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. 

 

October 6, 2021

  • The launch of NASA’s new Landsat Earth-observing satellite is a reminder to reporters that millions of images from over five decades can help unearth many environmental trends, whether deforestation, coastal erosion, suburban sprawl or wildfire impacts. The new Reporter’s Toolbox explains how the service works and how to access the resource, along with examples of prize-winning stories.

September 22, 2021

  • In a few weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will officially release the latest year’s Toxics Release Inventory. But as Reporter’s Toolbox explains, you can get ahead of the data — and possibly generate some scoops. That’s because EPA quietly releases incomplete preliminary data months earlier. Top tips on making sense of the early data, along with nine smart story leads.

August 25, 2021

  • High-impact environmental stories often come by tracking polluted air, whether from summer smog, wildfire smoke or numerous other sources. Reporter’s Toolbox offers a series of air pollution data reporting resources, including an interactive map of U.S. air quality monitors. Get the details, plus eight smart suggestions for critical stories from the air pollution data you tap.

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.

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