A horrifying jailhouse investigation; a school district’s segregation loophole; cute baby penguins

This week in local journalism

April 5, 2019

If your superpower was the ability to freeze time for everyone else but keep living at your normal speed for a while, what would you do? Answers around the office varied, but my favorite was “Sleep 12 hours while everyone else is frozen.” Me, I’d make more time to find these outstanding local stories. A nap sounds nice, too, though I’d probably put that off to try to rescue Timmy from that well. Here’s to making a little extra time for yourself this weekend. Enjoy!

Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes: Here is an important project that used teaching that Poynter and our partners offered in our Covering Jails workshops (Editor’s note: This deadline to apply has passed — linking for context).

Conrad Wilson and his colleagues at Oregon Public Broadcasting tracked jail deaths in the northwest United States and found a crisis that has gone unnoticed because it is not being tracked. The story found that “Since 2008, at least 306 people across the northwest have died after being taken to a county jail, according to an investigation by OPB, KUOW and the Northwest News Network. Until now, that number was unknown, in part because Oregon and Washington have not comprehensively tracked those deaths in county jails.”

The journalists found that almost half of those who died in jail had not been convicted, but were awaiting trial.

The overwhelming majority of jail suicides happened in the first few days of incarceration.

(Editor’s note: You can sign up here to receive our weekly training digests, which will alert you to upcoming training in a range of prices and locations, including free and online stuff.)

Here’s your OMG headline for this week: 63 years after Brown, segregated classrooms persist in one Mississippi school district, brought to you by Adam Northam of the

Mississippi Center For Investigative Reporting via the (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion Ledger.

Emily Eaton of the San Antonio Express-News went all out for an exploration into a tragic child death that has shaken her community. Documents, new and file photos, and a jail visit were all part of her newsgathering process. The online display by Joy-Marie Scott is a great example of how to pull everything together, like the photos by Bob Owens, into one URL.

Tessa Duvall of the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier Journal employs a similar treatment in this anxiety-inducing piece on that city’s efforts to rid its downtown of people experiencing homelessness, while having no real plans in place to help them. Great photos from Dustin Alton Strupp really help humanize this struggle.

Emily Brown of the (Lynchburg, Virginia) News & Advance hooked me early with this chronologic piece on a seriously injured athlete that had me guessing what the outcome could be.

Allison Shirk Collins, Elizabeth Fite, Emmett Gienapp, Rosana Hughes and Zack Peterson of the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times Free Press spent a year looking at the human cost of gun violence in their community. Increasingly popular — and helpful to readers — are explanations of why these journalists committed their time and resources.

Twenty years ago, the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship. Chris Brodeur of the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant brings to life the oral history of that milestone and what it meant to the players, coaches and the university.

Records request idea! From the Dayton Daily News: The National Insurance Crime Bureau released city data about how many cars were stolen while the keys were in them. Spoiler alert: Don’t leave your keys in your car.

The Tennessean is back with an investigation into a state insurance program that cut more than 100,000 low-income children from its ranks, often without notifying their parents. The paper also released the data set via Google Docs for anyone who wants to examine or work from it.

Tweeted health care reporter Brett Kelman: “Dear anonymous Google Sheets users: I see you perusing my TennCare data and I am thrilled. Take your shoes off. Make yourself at home.”

Lead of the week (or do we prefer lede?): “The boy was gone. Inside the farmhouse, where the Eckert family had come to start over, his parents lay bleeding.” From A family sought seclusion in N.H. Instead, they found terror, by Evan Allen and Laura Crimaldi of The Boston Globe.

A few other headlines that caught my eye:

Let’s close on a happy note with this story and photos of baby penguins at the Louisville (Kentucky) Zoo from the Courier Journal from Billy Kobin and photographer Nikki Boliaux.

Have an item for this roundup? Email me at ballen@poynter.org or find me at @barbara_allen_

This article was updated to credit additional reporters and photographers.