WBUR microsite explores Mass. drug lab crisis

By Graham Vyse

Boston’s NPR affiliate is digging deeper into a story that has upended Massachusetts’ criminal-justice system.

In May, WBUR published “Bad Chemistry: Annie Dookhan and the Massachusetts Drug Lab Crisis,” an online report on a former state chemist charged with falsifying drug test results for at least 34,000 legal cases.

Contributors to the standalone website include WBUR’s Deborah Becker and Joe Spurr. Chris Amico, a journalist and web developer for the Homicide Watch website network, also contributes.

“Bad Chemistry” includes multimedia visualizations of government data and documents explaining Dookhan’s transgressions and their potential implications for law enforcement.

WBUR reporters plan to update the page as they uncover new details in the case, said Tiffany Campbell, managing editor of WBUR’s digital operation.

“That was the whole idea, that it could be iterative investigative reporting,” she said.

Though Campbell doesn’t consider herself “a data person,” she said the project has allowed WBUR to expand its journalistic repertoire.

“You don’t want to do data visualization just to do it, but I think we’re developing some new skills here,” she said.

Those new skills also appear to be helping WBUR with traditional shoe-leather reporting on Dookhan. Campbell said several community members who visited the website have already come forward as potential sources for future stories.

Questions, comments, tips? graham.vyse@gmail.com
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