Reporter's Toolbox

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Toolbox is a regular column focused on the world of data journalism, with an emphasis on data tools, techniques and database resources that journalists can use to improve their environmental reporting. 

 

November 30, 2022

  • A new way for journalists to get more accurate numbers on global greenhouse gas emissions was introduced by former Vice President Al Gore at the recent United Nations’ climate change gathering in Egypt. Reporter’s Toolbox looks under the hood of Climate Trace, which is the result of work by more than 100 collaborators and compiles data from some 300 specialized satellites and 11,000 sensors.

November 9, 2022

  • A new data mapper that allows users to track bird migrations is a cache of ideas for journalists looking to illustrate the connections between birds, habitats and human activity. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox takes a (non-geeky) look at the Bird Migration Explorer, how to best use it and the range of story possibilities it may yield.

October 26, 2022

  • Data specialists working with two databases, one familiar and one little-known, have uncovered how companies may be able to hide releases of the family of toxic PFAS chemicals. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox details the data revelation and explores how journalists may make use of the Chemical Data Reporting service’s datasets for their own stories.

October 12, 2022

  • A new global fossil fuels registry sounds like a breakthrough for covering climate change and energy stories. But Reporter’s Toolbox inspected it and found potentially problematic data sourcing and accuracy. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful as one of several tools to help report the beat. Here’s how to make the most of fossil fuel data sources.

September 28, 2022

  • Extreme weather and other natural disasters can bring a community to its knees. But journalists can be part of what gets it standing again — or even foresee the risk … if they’ve got the right resources. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox takes a close look at two federal products that could be a good starting point, along with several others worth a try.

September 7, 2022

  • Biden administration efforts to measure its response to environmental injustice have spurred the launch of a place-based database that scores individual communities on the issue. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox reviews the new government index and suggests that despite weaknesses, it is still useful as part of a suite of similar tools. Learn more about how to effectively use the new database.

August 10, 2022

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database is as vast as the oceans the agency monitors and filled with information collected by a wide array of instruments operating above, below and on the water’s surface. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox delves into the NOAA Data Discovery Portal and takes a look at a new search tool that promises easier exploration of this treasure trove.

June 29, 2022

  • Heat waves, heat domes … heat deaths. The reality of climate change means a grim uptick in fatalities, more so from excess heat than any other kind of extreme weather event. Reporter’s Toolbox points to useful data sources for covering the crisis, with insights on how to go behind the numbers to find the stories of those most vulnerable to heat’s effects.

June 15, 2022

  • As funding from the U.S. government’s massive infrastructure bill starts to get spent, big swaths of it on environmental-related concerns, Reporter’s Toolbox points to a problem for journalists covering it  — there appears to be no single database to help track the money. But for intrepid reporters, various data sources are out there to help tell the story.

June 1, 2022

  • A new data tool that captures information on 1.5 million-plus active U.S. oil and gas production facilities can be a powerful tool for journalists looking to report on potential pollutants, especially when overlaid with local census data, school locations and the like. Reporter’s Toolbox takes a closer look at the new Oil & Gas Threat Map, shares caveats and offers story ideas.

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