Jan 13

Verify your online sources

King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. Photo in the public domain, Wikimedia Commons

With the birthday of Dr. King upcoming, you might want some resources or background for a story on him or the holiday.  A search might net the site at mlking.org, but beware.  This is a site associated with a White Nationalist group, Stormfront and Don Black.

I use this as an example with students on how to carefully verify web information before using it in a story. Take a look at an “about” section or look for links to other reputable sites.  You can always find out who registered a site at WHOIS, Network Solutions.

Many sites appear to be educational or neutral, or have an address that seems innocuous, but they may have one-sided or incomplete.

For King resources, here are some better options:

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Dec 28

Let crowdsourcing help you tell the story

I just ran across a note  to check back on a summer post on the blog,  The Buttry Diary, which gives tips about crowdsourcing.   Steve Buttry, @SteveButtry,  has lots of good ideas there about digital media. He’s the Director of Community Engagement & Social Media at Journal Register Co. & Digital First Media.

No time to do crowdsourcing? Steve says he hears lots of journalists say that but adds,  “crowdsourcing can also save journalists time, connecting them with sources more swiftly than traditional journalism techniques.” 

I often tell my students it is important to say what you son’t know and I see that among Steve’s  tips is this three-part mantra:

  • Say what you know
  • Say what you want to know.
  • Say what you don’t know.

Have you found crowdsourcing helps you tell better and more complete stories? Steve’s ideas make sense to me. Check them out and write below what tips you have for crowdsourcing that can make you stories quicker, better and smarter.

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Dec 21

The holidays: Here’s more story ideas

Okay, you’re short-handed in the newsroom because many of your colleagues have off (not you!) and so you could use some time-saver story leads.

Check out  ReligionLink, from our friends at the Religion Newswriters Association, @ReligionReport,  One post offers resources for Hanukkah, info about how all the lights affect children with autism, and ideas about how interfaith couples juggle their celebrations.

Another good article gives background for stories on how Muslim-Americans explain Christmas to their kids and one on religious toys and games.

If you’ve got a good holiday story idea that could work in another market, please share it below.

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Dec 14

Use @LinkedIn to find experts

I got lots of great tips for  more effective reporting using @LinkedIn from @KristaCanfield, a senior manager there, during her December monthly phone training for journalists.  Here is an effective way to find experts for your stories:  Use  LinkedIn Advanced People Search and search by location, by company name or keywords.

When you find someone, click on his or her profile to see if anyone in your network knows the person and can introduce you.

Better yet, professional journalists get a free one-year premium account on LinkedIn and then you can send InMail direct to the source.

To get the premium account, all you have to do is take one of Krista’s conference phone call training sessions. The next one is Thursday, Jan. 5 at noon EST.  To register, join the LinkedIn for Journalists group on LinkedIn and you’ll see the post there from Krista on how to get in on the call.

I’ll be sharing more of Krista’s great tips for journalists, but they are also all here. And please comment below on how you’ve used LinkedIn as a tool in your reporting.

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Dec 06

Use TRAC to track federal agencies in your area

Okay, if you’re ready for some data journalism — I have a suggestion for how to track what the U.S. government is really doing in your area.  Yes it will take some time, but will likely net a powerful story.

Use TRAC, an online site of federal statistics. It’s one of the best kept secrets here at the Newhouse School –the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, @tracreports.   Sue Long, a statistician and FOIA pioneer,  and David Burnham, a former New York Times investigative reporter,  paired together years ago to watchdog first the IRS, and then other agencies by crunching their data in ways to show patterns and comparisons.

TRAC’s goal is to help journalists, and ultimately the public, understand the staffing, spending, and enforcement activities of the federal government.  As TRAC’s website explains:  “…What do agency actions indicate about the priorities and practices of government? How do the activities of an agency or prosecutor in one community compare with those in a neighboring one or the nation as a whole? When a new law was enacted or amended, what impact did it have on agency activities?”

This week TRAC released new web-based data tools to help  monitor Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the nation’s Immigration Courts.   To learn more sign up for the webinar  Wed., Dec. 7, at 2:00pm EST on these new data and findings. Contact trac@syr.edu to register.

Here’s one of the findings: “…(in) Immigration Court deportation proceedings during July-September 2011… just 13.8 percent of the total …were charged with having engaged in criminal activities. ” That’s down from the previous year and different from what the White House has been touting.  So what does it say about the time and money spent getting those cases to court?  Now, there’s a story.

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Nov 30

Use Globe of Blogs for story ideas in your hometown

Blogs are the electronic water cooler of our day–like the copy machine or maybe the Starbuck’s line — the place where you find out what people are talking about.   Seasoned reporters told me to listen to the chat there and I could find story ideas, which of course I always needed!

So blogs can trigger story ideas. But where to go?

Try Globe of Blogs.  I was overwhelmed when I first discovered the vast number of blogs here. But the most helpful aspect of it is that you can search just blogs in your hometown or you can filter by topic.

Check it out — hope it helps stimulate your creative thinking about stories you could do.

And if it works, leave a comment, or leave another tip for finding stories using online resources.

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Nov 25

Learn from the best — Murrow, SPJ and Pulitzer winners

Someone once told me that in when Secret Service agents are taught how to spot counterfeit bills they don’t look at various types of fake money.  They are required to  study and study and study the real bills. Then when a fake one comes into their hands, they can immediately spot that it is different.

They learn because they study the real stuff!

So how do we apply that to journalism? I’m thinking that if we emulate the agents, we should be studying the good stuff — good journalism. Many of you may have an extra day this week or some vacation in the next month.  How about taking a few minutes to work on your career?

Like the agents, study the work of the best journalists: the RTDNA Murrow winners,  the SPJ Mark of Excellence winners or the recent Pulitzers.  I bet you’ll get some ideas, or at least get inspired to work quicker, better, smarter.

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Nov 21

LinkedIn can be great tool for journalists

My friend and former student Kim Brown (@KimInCuse) brought one of our Syracuse University alums, Krista Canfield, to my office about a year ago to show me some tricks with LinkedIn. Krista is the company’s senior manager in corporate communications.

I had not used LinkedIn much before then and thought of it merely as a job hunting aid. Boy, was I wrong.  I nearly  fell out of my chair when I saw how helpful LinkedIn can be for journalists.

And here’s the best part — journalists can get an upgraded premium account free for a year. All you have to do is participate in one of Krista’s 30-minute monthly training phone calls.

You’ll get a lot of practical examples of ways to find sources, keep up on your beat, and track developments in companies or organizations you follow.  Here’s a preview of some of her good tips:  http://press.linkedin.com/understanding-linkedin/

Her next training session is Wednesday, November 30 at 6 p.m. EST.  To sign up go here  http://tinyurl.com/83mr3cl  or if that doesn’t work here’s the full URL:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Next-LinkedIn-Journalists-training-is-3753151.S.79444585?view=&srchtype=discussedNews&gid=3753151&item=79444585&type=member&trk=eml-anet_dig-b_pd-ttl-cn&ut=3fbd_63DSW8R01

Also ask to join the LinkedInfor Journalists discussion.

Let me know below which of her tips you find most helpful.


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Nov 17

Help for finding a name to go with a phone number

A number comes up on your cell phone and you don’t recognize it.

Or you clean out your purse and there is a scrap of paper that has a phone number, but you have no memory of whose it is. Am I the only one who has that happen?

You can tap the number into an  online phone book, and if it’s a land line phone,  you can find out whose phone it is.

Most of the online phone books have a “reverse a phone number” tab. My favorite is the Anywho Reverse Lookup.  Try it out with a number you know, and then remember it for the next time you need it for your reporting.

A reminder — it only works if it is listed, and is a land line.

If anybody knows a way to find cell phone numbers, please let me know, as the ways I’ve tried aren’t very helpful.

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Nov 14

Track words or stories in the blogosphere

update: Blogpulse was purchased and shuttered in January, 2012.

If I put the word “Sandusky” into a blog search two weeks ago maybe I would have come up with something about the city in Ohio, near my hometown, that is known for as the home of the amusement park Cedar Point and its scary roller coasters.

But today everyone recognizes that word as the last name of the former Penn State coach, who is accused of sexual abuse of young boys.

Check out the graphic at the left to see  how this term has spiked in recent days on blogs.

While it’s fun to tap words into a site to see the ups and downs of usage, this can also be a helpful reporting tool.  You can spot trends or guage a story’s interest.

This graph comes from BlogPulse Trend Search (free) which allows you to quickly visualize how often a topic or word appears, over time, in blogs. You can also compare words with each other.

It might help you stay ahead of the story, or at least keep up with it.

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