Tag Archive for StateImpact

The Gem State Bids Adieu To StateImpact Idaho


Courtesy: NPR StateImpact

StateImpact Idaho signed off last week. The two-year collaboration between Boise State Public Radio and NPR took an in-depth look at Idaho’s economy, state policy, and the people being directly affected by both.

In my humble opinion, we rocked it. My co-reporter Molly Messick and I moved to a new state, asked a lot of questions, covered a lot of ground within the beat, and produced award-winning journalism. I hope our archived website will remain a resource for the people of Idaho.

I could spend 2,000+ words detailing what I learned over the course of StateImpact Idaho’s multimedia reporting project. Recounting our successes, struggles, and in some cases — failures. But Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Marty Trillhaase did part of that for me.

Marty was kind enough to allow me to post his editorial — in full — right here:

Turning A One-Sentence Factoid Into A 14-Part Multimedia Series

Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage workers in the United States. It also has more minimum wage workers, in raw numbers, than 18 other states. That’s remarkable given Idaho has just 1.5 million residents.

These statistics were the jumping off point for a 14-part multimedia series I created with my colleague for StateImpact Idaho. We dubbed it ‘Bottom Rung’. The more we asked “why”, the more we realized there was a ton of unreported information that deserved exploring. The series includes five radio features, background explainers, interactive data visuals and an infographic.

Here’s a great behind-the-scenes look at how we pulled the whole thing together.

Bottom Rung: Why An Influx Of Retirees To Idaho Is Creating More Low-Wage Jobs

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco's Pizzeria.

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco’s Pizzeria.

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco’s Pizzeria.

There’s a brand new pizza joint in southeast Boise. It’s nestled in a mini-strip mall with a gas station, dry cleaner and hair salon.

On a recent Friday evening, Franco’s Pizzeria was just starting to pick up. It’s a tiny place. The cash register is only a few steps away from the industrial pizza ovens. There are a handful of tables and stools inside for someone who just wants a quick slice.

With $140,000 On The Line, Idaho Girl Scouts Try Their Hand At Lobbying

This story originally appeared at StateImpact Idaho and aired on Boise State Public Radio Feb. 19, 2013.

Famous for its potatoes, trout fishing, and blue AstroTurf, Idaho might not have much in common with Hawaii. But here’s one thing: Idaho and Hawaii are the only two states in the country to tax Girl Scout Cookies. Now, some local Scouts are beefing up their sales pitches and learning to lobby.

Girl Scouts across the country are getting amped up to sell as many boxes of their famed Samoas, Thin Mints, and Tag-a-longs as they possibly can. They have about a month to close the deal with neighbors, friends and grandmothers.

At a recent cookie event near Boise — think Girl Scout-style pep rally — more than 100 kids, some as young as kindergarteners, donned their badged-sashes and met at a middle-school cafeteria.

Visualizing The Winners And Losers In Idaho’s Business Tax Debate

Like many states, Idaho taxes equipment used by businesses. But the state doesn’t just tax heavy equipment, decor is included. In some cases, so is carpeting, paint, or artwork. It’s called the personal property tax.

Click on the map to explore the data!

Click on the image to check out the live version.

Leading lawmakers here want to nix the tax, so does Idaho’s business lobby. If the tax goes, so does about $140 million in annual local government revenue. To better tell the story, and show in a visual way how counties might be impacted, I mapped it.

The map lets readers click on each county to see how much that county could lose if the personal property tax is repealed. It also shows the top five business property tax payers in each county, those are the businesses with the most to gain if the tax is repealed.

Explore the live version here.

Do Business Incentives Create Jobs? Idaho Is One Of 13 States In The Dark


Credit: Emilie Ritter Saunders

This piece originally appeared at StateImpact Idaho on May 2, 2012.

The state of Idaho will give up an estimated $845 million this year in the form of tax credits and exemptions.  And only a select few at the Idaho Tax Commission know exactly where that money goes.

Idaho’s law is pretty clear, individual and business tax information is confidential.  Tax returns, specifically, are confidential under federal law.  But some states have set up reporting requirements for businesses to disclose which state-specific incentives they’re using (think tax credits and exemptions), and how much those are worth.  Idaho isn’t one of those states.

“We’re not advocating the disclosure of tax returns,” says Greg LeRoy, the executive director of the non-partisan organization Good Jobs First.

How To Make Campaign Finance Reports Interesting & Invaluable

When you start talking about campaign finance reports, it’s likely more than a few people in your audience will stop listening.  The phrase ‘campaign finance’ is enough to get people to turn the radio dial.

But what happens when you give your audience an interactive, visual experience?  Clicks. Lots and lots of clicks.

Click on the map to see who donated to the Propositions 1, 2 and 3 campaigns.” credit=”Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

A week before the Nov. 6 election, my StateImpact Idaho colleague Molly Messick and I sat down to do some good old fashioned data entry.  Idaho’s Secretary of State keeps an online database of campaign finance reports, but they’re hard to read (many times they’re scanned in hand-written), they aren’t sortable, and they’re certainly not presented in a visual way.

Visualising Election Results On Idaho’s Props 1, 2 And 3

Undoubtedly, the ballot issue that drove Idaho voters to the polls on Nov. 6 was a trio of education laws up for repeal.

Voters did in fact repeal the year-old laws, and in many places by wide margins.  So, I wanted to see which parts of the state voted to keep the laws and which areas rejected them.  I also wanted to compare that to the support voters gave to Idaho’s Superintendent Tom Luna in 2010, the champion of the three education laws.

With help from NPR StateImpact’s intern Yan Lu, here’s the Google Fusion Map that helps tell the story of how Propositions 1, 2, and 3 got repealed.

Click the map to interact with the data.

Reporting On Idaho’s Doctor Shortage

Five-month-old Olivia Vandermate gets examined by Dr. Petrie during a recent check up. Petrie was Olivia’s delivery doctor and has taken care of her since.” credit=”Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

I spent the majority of October finalizing and rolling out a series of multimedia reports on Idaho’s doctor shortage.

In a nutshell, the number of doctors per capita here is almost the worst in the country, and thanks to an aging workforce, it will likely get worse before it gets better.

It’s easy to research the data and throw out numbers to back up a story, but I wanted to dive deeper.  I wanted to understand how Idaho got to where it is, and why other states that look a lot like Idaho aren’t in this same situation.

The result was one six minute broadcast feature, eight web posts, two topic explainers, two data-viz charts, a photo slideshow, and an interactive map.

Mapping Idaho’s Doctor Shortage

All this week I’ll be rolling out a series of stories on Idaho’s doctor shortage at the StateImpact blog.  The bottom line: Idaho doesn’t have enough doctors and it’s expected to get worse before it gets better.

I kicked off my reporting with this handy map. Check it out!

Click on the map to explore the data.