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Animated Explainer Adds Color to Gas Tax Debate

Three cheers for StateImpact New Hampshire’s Emily Corwin, who found a way to take conversations in the state legislatures about raising the gas tax to improve the state’s roads and found a way to make it interesting, engaging and even, dare I say, adorable. Emily collaborated with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sara Plourde, digital producer extraordinaire, to create this animated video:

How on earth did they do it, you ask?

Well… Emily wrote the script and added notes throughout, denoting what sorts of visuals she imagined might help illustrate each segment.  Sara then worked her magic and added her own style to Continue reading

Network News: Florida Wins Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism

We are very pleased to announce that StateImpact Florida is now the official winner of the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism in the small newsroom category. The award went to both WUSF and WLRN-Miami Herald News Public Radio for “No Choice: Florida Charter Schools Failing to Serve Students with Disabilities.”

Becky Lettenberger / NPR StateImpact

The series has all of the hallmarks of a great StateImpact story:

  1. It illustrated the effect of state policy on people’s lives–in this case, some of the most underserved and underrepresented in our communities: children with disabilities. John O’Connor and Sarah Gonzalez‘s multi-platform story brought the people they met into their audience’s lives and made the issues they face real and immediate. 
  2. It was data- and document-driven. The team gathered and analyzed data from 14 school districts representing more than three-quarters of Florida’s total charter school enrollment in order to identify trends and oversights.
  3. It used the unique strengths of multiple platforms intelligently, keeping stats and figures online, in easy-to-access formats and putting some of the best, most human and interesting components in the broadcast piece.
  4. It was an example of the type of watchdog, public service journalism that we strive to produce every day. It questioned the efficacy of popular state policies and investigated whether scarce public resources were being wisely used.
  5. It was a successful, network-building collaboration—in this case, with the Miami Herald, one of the country’s most widely-circulated and well-respected newspapers.

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StateImpact Ohio Exposes Misuse of Seclusion in Public Schools

StateImpact Ohio‘s three-part series on the use–and misuse–of seclusion in public schools is already making waves and starting conversations around the state and the country.

Since its launch on Sunday, August 5, the story has been picked up by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle and  Palm Beach Post. It also garnered mentions from ProPublica and the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ blog, Extra! Extra!.

On Thursday, StateImpact Florida did its own follow-up to the story, exploring the use of seclusion in that state’s public school system.

StateImpact Ohio’s Molly Bloom and Ida Lieszkovszky collaborated with The Columbus Dispatch‘s Jennifer Smith Richards on the investigation, which included more than 100 public records requests, visits to a number of schools and dozens of interviews.

They discovered that 40 of those schools use seclusion, many with little guidance or oversight. Several of the schools had no formal policy about when or how the rooms should be used or how parents should be notified when their child is placed in seclusion. The rooms are often used as a way of handling special needs children. They are intended to be a means of calming children who become upset or violent. But, with little or no training, educators are also using the rooms as a form of punishment.

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Meet the Team: Danny Debelius



Danny at his desk (photo by Becky Lettenberger)

The average height of the NPR StateImpact team sprung up a few notches with the arrival of our very tall designer, Danny Debelius. Danny comes to us from the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a Senior Web Designer. Danny was part of an investigative team that has been racking up awards for its latest series called “Do No Harm” on hospital care.

Since he hasn’t gotten to meet you all in person, I conducted a short web interview with him so you can learn a little more about him.

They called me the abominable snowman in high school. Not really, but people are frequently fascinated by my Irish pallor. “You should get some color” was a recurring theme that I learned to take in stride, although John Boehner’s ascension has me reconsidering spray-tanning.

People are usually surprised that I have a deep affection for legendary L.A. Band Toto. Seriously. Or maybe people aren’t surprised and now I wonder what that says about me?

The best part of my job is getting to simultaneously satisfy the computer nerd, creative type and journalist in me.

The most important rule in design is “build from the content out.” Or “design, don’t decorate.” Or “make the logo bigger.”

If I weren’t a journalist and designer, I’d be playing my guitars and probably eating a lot of Ramen as a consequence. And driving a beat-up VW van.

What I’ve learned in my journalism career is to run screaming from newspapers and their slow-motion suicide. Just kidding. Sort of. I have learned that the platform isn’t the point – helping people understand the world around them with top-notch storytelling is, and I consider it a great privilege to be a part of that process.

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