Borenstein actually broke that story back in 2002 when he was with the now defunct Knight Ridder news agency, a number of months before other major news outlets caught on. But there has certainly been no such “firestorm” surrounding the agency’s more recent and generalized devaluation of individuals. As Borenstein observed in yesterday’s piece, “EPA traditionally has put the highest value on life of any government agency and still does, despite efforts by administrations to bring uniformity to that figure among all departments.” But whereas the EPA has been “trimming” its figure, the Department of Transportation has twice increased its own.

Whatever the rate may be, these are the kinds of inconspicuous, but eminently consequential, details that reporters must begin paying attention to. It should come as no surprise that Borenstein (a self-professed “data geek” who likes to find stories in numbers) unearthed this particular tale, however. He had been tracking the EPA statistical-life figures ever since the “senior death discount” affair in 2002.

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.