Reporter's Toolbox

SEJournal Online Reporter's Toolbox banner

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

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.


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.

June 29, 2022

  • Heat waves, heat domes … heat deaths. The reality of climate change means a grim uptick in fatalities, more so from excess heat than any other kind of extreme weather event. Reporter’s Toolbox points to useful data sources for covering the crisis, with insights on how to go behind the numbers to find the stories of those most vulnerable to heat’s effects.

June 15, 2022

  • As funding from the U.S. government’s massive infrastructure bill starts to get spent, big swaths of it on environmental-related concerns, Reporter’s Toolbox points to a problem for journalists covering it  — there appears to be no single database to help track the money. But for intrepid reporters, various data sources are out there to help tell the story.

June 1, 2022

  • A new data tool that captures information on 1.5 million-plus active U.S. oil and gas production facilities can be a powerful tool for journalists looking to report on potential pollutants, especially when overlaid with local census data, school locations and the like. Reporter’s Toolbox takes a closer look at the new Oil & Gas Threat Map, shares caveats and offers story ideas.

May 18, 2022

  • An intriguing portal to the vast data resources of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — the Environmental Dataset Gateway — could lead to many hidden story ideas, suggests the latest Reporter’s Toolbox. Find out more about the EDG and consider a handful of possible angles, including PCB transformer registrations, precipitation, heat-related hospitalizations and chemicals in consumer products.

May 4, 2022

  • As the weather grows warmer, air pollution from smog typically worsens, as does smoke from spreading wildfires. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox spotlights the data that can help improve your coverage, whether via an easy-to-use report on the state of the air from a prominent nonprofit, or straight from various quality EPA data resources. Find help getting started on your air pollution coverage projects now.

April 20, 2022

  • Updated data on U.S. emissions offers environmental journalists an opportunity to chase down local climate change news, whether from a range of sectors and industries, or from 8,000 major facilities, with tools that allow a county-by-county view. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox takes a look at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual release of the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.

April 6, 2022

  • Environmental journalists trying to track potential problem polluters have a valuable new tool — a notification service that creates weekly alerts on the enforcement or compliance status of facilities and companies across a range of environmental laws and customizable categories. Track geography, type of emissions, industrial category and more. The latest Reporter’s Toolbox has more on the recently launched ECHO Notify service.