When I put in my name I got six screens of info -- most of it was about me, but not all, so be careful.
Have a name of someone but can’t find much about him or her online? Search engines only go so far. You will likely find more at PIPL.com which searches the deep web.
That means it searches into databases and public records that might not come up on a search engine. Piple says it finds information “from personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court records and numerous other deep-web sources.”
Besides a full name, you can put in a user name, a telephone number or an email. It’s best, obviously, for people who have an online presence.
But beware: People have similar names so make sure you carefully look at the information comes up, as it could be a combination of several people with that name, or someone with the same name but not the one you are seeking.
If you’re new to a topic or even trolling online for story ideas, why not spend a few minutes seeing what people are blogging about. It’s my new mantra — spend seven minutes on something to see what I can learn. Anybody can find seven minutes. But I have to set a timer or I’d be there an hour!
A search for "IPhone" netted this today.
A quick way to see what is in the blogosphere is to search by keyword or topic on a website such as Technorati.
For example, I put in “IPhone” a few weeks after the release of a new phone and operating system. At the right is what I got. And I found a couple leads, if I worked the business or consumer beats.
You can also peruse its directory of blogs or check out which are its “top 100” blogs.
It also offers what it calls “channels” with blogs on these topics: Women, technology, business, entertainment, lifestyle, sports and politics.
If you’ve got a favorite way to search blogs, please leave a comment below and I’ll share it with our followers.
I like the way Professor Jeff South of Virginia Commonwealth University put it at the Journalism Interactive Conference today: “sign up for news to come to you.” I’ve long suggested professionals and students should subscribe to e-releases from government agencies and set up alerts on search engines. But I hadn’t ever pitched it as well as he did – “let the news come to you.”
You might want to subscribe with a separate email from your main one, or set up your email program to shuttle these to a special folder, where you can peruse them regularly. I know they are too much to come into the email I use most often – I get too much already.
Here’s a link to setting up alerts on Google. You put in keywords and Google emails you updates when those words appear on the web or in news. You can customize the alert for frequency or type of sites searched. Yahoo! is similar and will send the results to email, IM, pager or cell phone.
Please share below some of the alerts or electronic news releases that have helped your reporting. I could use some more examples in my teaching.
I always thought TV reporters were disadvantaged in getting good spokespersons from out of town because they had to have pictures. It was easier for the newspaper and radio journalists who didn’t have to have a face! But now with Skype, TV folks, too, can use experts from out of town.
I’ve long admired the great list of experts in several countries compiled by Julian Sher, @JulianSher, a Canadian investigative journalist who works across platforms. And while you’re at his site, click around for links to public records, media outlets and more.
Sher is a newsroom trainer and writes for The Globe and Mail in Canada. He’s also done documentaries and written several books.
One way to build followers on twitter is to list their twitter names in your tweets. But what if you don’t know their names on twitter?
To find out someone’s twitter name, use this formula in a search engine: name name site:twitter.com. Or you could use a phrase search for their two names adjacent to each other by putting them in quotes: “name name” site:twitter.com.
This is known as a keyword search, filtered to specific website. I find more people this way than using twitter’s own search. For example if you didn’t know I was @bcfought on twitter, but knew my name, put in a search engine:
Barbara Fought site:twitter.com
and this is what you’ll get:
It works even for my friend Kim Brown, whose name is very common and who doesn’t use her full name in her twitter handle: @KimInCuse (as in Kim-in-Syracuse). She came up second, maybe because she’s a prolific tweeter:
In the field you may not have time, but when you can, try it out. It is a way to keep the interaction with readers, viewers, listeners, and it can build your follower list.
Those of you working in border states may need a phone number in Canada or Mexico. Others of you might need to call internationally.
These telephone books from Infobel or Numberway might help.
Infobel is a Belgian company. Numberway is run by a British guy, Robert Hoare, who has been tracking online phone books since 1995.
With the recent news about presidential candidate Mitt Romney and whether Mormonism is really Christianity, some reporters may not want to wade into theology in a story. But don’t be shy. Two websites that give quality information about religion are ReligionLink (see 9.30 post below) and BeliefNet.
Beliefnet features this slide show on its website.
The current opening page for ReligionLink has the current controversy front and center, but when it’s replaced by another story, just search this site for “Mormon” or “Latter Day Saint.”
Beliefnet has a full page on Latter Day Saints and a multimedia segment addressing the current topic in the news — whether Mormons are Christians (see graphic at right).
Use these two sites for other stories about religion, faith and tradition. They are quality sources.
When you need to know basics about a country for breaking news or interviewing a refugee check the CIA World Fact Book.
Yes, it really is done by the CIA! It includes an overview of history, the government, geography and economy for 267 countries or entities.
An example of the CIA World Factbook's first screen on Yemen
How might you use it? Let’s say you are localizing a story about the latest uprising in the Arab Spring movement and need background on that country before a local interview. Or you go to interview an immigrant family for a feature story. Or perhaps it’s the weekend and you’re covering an international or cultural festival of a nationality that you don’t know much about.
Take 10 minutes to brief yourself at this website. I bet you’ll ask better questions and likely have a better rapport with your interviewees. That means faster, smarter and better reporting!
Leave a comment below of other tips or good sites for backgrounding.
Need to background an unfamiliar topic? Use a directory of quality links, rather than a search engine. A good one is Internet Public Library2
Someone once explained that a Search Engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) is good for finding the needle in the haystack, but if you want to start with the haystack, then go to a directory. Someone, in this case librarians, have scoured a lot of sites and selected those with the highest quality, so what you get here should be good information.
I like IPL2, which is a 2010 merger of two websites I used to use, Internet Public Library and the Librarians’ Internet Index websites. Drexel University hosts the site with several universities assisting in maintaining it.
Scan down the list of links and see if there’s one that is helpful. It’s hierarchical so you click through, get another list, click, and so forth. You can also put search terms in the search box but I find the first method better at the start, when I want general information.
It’s not great for breaking news as librarians don’t update the links on the spot. And you don’t always find what you need, but I find it worth a try, again for a general subject. I trust the librarians more than the search engine!
Looking for more story leads? I always was! Check out ReligionLink, @ReligionReport, with timely ideas and background for and from journalists.
ReligionLink is associated with the Religion Newswriters Association [on facebook, ReligionNewswriters].
The writers of this tip sheet all have many years of experience covering topics of spirituality. What impresses me is the site offer resources keyed to timely stories in the news. You’ll find background, links to news stories, context, and sources.
With the rise of interest and practice in spirituality, these stories have appeal to your readers/listeners/viewers.