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. 

 

July 14, 2021

  • Urban tree cover is no luxury, but rather an important environmental and public health necessity. And for years the lack of urban trees has harmed socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. To help report on tree cover in U.S. urban areas — and to track it against environmental justice measures — the latest Reporter’s Toolbox spotlights an extensive tree equity scoring database. 

June 23, 2021

  • For reporters covering the long-standing conflict over offshore drilling, which erupted again this month after a federal judge blocked a halt to new leases, an Interior Department database offers a wealth of data about offshore wells. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox walks you through the maze of bureaucracy behind the database, and then provides detailed guidance on how to make the most of its info.

June 9, 2021

  • With a particularly dangerous wildfire season ahead, environmental journalists can better cover the heightened risk with a specialized U.S. Forest Service database. It predicts fire risk using a range of frequently updated variables like amount and condition of fuel, drought and topography, then maps it in high resolution with overlays of human structures and populations. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox has more on the database, and details how to make smart use of it.

May 26, 2021

  • U.S. forests face damage from drought, climate-driven disease and wildfire. To help track the state of our trees, Reporter’s Toolbox explores a massive set of Forest Service databases that details everything from deforestation and dead fuel status to deforestation and species mix. There’s even info on urban forests and grasslands. A closer look at the Forest Inventory and Analysis program.

May 12, 2021

  • Dangerous storm surge that often follows hurricanes can be the focus of life-saving journalism. Reporter’s Toolbox helps environmental journalists get ahead of storm surge with a key resource — a powerful government database and related maps showing surge hazards. Together with real-time advisories and a better understanding of what causes storm surge, Toolbox helps you better cover this danger.

April 28, 2021

  • Telling the local climate change story may mean you’ll have to dip a wading-boot-clad toe into the nearest stream, virtually at least. A decline there of a bellwether species, freshwater trout, could signal climate change-driven changes in critical water temperatures. To help guide your investigation, Reporter’s Toolbox spotlights a government database that taps into a massive network of monitoring stations. 

April 14, 2021

  • A massive database of databases maintained by EPA tracks more than 800,000 chemicals. And while CompTox is highly technical, it’s the source for important developments that environmental journalists need to know about, among them exploring whole classes of toxic chemicals, and understanding how big data and AI is transforming their regulation. Plus, alternate sources of chemical data for your reporting needs.

March 10, 2021

  • When a local hazmat emergency erupts, will you be ready to safely cover it? A well-proven government software suite with a series of power tools will help, and the latest Reporter’s Toolbox guides you through it so you can get ahead of the emergency. Read on to get familiar with CAMEO.

February 24, 2021

  • The power and water fiasco that followed a deep freeze in Texas was a predictable debacle and, thus, a warning signal to journalists covering disasters and climate-driven weather extremes. To help, the latest Reporter’s Toolbox provides a rundown of data sources about power grids, from local, regional and national entities, and recommends you start tracking the numbers and be prepared.

February 10, 2021

  • Spring may be weeks away, but gardeners are already browsing the seed catalogs, and that makes it a good time for environmental journalists to apprise them of how climate change will affect their backyard patches. Reporter’s Toolbox talks “hardiness zones” and explains why one of the usual repositories of government information may fall short. That plus, story sources to, well, cultivate.

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