Niles Media LLC

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Vermont’s Shadow Budget: How The State Forgoes $1 Billion In Taxes Each Year

As the Vermont Legislature works to overcome a $100 million budget gap for fiscal year 2016, one of its largest fiscal liabilities remains outside the reach of the annual budget bill. The state gives up about $1 billion in tax breaks annually through policies that have remained largely unchanged in recent years, even as lawmakers struggle to balance budgets.

Unlike state spending, most of the tax breaks are permanent – unless they’re amended. They’re not voted up or down annually like the budget. But every two years, the state tallies how much money it’s not collecting. Here’s the latest glimpse of who gets to keep it.

The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment

by Charles Lewis and Hilary Niles / grant-funded research on measuring the impact of nonprofit journalism / Investigative Reporting Workshop

A review of recent, relevant literature and informal conversations with experts in the field reveal growing ambitions toward the goal of developing a common framework for assessing journalism’s impact, yet few definitive conclusions about how exactly to reach that framework. This is especially the case when journalism’s “impact” is defined by its ultimate social outcomes — not merely the familiar metrics of audience reach and website traffic.

This grant-funded research explores the realm of nonprofit journalism assessment, borrowing principles from philanthropic and other media circles. The report gained attention from such media watchers as The Poynter Institute, Nieman Journalism Lab and the American Press Institute.

Toxic Taps: Lead is still the problem

Long-form and video investigation of water pipe replacements that can cause a spike in water lead levels / 4503 words and 6+ minute video / Investigative Reporting Workshop and nbcnews.com’s Open Channel

By Sheila Kaplan and Corbin Hiar, with contributions from Hilary Niles and Julie Stein

Millions of Americans may be drinking water that is contaminated with dangerous doses of lead. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows it; state governments know it; local utilities know it. The only people who usually don’t know it are those who are actually drinking the toxic water.

The problem stems from a common practice in which water utilities replace sections of deteriorating lead service lines rather than the entire lines, commonly known as partial pipe replacements. It is a course of action that can do more harm than good.

“It’s scary and the magnitude of this problem is huge,” said Dr. Jeffrey K. Griffiths, a Tufts University professor of medicine and public health, who recently chaired an expert panel advising the EPA on the problem. “I didn’t realize how extensive the lead exposure still remained. … EPA is really deeply concerned about this …. This was not something they expected.”

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