New England Center for Investigative Reporting

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news outlet based at WGBH News and Boston University, is collaborating with WGBH News to provide more in-depth watchdog journalism for radio, TV and newspapers across New England and the nation.

NECIR launched in 2009 to ensure the survival of investigative reporting in New England and to train a new generation of investigative journalists.

New England Center For Investigative Reporting
12:00 am
Mon August 31, 2015

Beacon Hill Earmarks: Justifiable Shortcuts, Or Political Pork?

Credit Brendan Lynch illustration

The first in an occasional series by WGBH News and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

This July, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $37.4 million in what are called earmarks — special amendments to the budget by legislators for particular projects and organizations they want to see funded.

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NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
1:14 pm
Wed July 22, 2015

Boston Boasts About Filling Potholes That Don’t Get Filled

A city worker repairs a pothole in the North End. Within 90 minutes it had caved in.
Credit NECIR

The hole in the street was not only deep, it was camouflaged with newly laid asphalt. It was easy to imagine one of the many North End residents and tourists walking down the narrow street next to the Paul Revere Mall, stepping into it and spraining their ankle — or worse.

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NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
4:00 am
Sun July 19, 2015

Mercury Levels High In Freshwater Fish Despite Emissions Decline

Shu Bao Chen, a Chinese immigrant, fished fished on Jamaica Pond in Boston for his family’s dinner on an early evening in June. He said he was unaware of the Massachusetts blanket advisory that women of childbearing years and children under 12 should not eat fish from freshwater bodies in Massachusetts.
Credit Marta Craviotto / NECIR

Mercury emissions from major Massachusetts sources have declined by 90 percent over the past two decades, but mercury levels in the state’s freshwater fish hold stubbornly high, with many species too contaminated for pregnant women and children to eat.

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Local News
5:59 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

Small Derailment Fuels Bigger Fears around Grafton Propane Facility

Grafton and Upton Railroad workers set about righting the derailed train and its cargo.
Credit NECIR/ Cory Dawson

A train run by the Grafton and Upton Railroad derailed in the town of Grafton, MA Tuesday night while crossing through the town’s center.

The derailment came just minutes before a town meeting in which the railroad’s owner, Jon Delli Priscoli, was scheduled to address a public audience over concerns related to the expansion in recent years of the railroad’s activity.

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LOCAL NEWS
7:00 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Roslindale Shooting Update, New NSA Rules & A Federally Funded Beach House

Homeland Security Advisor Juliette Kayeem (@juliettekayyem) and Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen (@nadeemtron) discuss the Roslindale shooting, the ongoing investigation, and new NSA rules. 

NECIR Senior Investigative Reporter Beth Daley (@BethBDaley) and Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Mass Audubon Jack Clarke (@jackclarke) discuss a repeatedly flood-damaged Scituate house and the million dollars of federal funding that it's received.

And WGBH Reporter Stephanie Leydon (@stephanieleydon) highlights Sisters Jean and Louise, founders of Julie's Family Learning Program, for the newest installment of Greater Bostonians. 

New England Center For Investigative Reporting
11:05 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Feds Payout Again To Protect Repeatedly Flood-Damaged Scituate House

The home at 48 Ocean Drive in Scituate, Mass., after damage during snow storms this past winter
Credit Lauren Owens / NECIR

A vacation home damaged at least 10 times by Atlantic storms will be elevated with money from a federal grant for the second time in a dozen years – this time for $180,000 - town records show.

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NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
4:05 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Despite Industry Claims, Railroad Fires And Toxic Spills Are Up

Tanker cars on the Englewood Hump at Englewood Yard in Houston, Texas.
Credit Roy Luck via Flickr

Despite the terrible derailment of an Amtrak train last week and a spate of other fiery accidents involving trains carrying flammable crude oil – five so far this year – railroad industry and government officials have taken pains to reassure the public of rail transportation safety.

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New England Center For Investigative Reporting
12:00 am
Sun May 10, 2015

Crumb Rubber: Have Your Kids Been Exposed To A Cancer Risk?

Bits of crumbled synthetic turf shoot into the air after a ball is bounced on the field.
Credit NECN

Artificial turf fields, cushioned with recycled crushed tires and increasingly in demand for US athletic complexes, are getting some serious pushback.

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NECIR
6:00 am
Sun April 19, 2015

Despite Spread Of Lyme Disease, Mass. Dedicates No Money To Prevention

Thomas Mather, of the TickEncounter Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island , collects and counts adult stage blacklegged (deer) ticks in South Kingstown, RI in November 2012.
Credit Brian Mullen / URI TickEncounter Resource Center

The predawn rumble of pesticide-spraying trucks is a rite of spring in almost 200 Massachusetts communities. Some $11 million is spent in the state each year controlling and counting the pests and educating residents about how to avoid contracting mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus.

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Local News
6:00 am
Sun April 19, 2015

Dogs Are Also At Risk For Lyme Disease

Neal Heffron with his daughter and Lyme-stricken dog, Dani.
Credit Neal Heffron

One morning last July, Brookline resident Neal Heffron found Dani, his 18-month-old Australian Shepherd with a sleek coat and unbridled energy, collapsed in her bed. She had been vomiting, suffered a bout of diarrhea, and overnight had become too weak to lift herself out of her crate.

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NECIR
12:17 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Study: Most Online Genetic Cancer Tests Don't Help Patients

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Credit SBAdmin / Wikimedia Commons

Cancer patients or their families often arrive at oncologists’ offices holding printouts about genetic tests that they found on the Internet.

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New England Center For Investigative Reporting
9:15 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Why Is The State Paying Millions To Subsidize A Gloucester Beach-Front Hotel?

The Birdseye plant, birthplace of the flash-freeze process, stood on a barrier beach in the center of “the Fort,” a historic neighborhood packed with marine industry in Gloucester, Mass. The new Beauport Hotel is rising – with the aid of state subsidies – in its place, despite the fact that it's likely to be under water sea levels rise as predicted.
Credit Lauren Owens / NECIR

On one of the grittiest stretches of the historic waterfront here, the peaks of the Beauport Hotel will soon rise above the truck noise and smell of fish. Yet when the last drop of water fills the rooftop swimming pool, the luxury hotel will be more than incongruous with the neighborhood theme. It will also stand as a challenge to even mild climate change predictions.

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New England Center For Investigative Reporting
5:00 am
Sun February 15, 2015

Does A LEED Logo Mean Your Building Is 'Green'? Not Always

Woburn’s Trade Center 128 touts that it is “LEED Gold pre-certified.” It is. But that simply means it has submitted designs for green features to the U.S. Green Building Council, but it is not an award of certification that it did so.
Lauren Owens NECIR

When Scott Hardin found a home four years ago for his real estate appraisal firm, The Appraiser Guy, at Woburn’s Trade Center 128, he was pleased to settle into the “green” building. Besides the convenient location on Route 128, the building was equipped with solar panels, low-flow toilets, and even bathroom towel dispensers that use smaller sheets of paper.

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New England Center For Investigative Reporting
11:41 am
Sun February 8, 2015

As Storm Flood Damage Swells, A Growing, Controversial Call To Buy Out Homeowners

The home at 48 Oceanside Drive is just one of many "severe repetitive loss" properties located in the town of Scituate, Mass. Coastal legislators are urging Governor Charlie Baker to tap into a $20 state fund to buy back some of these repeatedly damaged coastal properties.
Credit Lauren Owens / NECIR

The owner of 48 Oceanside Drive had just repaired her $1 million vacation home from a devastating 2013 storm when the Atlantic came crashing through a giant picture window last month. The Jan. 26 blizzard marked at least the 10th time the house has been damaged in four decades — and probably the 10th time it will be rebuilt, in part with taxpayer dollars.

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Local News
1:00 am
Tue December 23, 2014

1980's Wetlands Preservation Legislation Often Falls Short

Taunton Conservation agent Michele Restino holds up reed canary grass, an invasive species slowly infiltrating a wetland replacement area on the property of Holy Family Parish Center. The constructed area was designed to replace wetlands altered during t
Credit NECIR

Back in the early 1980s, Massachusetts became a leader in the national environmental movement. State environmental officials promised to do what no state had ever done: stop new development from removing swamps, marshes, and other environmentally critical wetlands. Developers were required to replace wetlands they disturb. But the results have been spotty.

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NECIR
4:01 am
Sun December 21, 2014

Environmentally Vital Wetlands Get Only Spotty Protection

In Franklin, a worker digs a hole to plant a swamp maple at The Estate at Franklin in a third attempt to construct a wetland. The wetland is designed to replace one altered to build a road to the senior housing complex.
WGBH News

Three decades ago, Massachusetts became a darling of the environmental movement for requiring developers to replace virtually every square foot of wetlands they destroyed to build houses, parking lots and shopping malls.

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NECIR
1:19 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

State To Investigate All Sudden Infant Deaths

Credit Vincent Desjardins via Flickr

State social workers will begin to be notified of all unexplained infant deaths in Massachusetts to investigate for signs of abuse, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting reports. 

The new state guidelines are intended to "assure that all infant deaths are reported to the agency." Sudden Unexpected Infant Death is the leading cause of mortality among children between 1 month and 1 year in Massachusetts, according to NECIR. 

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NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
3:03 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Homeowners Sold Out By Cities? Investors Buy Tax Liens And Foreclose

Massachusetts cities including Worcester, Lawrence and Lowell — all hard-hit by the nation’s foreclosure crisis and economic recession — have unloaded hundreds of delinquent debts to private investors since 2008 in an effort to raise quick funds for depleted city coffers.
Credit Graphic: Brendan Lynch

As cash-strapped towns and cities around the Bay State face a mounting stash of unpaid tax liens, they are increasingly turning to for-profit companies to pursue delinquent property owners — prompting concern among consumer advocates that vulnerable residents are being hit with astronomical fees and sometimes are losing their homes in the process.

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Developing
9:28 am
Thu October 16, 2014

U.S. Journalists Detained In Russia

Joe Bergantino
Credit Courtesy NECIR

Update, 11:12 a.m., Oct. 16, 2014: Bergantino will be not be deported, but will be allowed to leave as planned on Saturday. He will not be allowed to conduct further workshops.

Boston journalist Joe Bergantino was detained by Russian authorities Thursday morning in St. Petersburg.

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Science and Technology
10:58 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Learn More About The Lyme War

WGBH science reporter Heather Goldstone hosted a panel of experts to take a closer look at the growing public health threat of Lyme disease and how to stay safe from ticks, the tiny parasites that bear the infectious organism.

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LOCAL NEWS
5:53 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Mass. Child Advocate Discusses New Findings On Infant Death Dangers

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is every parent’s worst nightmare, particularly because so little is known about what causes it. But research published Monday in the journal “Pediatrics” reveals the risk factors vary depending on the child’s age:

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NECIR
11:00 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Live Chat: Making Sense Of Lyme Disease

Chat with NECIR reporter Beth Daley and Paul Mead, from the Centers for Disease Control to help make sense of Lyme disease.

NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
12:01 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Federal Loopholes Compromise Lyme Disease Testing

A deer ticks, like the one seen here on a thumbnail, that can infect people with Lyme disease, are often no bigger than a poppy seed.
Credit Lauren Owens

As Lyme disease becomes an increasingly challenging public health threat across the Northeast, a growing number of tests for the vexing ailment may be misdiagnosing patients when telling them that they have – or don't have – the tick-borne illness.

An exemption in federal regulations allows many labs to offer Lyme tests without proof that they accurately identify the disease, leaving anxious patients and their doctors to decide which tests to believe.

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Local News
11:51 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Crisis In The Medical Examiner's Office: Punishing Survivors

Ed Boleza and Stephanie have been vocal about the need for answers since the death of Kimberly.
Lauren Owens

On a cloudy day in March 2013, Kimberly Parker, 45, was walking her beloved pair of Golden Retrievers when something went wrong. Her husband Richard told police he found her facedown in the snow outside their two-story East Bridgewater house and called 911. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

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NECIR
3:12 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

Mass. Sees Sharp Increase In Babies Born Addicted

Mya Barry
Credit Courtesy photo

MARSHFIELD — Mya Barry was born in April 2011 with opiates already coursing through her tiny veins. But it was not the heroin passed to her in utero by her drug-addicted mother that killed the infant, prosecutors say.

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NECIR
4:00 am
Sun March 9, 2014

Lose Home, Rebuild, Repeat: Scituate House Cost Federal Government $750K Over 40 Years

48 Oceanside Drive in Scituate following the Blizzard of 1978. The house has repeatedly suffered flood damage from coastal storms.
Photo courtesy of the Town of Scituate.

If you look at it now, the home at 48 Oceanside Drive in Scituate — with its beige siding and bright, white trim — seems so new it must be empty inside.

From its perch on the beach, the home seems to stare blankly at the ocean. It's a great view, with stunning beaches and dramatic cliffs. But with that view comes danger.

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NECIR
5:00 am
Sun February 23, 2014

State Seeks To Move Homeless From Hotel Rooms To Group Homes

As many as 90 families were staying at the Bedford Plaza Hotel in 2013, including more than 100 children. The state paid $80 a night, per family.

Michelle Espada has gained 70 pounds since she moved to the Bedford Plaza Hotel.

"Eating microwaveable food. I can't walk much anymore," she said. "It makes me cry sometimes, because it feels like you're drowning all the time."

The mother of two young boys, Espada couldn't afford rent. She's been on waiting lists for affordable housing for four years.

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NECIR
6:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Cuts To Legal Aid Strain Services For Poor

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Three years ago, Charlene Julce’s family faced eviction from their home in Malden, and a legal aid lawyer helped them fight off foreclosure. On Thursday, Julce will tell state legislators that many more people in the same situation need legal representation and aren’t getting it.

“We never could have afforded a lawyer,” Julce said. “We were lucky.” 

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Local News
9:35 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Coastal Erosion Sparks 'Sand Wars' In New England

Newbury police Sgt. Patty Fisher, right, photographs damaged homes near Plum Island Center, Newbury, in April 2013 after series of damaging northeasters.
Credit Bryan Eaton / Newburyport Daily News

This story was produced with The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a non-profit investigative reporting newsroom based at WGBH News and Boston University. Read the full NECIR investigation here

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