How biz reporters used public records to find the story
Carol Hunter, the executive editor of the Des Moines Register, writes about how business reporters at the paper used public records to report a story about worker injuries at a wind blade manufacturer.
Hunter writes, “The investigation began when courts reporter Grant Rodgers received a tip last spring to look into some lawsuits that had been filed by former workers against TPI. The workers alleged they were fired after suffering injuries from chemicals used in manufacturing the giant wind blades that tower over farm fields across Iowa.
“The lawsuits’ allegations were troubling, but much more investigation would be required to put them in context: Were the workers’ accounts credible? Did the lawsuits signal a larger problem? Or did they reflect an unfortunate but typical rate of injury in a workplace that employs hundreds of workers dealing with hazardous chemicals?
“So, the lawsuits, which themselves are public records, were merely a starting point. Grant and business reporter Kevin Hardy began their reporting in earnest in June, sandwiching research between other assignments. Grant left the Register in August to attend Drake Law School, and Kevin continued the reporting and writing since then.
“The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration was a primary source of records. OSHA logs showed reports of more than 300 cases of skin injuries at the TPI factory from its 2008 opening through 2016. Additional OSHA reports cite conditions such as asthma, but Kevin and Grant approached their count conservatively and ultimately included only skin injuries.”
Read more here.