and found that freshman were more likely to be the ones dying of alcohol overdoses, falls and health problems. Winner of the 2007 Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award in the Consumer Affairs category.
Alcohol and fire a deadly mix: USA TODAY, Aug. 30, 2006. To follow our college deaths investigation, Robert Davis and I analyzed data related to 62 student deaths in fires at off-campus housing. We found that fires often happened on weekends in the early morning; that students frequently had disabled smoke detectors that would have alerted them; and that alcohol often played a role in preventing students from escaping deadly situations.
Church struggles with change: USA TODAY, Nov. 7, 2004. Cathy Grossman and I chronicled the loss of priests and parishes in the Catholic Church in the U.S. From 1990 to 2003, the number of active diocesan and religious-order priests fell 22%, and the number of parishes in 176 dioceses and archdioceses fell 3%.
Movie critics, fans follow similar script: USA TODAY, Feb. 25, 2004. My study of critics’ movie ratings vs. films’ box office performance — using linear regression — found that better-reviewed movies tended to make more money, even when factors such as star power were considered.
Anti-smoking funds sparse: USA TODAY, Jan. 30, 2001. The 1997 settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies netted states $250 billion, but by 2001 few of the states were using the money on efforts to cut smoking. In states that were, early results were showing declines in teen smoking. But my investigation found that most state legislatures were balking at using the money to discourage smoking, instead using the funds to reduce budget gaps or fund other programs. Links: Page 1, Page 2
Concertgoers push injuries to higher levels: USA TODAY, Aug. 8, 2000. Decades after 11 people were crushed to death at a concert by The Who in Cincinnati, the concert industry had done little to make shows safe. Hundreds of people each year end up with broken bones, concussions and other injuries, I found in a review of the only data available — a compilation of news reports, lawsuits and other accounts kept by a safety crusader who let me be the first journalist to see his files. At the time, the head of one of the nation’s largest concert promoters told me, “I’m not sure it’s relevant to talk about the percentage or number of injuries at any of the events that the company produces.” Links: Page 1, Page 2
Rural schools left wanting: USA TODAY, June 2, 1999. An analysis of 5,100 public school projects started between 1994 and 1998 showed that although school construction was booming, districts outside Metropolitan Statistical Areas were far less likely to have built a new school. The reasons: smaller, rural districts typically have a harder time passing bonds or raising tax money to finance construction, and states weren’t apt to pitch in. Winner of a special citation in 1999 from the Education Writers Association.