We all know it. Some agencies and organizations publish data in PDF format to keep journalists and the public from using the raw data. Take heart. Help is on the way with one easy software tool — Tabula.
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A new USGS database gives you downloadable information on some 47,000 wind turbines in the United States. This allows environmental journalists to come up with all kinds of local, regional, or national stories about wind energy and its impacts.
Will the Federal Aviation Administration make drone journalism illegal? The first answer is likely to come soon. Connecticut journalist Pedro Rivera filed suit February 18, 2014, against Hartford police officers who he said violated his First Amendment rights to gather news.
While EPA and local utilities make much data available online, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a tap water database that is much easier to use. It gathers data from the states as well as from EPA, and compiles city-by-city rankings of the best and worst drinking water quality. It also explains the health significance of contaminants and lists contaminants not regulated by EPA.Region:
Drones might count as new media — and certainly have journalistic uses in covering everything from prairie fires to chemical emergencies. The federal government, which devotes enormous technical resources to spying on its citizens, now says this is illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration issued the ruling, saying there was no grey area: hobbyists can legally fly video drones. But journalists can not. Image: Cade Cleavelin, a science/ag journalism senior at U of Missouri, demonstrates a DJY Phantom quadcopter at the 2013 SEJ Conference in Chattanooga, TN. © Roger Archibald.
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Taxpayers' money funds the Congressional Research Service as it produces objective and authoritative reports on issues facing Congress — many on subjects of interest to environmental journalists. Congress, however, does not share these reports with the public who paid for them. Thanks to the Project on Government Secrecy, another batch of the reports has been leaked and published.
Got scofflaw polluters in your audience area? Are they owned by political fat cats? Is EPA cutting them more slack than they deserve? Such questions are easier to answer thanks to a recent upgrade of the Environmental Protection Agency's ECHO database, a key tool for environmental investigative reporters.
Try this free, open-source add-on to Mozilla's Firefox web browser for "web-scraping" — meaning a methodical effort to capture data disclosed on the web and put it into useable form, typically a database.Topics on the Beat:
Science is the key to many environmental stories, and EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) offers a wide range of data tools journalists may find worthwhile to explore.