Journalism in the Public Interest

The ProPublica Nerd Blog

A Big Article About Wee Things


Wee things are everywhere on the web: from graphics and data visualizations to interactions and navigation tools. With Waldo as our guide, we'll take a look at how people read and interpret small visual forms, why tiny details can be hugely useful, and what principles we can apply to make all these little images and moments work for us.


Losing Ground: Southeast Louisiana is Disappearing, Quickly

Scientists say one of the greatest environmental and economic disasters in the nation’s history—the rapid land loss occurring in the Mississippi Delta—is rushing toward a catastrophic conclusion. ProPublica and The Lens explore why it’s happening and what we’ll all lose if nothing is done to stop it.


Tobacco Bonds May Be Dangerous to Your State’s Financial Health

After a bruising legal fight, tobacco companies agreed in 1998 to compensate 46 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories for the health-related costs of smoking. Wall Street helped turn their annual payments into upfront cash by selling bonds to investors. Some of the deals included a form of high-risk debt, capital appreciation bonds, which obligated governments to pay out billions of their tobacco income in the future.

Announcing Raster Support for Simple Tiles


(NASA Landsat 8 imagery)

To support the work we're doing for a project launching this year that relies on satellite imagery, we've added raster-data support to the newest version of Simple Tiles.

Why We Removed the Form 990 PDFs From Nonprofit Explorer

Last month, we removed links to download Form 990 document PDFs from our Nonprofit Explorer interactive database.

A Disappearing Planet

Today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.


The NSA Revelations All in One Chart

We plotted the NSA programs, showing which ones fall squarely into the agency’s stated mission of foreign surveillance, and which ones are more controversial.


Can Schools in Your State Pin Kids Down? Probably.

Public schoolchildren across the country were physically restrained or isolated in rooms they couldn’t leave at least 267,000 times in the 2011-2012 school year, despite a near-consensus that such practices are dangerous and have no therapeutic benefit. Many states have little regulation or oversight of such practices. This map shows where your state stands.


Restraint Techniques

A Minnesota Department of Education report shows these three common restraints. So-called prone restraints are known to restrict breathing and can be lethal to children. About half of states don’t have a law prohibiting public schools from using such restraints. Minnesota doesn’t allow prone restraints on disabled children and will ban the tactics altogether after August 2015.

The Road to Health is Paved With Good Data


The Health Data Consortium awarded ProPublica the Health Data Liberators Award at this year's Health Datapalooza for its work on "The Prescribers" series. From left: Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of Health Data Consortium; Jennifer LaFleur, senior editor for data journalism at The Center for Investigative Reporting, formerly of ProPublica; Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica; and Dr. Nirav Shah, last year’s recipient and former New York state commissioner of health.

ProPublica News Applications Desk Receives Data Journalism Award

The Global Editors Network recognized ProPublica one of eight Data Journalism Awards, announced today in Barcelona.

Ambulances for Dialysis Patients on Rise

New Jersey leads the nation in average annual Medicare spending on ambulance services per dialysis patient, billing for unusually large numbers of non-emergency ambulance rides, according to a our analysis of Medicare payment data. Several ambulance providers said they’ve heard of providers who sign up patients who don’t need the service — a form of fraud. These charts show spending by state from 2001 to 2011, compared to national averages. Sort by the most-recent year or by state.


Where Do the Guns Traced in Your State Come From?

Nearly a third of the 155,000 guns officials recovered in 2012 were traced back to sources outside the state they were found in, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Use this tool to see firearms traces in each state that year.


Treatment Tracker

Medicare recently released, for the first time, details on 2012 payments to individual doctors and other health professionals serving the 46 million seniors and disabled in its Part B program. Part B covers services as varied as office visits, ambulance mileage, lab tests, and the doctor’s fee for open-heart surgery. Use this tool to find and compare providers.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Plants


FareTrade is a mobile web app that allows users to see how far, on average, items on their grocery list traveled to reach them. This app, built by journalists from ProPublica, WNYC, the Washington Post and National Geographic, is a proof of concept.

National Geographic's Future of Food Hackathon took place last weekend in Washington, D.C., as a part of their “Future of Food” project. ProPublica’s Eric Sagara, Mike Tigas and Sisi Wei were part of a team with WNYC’s Noah Veltman and Tim Wong from The Washington Post. We also received expert help and advice from National Geographic's Dennis Dimick and Maggie Zackowitz.


School Segregation After Brown

Hundreds of school districts were placed under court order to desegregate following the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Many communities do not know the status of these orders. Use this tool to find out whether your district is or ever was under a desegregation order, and also to look at the levels of integration and segregation in your schools.


Desegregation Court Records

Search here for desegregation documents we collected during our reporting.

Introducing Landline and Stateline: Two Tools For Quick Vector Maps in your Browser


We used a variation of Landline in this graphic on the front page of our nursing homes app.

Today we're releasing code to make it easier for newsrooms to produce maps quickly. Landline is an open source JavaScript library for turning GeoJSON data into browser-based SVG maps. It comes with Stateline, which builds on Landline to create U.S. state and county choropleth maps with very little code out-of-the-box.

What Heartbleed Means for Newsrooms


Heartbleed is a major security vulnerability that affects recent versions of OpenSSL, a popular software library that provides encryption. It is used in a wide variety of software in common use in news organizations. Here’s what newsroom developers can do about it.


The Department of Labor’s Internships Investigations

In 2010, the Labor Department issued a new fact sheet clarifying when an intern needs to be paid under federal labor law. We collected the case files for all the internship investigations the Labor Department concluded in the three years after issuing new regulations.

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