Month: June 2017

Into the wild

This week, I get to write about the local unschool- inspired summer camp! The camp allows five- to 13-year-olds to build a connection to nature while practicing wilderness skills such as building fires. They are minimally directed by adults, who step in when there are safety concerns or questions about how to do something. The camp is run by Wild Folk, a three day/week enrichment program that aims to help kids — mostly homeschoolers, as of now — explore learning in non-formal setting.

I enjoyed the physical break this story gave from the nursing home investigation, which I work on indoors, hunched over my laptop. The photojournalist and I had quite an adventure getting to the conservation area where the camp is being held, even passing a zebra and camel on our way. (Yes, we were still in mid-Missouri.) After roughly three hours of interviewing and observation, we headed back downtown, and now the story is writing itself.

The nursing home investigation is also going well. A local expert looked at the reporting so far and confirmed that it’s accurate. She and the Health Department gave clarification on some important points, and she suggested where I could dig deeper. We are also about to receive some more records, so this investigation should be public soon.

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Help with Access?

As the first summer session winds down, the Missourian is publishing several interesting stories that reporters have worked on for a long time. Karlee wrote about a Ghanaian student hoping to mitigate infectious diseases in his country. Gabriela obviously had fun writing an informative piece about damage the solar eclipse can do to retinas. And, on a lighter note, Lucy covered the headache a local bar made for the city when it threw a ridiculous party, fake snow included.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the nursing home violation story. It’s coming together, with everything double-, triple- and headed toward a quadruple check. But what I still can’t figure out is how to analyze the database for the most common violations in Boone County and the most recurrent violations per nursing facility. And no, Googling the question has not helped, though I would imagine that running this type of code is commonplace. Can anyone suggest what codes to run, either in Excel or Access? Doing it all by hand is not the best solution, by far.

The wild world of records requests

So, I’m still waist-deep in the nursing home story due to the sheer amount of time it takes to create this sort of database. Worth it, of course. What bothers me is that there’s a chance I’m not even accessing all of the inspection reports for the past 4 1/2 years. Take a look at this ambiguously worded note:

PLEASE NOTE: Statements of Deficiencies and Plans of Correction prompted by full inspections, second inspections and complaint-only investigations that resulted in deficiencies after January 1, 2013, are available on this website until approximately 30 days after all necessary re-visits have been completed.

(Source: health.mo.gov)

Therefore, I’ve decided to put in a records requests for all reports from the past 10 years that aren’t already posted on the department website. According to the department, this will cost $170, as an employee paid a little over $20 an hour will need eight to accomplish it.

Any thoughts on how to avoid this charge?