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Best of MuckReads 2012

A list of our favorite watchdog journalism published this year.

As 2012 comes to a close (and awards season approaches), we selected some of our favorite accountability journalism published this year. Browse our full collection over on MuckReads, and thanks to all of those who submitted nominations.


Wal-Mart Abroad, New York Times

The New York Times takes a sweeping look at Wal-Mart’s Mexico operations to uncover systemic bribery that helped the company quickly expand across the country. When executives discovered the paper trail and possible cover ups, they shut down the investigation. In December, the Times “picked up where Wal-Mart’s internal investigation was cut off,” and found that its actions went well beyond routine bribes.


Louisiana Incarcerated, The Times-Picayune

The Times-Picayune investigated how Louisiana came to have the highest incarceration rate in the world, revealing a web of harsh sentencing, low parole rates and financial incentives to keep people behind bars. Via Dafna Linzer


Playing with Fire, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune detailed a decades-long campaign to load furniture with fire-retardant chemicals. Fueled in part by the tobacco industry, which sought to deflect blame from cigarettes for household fires, the push for flame retardants relied on misleading or erroneous claims, and has exposed the average American to “pounds of toxic chemicals” linked to cancer and a range of other health problems. Via Michael Grabell


Insider Trading, Bloomberg

Reporter David Voreacos spent much of 2012 exploring the growth and evolution of insider trading, from the virality of the trading of health care stocks, to the intricacies of a 17-year scheme, to the effects that such trading can have on relationships. Via Paul Steiger


Ghost Factories, USA Today

Lead factories have spewed lead particles and other toxic chemicals for decades,  leaving neighborhoods contaminated even after factories have closed. In many cases, the EPA knew about dangerous levels of toxins but did nothing to orchestrate clean ups or warn people living near the old facilities.


Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader, New York Times

A deep look into the finances of the family of China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, which prompted the Chinese government to block access to the New York Times. The family fortune is tied to state-owned companies and obscured in complex arrangements. Earlier in the year, Bloomberg scrutinized the family wealth of Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s next president, in another story showing the hidden ways China’s elite leverage government connections.


Dying For Relief, Los Angeles Times

The California medical board’s approach to oversight has allowed reckless prescribing, with occasionally fatal consequences. Most board members declined to comment, but following The Times’ investigation, board officials said they’ve asked the Legislature to require county coroners report prescription drug deaths to the board. Via Ryan Gabrielson


Credit Scars, Columbus Dispatch

“That’s not my birth date. That’s not my name. I’m not dead.” – just some of the errors made by largely unregulated credit reporting agencies found by the Dispatch in a review of tens of thousands of complaints. What seem like simple mistakes can have huge consequences on consumers’ credit scores, because it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to correct them.


Foxconn’s Reform Promises, The New York Times

As Apple shifted almost all of its manufacturing work overseas, reports emerged of unsafe and harsh working conditions. This series of articles details the challenges posed by the globalized technology workforce and the reforms that Foxconn – Apple’s largest manufacturing partner and one of China’s largest private employers – has vowed to make. Via Michael Grabell


In Jennifer’s Room, California Watch

A powerful narrative of one California family’s struggle to get justice for their developmentally disabled daughter, who was was impregnated by an unknown assailant while under state care. See the full investigation into sexual abuse at California’s board-and-care centers.



N.C. Nonprofit Hospitals Make Big Money on Cancer Drug Markups, The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer

This joint investigation explores the costly cancer drug treatment market in North Carolina’s largest hospital systems, where some drugs are priced two to 10 times higher than at independent clinics. Hospitals say the soaring out-of-pocket costs are necessary to offset free services for the poor and uninsured; according to a survey by the American Cancer Society, it’s led to nearly one in five patients delaying recommended treatment.


Chesapeake Energy, Reuters

It’s been a rough year for Chesapeake Energy and CEO Aubrey McClendon. The company is now under investigation for possibly violating antitrust laws, among other issues, and amidst scandal, McClendon’s personal fortune has shrunk by more than half. You can find a full list of articles here.

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