“How does Minnesota maintain its roads?” (Pioneer Press, 02/15/2015): A detailed explainer of Minnesota’s complicated road network, including custom maps and charts. See also this companion piece on mass transit.
“Budget bullies: K-12, health care have steadily grown” (Pioneer Press, 01/18/2015): To understand Minnesota’s current budget debates, it’s essential to understand the long-term pressures shaping the budget. Includes interactive and static graphics I created to illustrate the trends.
“EB-5 secrets lie with silent man” (Argus Leader, 08/10/2015): My favorite profile, all the more so because the subject was uncooperative, forcing me to piece together a compelling picture of the man at the center of a statewide scandal using archives, legal documents and interviews with friends and colleagues. I also compiled a year’s worth of reporting into a basic primer on the complex scandal.
“Analysis of South Dakota Legislature shows low partisanship, GOP divides” (Argus Leader, 01/12/2014): I used a database of votes with Excel and some code to calculate the percent of the time each South Dakota lawmaker voted with every other lawmaker, and then talked to experts and insiders to analyze the trend of low partisanship inside the South Dakota Legislature. I also created graphic visualizations of the results and later returned to the issue to create a statistical model predicting how often two lawmakers would vote together based on ideological difference and committee membership.
Deciphering a basic dispute about health reform savings (Pioneer Press 04/30/2015): When Democrats and Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature disagreed about basic facts behind a policy dispute, I didn’t just report the two sides’ assertions and move on. Instead, I talked to experts, read key documents and got to the bottom of exactly how much money the state could save if it cracked down on waste, fraud and abuse in its public health programs.
Below you can find an extensive portfolio of my work over my entire professional career as a journalist, including articles as well as some graphics, photos and videos.
Here’s five key articles that best encapsulate my experience and talents:
Some of my code and data can be found on my github page.
My personal writings can be found at the main page of this website.
Minnesota lawmakers are looking for money in the budget surplus for cybersecurity and computer upgrades — but they’re competing with a lot of other requests. (Pioneer Press, 3/5/2017)
Minnesota lawmakers hope ‘reinsurance’ will help fix health insurance market. Here’s how it would work.
An explainer about “reinsurance,” a policy proposal to fix Minnesota’s troubled individual health insurance market. (Pioneer Press, 1/22/2017)
Lengthy profiles of Jason Lewis and Angie Craig, the two main candidates for Minnesota’s open 2nd Congressional District seat.
Two different projects, both analyzing roll call data in the Minnesota Legislature. Each one uses data, static and interactive graphics and interviews with both lawmakers and experts to explain what the data shows about voting in the hyper-polarized Minnesota House of Representatives.
Chris Shorba spent years trying to get the Minnesota Legislature to pass a tax break for charitable bingo halls like St. Cloud’s Bingo Emporium.
I used a computer algorithm to analyze 147,000 words in all Minnesota State of the State addresses since 1969. Using a technique called “fuzzy c-means analysis,” I sorted governors into groups programmatically based on their word choices. Interviews with current and former gubernatorial advisors shaped out the story, which functioned both as analysis and as a preview to the 2016 address.
I created topographic maps of the Twin Cities and then spoke to experts on geology and human geography to explain the notable features on the map. Online version with higher resolutions and extra maps, including an animated map, here. (Pioneer Press 1/1/2016)
Minnesotans commonly conflate the state’s individual health care market with MNsure, the government-run exchange that has just one-sixth of that market. I clear up that misconception, and delve deeper into the question of why MNsure has such a low market share — arguably the lowest in the country. (Pioneer Press 10/12/2015)
Using data, maps and interviews, colleague Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and I lay out exactly how Democrats have improved their performance in the Twin Cities suburbs over recent decades. After smoothing out anomalies, such as three-way contests, uncontested races or disproportionately popular candidates, we showed that Democratic claims of suburban gains are real — though counteracted to a lesser extent by Republican gains in exurban areas. (Pioneer Press 09/27/2015)
Working with another reporter, I used interviews with experts and real people, data analysis and maps to explore the issue of algae blooms impairing Minnesota's famous 10,000 lakes (and many of its rivers, too).
I made static and interactive maps showing the distribution of Minnesota’s livestock, and talked to experts about why this is the case. (Pioneer Press, 08/02/2015)
With Republicans and Democrats miles apart in their predictions of how much a crackdown on waste, fraud and abuse in public health programs will save, I talk to both sides and a range of experts to get to the bottom of how much Minnesota would actually be likely to save. (Pioneer Press, 04/30/2015)
With Republicans proposing to abolish the “MinnesotaCare” state health program for the working poor, I explain the program and the controversy so readers can understand and make up their minds about what should be done. (Pioneer Press, 04/17/2015)
I digitized the text of all 39 State of the State addresses in Minnesota’s history and analyzed the word frequency patterns in each speech. The analysis identified quirks (one governor loved to talk about kitchens) and trends — Republicans said “families” and “crime” more often, while Democrats said “people” and “tax” more often. (Pioneer Press, 04/11/2015.)
A primer on mass transit in Minnesota, published as lawmakers battled over how much transit should be subsidized versus roads. (Pioneer Press, 04/01/2015)
A primer on Minnesota's complex road system, explaining it as simply as possible as lawmakers debate major road-funding changes. (Pioneer Press, 02/15/2015)
A look at Minnesota's vaccination rate by school, including those schools with the highest opt-out rates. (Pioneer Press 02/05/2015.)
An analysis of the long-term trends driving Minnesota’s budget — the consistent growth of K-12 and health care spending. (Pioneer Press, 01/18/2015.)
I appear on Slate’s “The Gist” podcast with Mike Pesca to talk about South Dakota’s U.S. Senate race. My segment starts at 3:53.
A profile of a man who is little known despite being at the center of South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal. Documents and interviews paint the picture of the reclusive Joop Bollen as a charismatic and ambitious man with a love of business deals and Egyptian antiquities.
Some bills in the South Dakota Legislature divide legislators along ideological lines. Others are more a matter of loyalty to a lawmaker’s respective caucus. And some are geographic, pitting one region of the state against another.
I conducted an extensive quantitative analysis of voting patterns in the South Dakota Legislature, using a dataset of every single vote placed there for a three-year period. The first quantitative analysis of voting there, it showed Democrats and Republicans voting together at high rates despite differences on a few key issues. It also revealed that a more significant divide was between mainstream and conservative Republicans. I also produced visualizations of the data:
Starting in late 2013, South Dakota was convulsed by a scandal incorporating high politics, business and criminal investigations related to the “EB-5” program that had financed a bankrupt beef plant with foreign money. I covered the issue thoroughly, and in 2014 compiled all my reporting from the past year into a single primer to explain everything readers needed to know about the extremely complex issue. That primer contained links back to original articles for readers who wanted to learn more about a particular sub-issue.
A light-hearted article in which I answer the vital question of how many escalators there are in the state of South Dakota.
A proposal to let schools arm volunteer “sentinels” to protect against threats is on its way to the South Dakota Senate.
Article: Top legislators from both parties clashed with Gov. Dennis Daugaard Friday, the first public sign of strife in a legislative session marked so far by an unusual degree of cooperation and bipartisanship.
Sioux Falls area citizens might face competing question-and-answer sessions with local legislators this year.
I appear as a commentator on South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s “Political Junkies” segment of their “Dakota Midday” show, discussing bills before the state Legislature.
Harsh words and accusations of lying preceded a committee walkout Friday morning when a Republican lawmaker again clashed with Rep. David Lust.
South Dakota lawmakers won’t see a controversial anti-abortion bill some activists wanted to bring this session, but that doesn’t mean abortion won’t be on the agenda next month in Pierre. (Rapid City Journal, 02/01/2012)
Dozens of legislators want to replace South Dakota’s venerable state flag with a design by a Spearfish artist.
I appear as a commentator on South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s “Political Junkies” segment of their “Dakota Midday” show, discussing bills before the state Legislature and recent announcements involving the state’s Congressional delegation.
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin came extremely close to running for Congress again this year.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed sweeping reforms Tuesday to the state’s K-12 education system, including annual $5,000 bonuses for the state’s best teachers, more bonuses for math and science teachers and an end to the venerable institution of teacher tenure. (Rapid City Journal, 01/11/2012)
Anti-abortion groups plan a major push next year in the South Dakota Legislature to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
South Dakota has money to spend on schools, medical providers and state workers, Gov. Dennis Daugaard declared Tuesday — and proposed what he termed a cautious way of spending it. (Rapid City Journal, 12/07/11)
I appear as a commentator on South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s “Political Junkies” segment of their “Dakota Midday” show, discussing the news of a former South Dakota governor’s brain cancer, a state GOP presidential straw poll and a referendum to raise the state sales tax.
Former South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow announced Friday that he is dying of brain cancer.
Last fall, Silver City resident Jeff Sugrue received a letter from Pennington County he had never seen before: an order to have his home’s septic system pumped and inspected.
A dispute between two rival groups of landowners near Hill City could end up entangling everyone — and Pennington County — in expensive litigation over a narrow dirt road through the Black Hills. (Rapid City Journal, 10/22/2011)
There is no piece of paper declaring Reva — a sprinkling of buildings alongside S.D. Highway 79 in remote northwest South Dakota — to be a town. But don’t try telling the proud ranchers living among the Harding County buttes surrounding Reva that they are not part of a community. (Rapid City Journal, 08/31/2011)
A series of articles in the Rapid City Journal covering an incident where two police officers and a gunman were killed, and a third officer wounded, in a sudden shootout:
The Pennington County Commission is taking aim at a citizen whom commissioners and county employees say has become abusive and harassing. (Rapid City Journal, 08/03/2011)
The long and bitter campaign is over. Now it’s Sam’s turn to lead. (Rapid City Journal, 06/29/2011)
A series of articles in the Rapid City Journal covering an incident where a re-enactor accidentally shot three spectators at a Wild West show:
Todd Bernhard lives in a $500,000 dream home. Tacy Kennison built her home herself with volunteers as part of the Habitat for Humanity program. Cora Jeffries’ house has stood where it is since 1963. All three Fort Pierre homes are under assault by the rising Missouri River below the Oahe Dam. (Rapid City Journal, 05/29/2011)
Emergency personnel fear that a 10-year-old Rapid Valley boy may have been swept away in Rapid Creek on Saturday, even as they continue an expansive search effort and hope that Trevor Whitehead is safe on dry land. (Rapid City Journal, 05/21/2011)
Gov. Dennis Daugaard spent millions of dollars in his successful campaign for governor last year. But the success of Daugaard’s agenda depended on the outcome of dozens of legislative races throughout the state — legislative races where the big spenders collected about $25,000. (Rapid City Journal, 05/01/2011)
Rep. Kristi Noem’s impressive first-quarter fundraising report shows the recently elected congresswoman beginning to benefit from the money-raising perks of incumbency. (Rapid City Journal, 04/28/2011)
South Dakota Republicans took a political gamble with their 10 percent budget cut, putting themselves in the position to face the wrath of voters in the next round of elections.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard didn’t call Julie Palmlund and tell her she no longer had a job. But she is nonetheless facing unemployment as a side effect of Daugaard’s signature achievement so far as governor: steep spending cuts to balance the state’s budget. (Rapid City Journal, 04/10/2011)
The National Parks Service rejected a last-minute offer from Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Friday to use state resources to keep Mount Rushmore National Memorial open if the federal government were to shut down. (Rapid City Journal, 04/08/2011)
A series of articles in the Rapid City Journal looking at the 10 percent budget cuts the South Dakota Legislature faced in 2011. Key articles are bolded:
In the end, it was a step he just wasn’t comfortable taking. Sen. John Thune took to his Facebook page Tuesday morning to announce an end to the speculation: He would not be running for president in 2012. (Rapid City Journal, 02/22/2011)
Can Gov. Dennis Daugaard bolster economic development even as he slashes state spending? He and his staff say it’s not only possible, but necessary. (Rapid City Journal, 02/06/2011)
A political dispute in Congress about which tax cuts to extend raises the possibility that everyone’s taxes could be going up next year. (Rapid City Journal, 02/06/2011)
Rep. Hal Wick wanted to get people’s attention. He succeeded. (Rapid City Journal, 02/02/2011)
Before the November election, Gov. Dennis Daugaard spent two decades as an executive at the South Dakota Children’s Home Society, a nonprofit devoted to abused and neglected children. As governor, similar groups are proving some of the fiercest critics of his proposed budget cuts. (Rapid City Journal, 01/26/2011)
A multi-part special looking at the dismal state of the South Dakota Democratic Party after the disastrous 2010 elections. (Rapid City Journal, 01/09/2011)
As he lay bleeding on a dusty road in Afghanistan, Wayne Swier never lost consciousness. (Rapid City Journal, 12/05/2010)
When rancher Keith Anderson wants to exchange e-mails with his children or read articles about agriculture, he does what most people today do: He walks over to his computer and logs onto the Internet. (Rapid City Journal, 12/06/2010)
How much does it cost to run for Congress in South Dakota? Try $2.1 million. That’s how much both Kristi Noem and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin collected in their tight race, which Noem won by 7,000 votes in November. (Rapid City Journal, 12/02/2010)
South Dakota’s recent U.S. House races were notable for their relative civility - a sharp contrast to the state’s knock-down Senate contests. That can’t be said after this year’s battle between Republican Kristi Noem, who will be the state’s next representative in the House, and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the incumbent going into the race. (Rapid City Journal, 11/05/2010)
On Nov. 4, 2008, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was in an enviable position.
Friday’s nasty hailstorm wreaked havoc on the town of Vivian, and Leslie Scott didn’t escape — his roof, windows and car all took significant damage.
A collection of action shots I’ve taken for the Pierre Capital Journal, which holds the copyright to these images.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Monday, Pierre resident Guy Ferris was fishing with his son when he received an unusual phone call.
Coverage over a full year in the Pierre Capital Journal of a criminal case involving a rodeo horse recovered with severe injuries after being taken from his pen:
Various pictures I’ve taken of people standing and sitting around. Copyright is held by the Pierre Capital Journal.
Political photos I’ve taken for the Pierre Capital Journal and the Rapid City Journal, which hold the copyright to these images.
A series of articles in the Pierre Capital Journal covering debate in the town of Fort Pierre over whether to shift from cheap, mineral-heavy well water to more expensive water from a treatment plant:
Arthur Jewett and his brother Albert were born together, identical twins distinguished by the color of the blanket each was wrapped in. Now, after 59 years of separation, Arthur Jewett’s remains are returning to his family’s home on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, where he will once again lie beside his brother. (Pierre Capital Journal, 09/10/2009)
As he drove his wagon slowly through the rolling Stanley County plains, Frank Gomez took in the vacant landscape, spotty cell phone reception and buzzing insects and felt right at home. “I don’t ever move any faster than this if I can help it,” said Gomez, of Fort Pierre. “This is my favorite speed.” (Pierre Capital Journal, 08/12/2009)
As Sen. John Thune takes positions he believes will protect and aid South Dakota’s agricultural economy, he finds himself repeatedly criticizing a recurring adversary – The Environmental Protection Agency. (Pierre Capital Journal, 05/07/2009)
A 2009 news series in the Pierre Capital Journal covering proposed cuts to the state’s autism education program and the impact on children with autism and their families. These articles won “Best News Series” for 2009 from the South Dakota Newspaper Association:
A 2008 news series in the Pierre Capital Journal covering the debate over Initiated Measure 11, which would have banned abortion in South Dakota with a few exceptions. These articles won “Best News Series” for 2008 from the South Dakota Newspaper Association:
Three weeks ago, Donald Jacobsma realized that the Holy Spirit had a mission for him. He needed to ride his bicycle from here to Cincinnati in order to attend the Promise Keepers convention on Aug. 17. There was only one problem – Jacobsma was not a bicyclist. (Daily Southtown, August 2007)
Before the sign went up, the neighborhood around Grove Street and Winchester Avenue in Blue Island was nothing spectacular. (Daily Southtown, 7/10/2007)
When Frank Bobak immigrated to the United States from his native Poland in 1962, he and his wife, Angeline, first settled near the Chicago stockyards where he worked in various meatpacking plants. (Daily Southtown, 6/26/2007)
Julie Sullivan loves to eat – especially organic food. Growing up in Olympia, though, she never thought much about where that food came from. (Seattle Times, 7/15/2006)
In the lore of the Lower Elwha Klallam people, the Creator made a woman named Mim-wh-ten who was tasked with establishing balance in the world. (Seattle Times, 7/3/2006)
As Puget Sound school districts prepare their budgets – and propose cuts – for next year, one district may trim a cherished position: the school librarian. (Seattle Times, 6/23/2006)
On Friday afternoons, Nathan Hale High School senior Abdisiyad Adan asks his fifth-period teacher what he’ll miss in class, writes down the homework for the weekend and leaves school. (Seattle Times, 6/15/2006)