Amid a deluge of election reporting this month, it was easy to overlook an understated cache of excellent investigative stories. Now that Nov. 8 has come and gone, it’s worth revisiting some great deep dives from local and national outlets.
Breakdown at 30,000 feet – Tampa Bay Times
The Tampa Bay Times’ exposé on Allegiant Air’s many problems is at once damning and riveting. To get the story, Times reporters built a database of more than 65,000 records from the Federal Aviation Administration and interviewed dozens of experts. Their findings are hair-raising: Nearly half of Allegiant’s planes broke down in flight at least once in 2015; the company’s jets are nearly twice the age of those flown by other airlines; and even though Allegiant’s planes require rigorous maintenance, the company rarely staffs its own mechanics at airports around the U.S.
Read to the end for: The harrowing descriptions of passengers who believed their Allegiant flights, facing midair trouble, would be their last.
Uncertain Harvest – The New York Times
The problem with genetically modified crops isn’t that they’re dangerous, according to this New York Times investigation – it’s that they’re failing to live up to their dual promise of reducing pesticide use and increasing yields. In fact, by comparing agricultural data and independent research from the U.S. and Europe, the Times determined that genetically modified crops are less productive and more pesticide intensive.
Read to the end for: A stark warning about population growth. Finding a way to increase yields is essential if the world intends to feed its projected 10 billion inhabitants by 2050.
Shoot to Kill – The Baltimore Sun
Treatment for gunshot wounds in Baltimore has gotten measurably better in recent years. So why are victims’ chances of survival going down? Police say it has a lot to do with the availability of more powerful, higher-caliber weapons. And without meaningful research on gun violence available, medical personnel are growing frustrated.
Read to the end for: A description of how tourniquets, once considered a battlefield tool, are being made available to the general public in the wake of America’s mass-shooting epidemic.
Toxic City: Lead Paint – Philadelphia Inquirer
In Philadelphia, thousands of children are falling victim to lead poisoning each year. In some areas, as many as 1 out of 5 five children under the age of 6 have elevated lead levels. And unlike Flint, Michigan, where a water supply change helped stop new poisonings, Philadelphia’s problem is due to crumbling houses – 92 percent of which were built before a 1978 ban on lead paint.
Read to the end for: An explanation of why the city is in some ways powerless to stop the problem. In the last three years, it has lost 40 of the 65 people working in its Lead and Healthy Homes Program.
Drugmaker thwarted plan to limit OxyContin prescriptions at dawn of opioid epidemic – STAT
In 2001, officials in West Virginia began to recognize the signs of a burgeoning opioid crisis. But before they could add restrictions to access to these drugs, a pharmaceutical company began using a middleman to prevent insurers from limiting OxyContin. Today, West Virginia has the worst per-capita drug overdose rate in the country – and the highest rate of prescriptions for painkillers.
Read to the end for: A play-by-play of how officials, recognizing the state’s problem early on, were outmaneuvered by a wealthier set of pharmaceutical interests.
Byard Duncan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ByardDuncan.