Reporter's Toolbox

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Reporter's Toolbox is a regular column focused on the world of data journalism, with an emphasis on data tools, techniques and database resources that journalists can use to improve their environmental reporting. 

For questions and comments, or to suggest future Reporter's Toolboxes, email Toolbox Editor Joseph A. Davis at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

Journalists can receive Reporter's Toolbox free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here.

 

January 25, 2023

  • Findings from scientific research provide many a news lead on the environment beat, and even reporters not closely attuned to the world of scientific journals can use them to find stories. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox offers up one key: indexes. They can guide you to abstracts and free versions of otherwise costly publications. A list of indexes to try. Plus, a half-dozen other pro tips.

January 11, 2023

  • Instrumentation on the International Space Station that gathers 3-D images of forest canopies and other environmental data is scheduled to soon be junked. But the move is provoking an outcry from scientists and pushback from some politicians. Reporter’s Toolbox examines what the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation does and how journalists might make use of it, while it lasts.

December 14, 2022

November 30, 2022

  • A new way for journalists to get more accurate numbers on global greenhouse gas emissions was introduced by former Vice President Al Gore at the recent United Nations’ climate change gathering in Egypt. Reporter’s Toolbox looks under the hood of Climate Trace, which is the result of work by more than 100 collaborators and compiles data from some 300 specialized satellites and 11,000 sensors.

November 9, 2022

  • A new data mapper that allows users to track bird migrations is a cache of ideas for journalists looking to illustrate the connections between birds, habitats and human activity. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox takes a (non-geeky) look at the Bird Migration Explorer, how to best use it and the range of story possibilities it may yield.

October 26, 2022

  • Data specialists working with two databases, one familiar and one little-known, have uncovered how companies may be able to hide releases of the family of toxic PFAS chemicals. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox details the data revelation and explores how journalists may make use of the Chemical Data Reporting service’s datasets for their own stories.

October 12, 2022

  • A new global fossil fuels registry sounds like a breakthrough for covering climate change and energy stories. But Reporter’s Toolbox inspected it and found potentially problematic data sourcing and accuracy. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful as one of several tools to help report the beat. Here’s how to make the most of fossil fuel data sources.

September 28, 2022

  • Extreme weather and other natural disasters can bring a community to its knees. But journalists can be part of what gets it standing again — or even foresee the risk … if they’ve got the right resources. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox takes a close look at two federal products that could be a good starting point, along with several others worth a try.

September 7, 2022

  • Biden administration efforts to measure its response to environmental injustice have spurred the launch of a place-based database that scores individual communities on the issue. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox reviews the new government index and suggests that despite weaknesses, it is still useful as part of a suite of similar tools. Learn more about how to effectively use the new database.

August 10, 2022

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database is as vast as the oceans the agency monitors and filled with information collected by a wide array of instruments operating above, below and on the water’s surface. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox delves into the NOAA Data Discovery Portal and takes a look at a new search tool that promises easier exploration of this treasure trove.

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