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Why We’re Giving Away Our Reporting Recipe


Over the past two years, ProPublica reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber have done a remarkable job of examining how states oversee misconduct by medical professionals, chiefly nurses.

Today, we are doing something relatively unusual for a news organization in the midst of a running story: We’re publishing the journalistic insights and techniques that have allowed us to do this reporting.

Go to our reporting recipe.

ProPublica was created two years ago to pursue stories that would spur change. As part of this mission, we make our finished work and its underlying data available to all. Other news organizations are free to republish stories posted on our site. Reporters across the country have used the data we have compiled on the stimulus to do local versions of these stories. And whenever possible, we post source documents for readers to view.

Now we are taking this principle a step further, giving away the recipe for what has been one of our most powerful reporting efforts to date. We are doing this because we believe there are many ways to prompt change through journalism.

Reporting Network
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Nursing is regulated state by state, and we lack the resources to investigate 50 nursing boards or the agencies regulating a variety of other critical health professionals. But we can share the means for the nation’s newspapers, public radio stations, broadcast outlets and news nonprofits to do so. From what we’ve seen in several states, there are problems nationwide with how quickly these boards act and how they share information with one another and with citizens. Our techniques can help reporters or the public have a significant impact on their communities.

We believe that healthy competition among proud journalists brings more news to light. But in this era of shrinking resources, there is clearly a role for new forms of collaboration. Reporters from various organizations have joined our Reporting Network and helped us look into the lawmakers attending this year’s Super Bowl, or the progress of stimulus projects. We have also worked directly with news organizations on specific stories like police misconduct in New Orleans.

We hope that others will use the techniques created by Ornstein and Weber to hold local officials accountable. Reporters who look into the local boards that oversee nurses or other health professionals will make new discoveries, some of which will undoubtedly go beyond what we have found. That, in turn, will help others push the story ahead. We hope statehouse reporters, beat reporters, general assignment reporters, bloggers, citizen journalists and others will use this road map.

Reporters and others who want to know when we publish data and reporting tools should sign up here.

Those interested in ways of collaborating with ProPublica more frequently can sign up for our Reporting Network, which will let you know when we need help or when we’re distributing resources or new reporting techniques. And if you find something great, we’ll consider posting it.

It is a new day in our business. Now, more than ever, we’re all in this together.

Steve Engelberg & Paul Steiger

Go to our reporting recipe.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
When Caregivers Harm

When Caregivers Harm: America's Unwatched Nurses

California has failed to protect patients from nurses who are incompetent and dangerous.

The Story So Far

In California, nurses accused of serious wrongdoing have often been left free to practice for years while their cases were being investigated—with patients unaware of the danger.

The board that oversees the state’s registered nurses has taken more than three years, on average, to discipline nurses with histories of drug abuse, negligence, incompetence and violence.

More »

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