Sep 29

Help with news story ideas on environment

Stuck for story ideas? Get the free  biweekly email or RSS of  story leads from Society for Environmental  Journalists, @sejorg.

The list includes 4-5 leads every other week and it tips you off on reports to be issued, trends or upcoming newsworthy events.  

For example, weather is always a good story, right? The Sept. 14 edition explains that NOAA says the La Nina weather pattern is back and notes, “If typical patterns pan out in the new cycle, that could lead to more drought and fires in the south, and blizzards and flooding in the north.” How do you help readers/viewers/listeners be ready?

The website is also very helpful with resources to background yourself on covering many environmental issues. One example: food and farms, which includes sections on locavors, food safety and animal feed operations. 

Know of other story idea lists, tips and guides? Leave a note below. 

Posted in Finding Stories | Leave a comment
Sep 23

Get better results in Internet searches with phrase searching

For better results w/ Google, Bing, Yahoo!, use quotes around a phrase. “Skaneateles Festival” nets 80% fewer results than the two words alone do.

The first, “Skaneateles Festival”  will give you every page that has both words back-to-back on it. But if you just put in the two words, Skaneateles Festival, most search engines will read that as Skaneateles and Festival and give you every page with Skaneateles and every page with Festival. 

But note if a page had Skaneateles 2011 Festival,  your first search wouldn’t find it because of the additional characters in between the two words. So experiment: try one phrase in quotes, then try another, or drop the quotes.

Also if you get too many bad hits, or extraneous pages that you don’t want, you can use the minus sign. For example, if I just wanted to read about the Skaneateles Festival in 2011, but kept getting information about the two  previous years I would put:

“Skaneateles Festival” -2010 -2009

And by the way, this is a great chamber music festival in a quaint Central New York village on the Finger Lakes.

Posted in Searching | Leave a comment
Sep 20

Set grandma straight by snopes-ing that email!

Think one of those warning emails from your grandma about bad fast food or dangers at the gas pump is a story? Check out

What started as a hobby for a California couple, @snopes,  became a small business in fact-finding, after all the myths passed around after 9/11, says a New York Times article.

I send big props to David and Barbara Mikkelson because more than once they’ve saved me from forwarding an email with bad information.  For example, after getting an email  about the model for the Statue of Liberty being a black woman, I thought that might be a great Black History Month feature.  Snopes’ research showed me that it was bogus information.

You can follow the Mikkelsons at @snopes on twitter.

Got other ways of checking out emails for authenticity? Let ReadyReporter know by leaving a comment below.

Posted in Finding Stories | Leave a comment
Sep 16

Internet search tip: searching key words at a website

To search on just one website, not the whole ‘net,  use this formula to filter — keyword and only that keyword, at that site, comes up. 

For example if you  knew I (Barbara Fought) worked at the Newhouse School and wanted to find my bio or any mention of me at my workplace, you’d put this search statement into any  search engine:

Barbara Fought

Notice that you don’t leave space after the word “site:”  The search engine will look for these letters: “barbara fought” only at the website:

But you may not want to use the phrase search “Barbara Fought” because it wouldn’t pick up anything on that site with “Barbara Croll Fought,” as it just looks for “barbara” adjacent to “fought.”

Ever want to tweet about someone and acknowledge him or her  but you don’t know that twitter name? Try: firstname lastname  Often this works better for me than putting the name in twitter’s own search.  So for example if you didn’t know my twitter name was @bcfought you’d find it by putting this formula in the search box of  most any search engine:

“barbara fought”

Posted in Searching | Leave a comment
Sep 12

Where’d that photo come from?

Wonder if an online photo was altered or need to see where or when  it first appeared? Save the photo file and then copy the file name in  @Tin Eye will  spit out links to all the online sites where that photo appears.

Check early copies to see if there are any alterations.  Or see who else has used the photo online. If you have other tips about photo changes, leave a reply below and we’ll pass on your tip.

Posted in Finding Sources | Leave a comment
Sep 10

Internet search tip: Try another search engine

Think all search engines are alike? Not so!  Compare how different they are at  thumbshots or BlindSearch.

When I do training, most people are surprised that the search engines come up with quite different results. Research shows most of us click on one of the first ones. If you use the same engine all the time you might be missing some better information.  Try another search engine.

Here’s a fun test to compare the big three: Try BlindSearch, which has you do just that – put in search terms and get results for three search engines.  But you don’t know which is which. Pick the one you think is best and it will tell you which you chose. Many Google lovers are surprised to find it was Yahoo! or Bing.

Thumbshots shows a visual representation of the first 60 sites found by two search engines for a certain keyword(s). It highlights and draws a line between those that are the same, and often there aren’t a lot. Here’s an example for the search: Obama speech

You can see from the few blue dots that Google and Yahoo! results are quite different.

Bottom line: know the search engine you use the most. And try other search engines when you’re having difficulty finding just what you want.

P.S. Ahem, have you ever read the search guide at your favorite search engine so you’re a quicker, better, smarter searcher?  Google Bing Yahoo!

Posted in Searching | Tagged , | 1 Comment
Sep 08

Find news sources with Foursquare

Need a quality source at a certain venue? Find the mayor for it on @foursquare. Use the mayor’s links to @twitter and @facebook for contact info.

In a breaking news situation, you can generally easily get sound or quotes from the officials, but you want some regular folks.  Sometimes we end up talking to whomever is there, whether they know much or not.

On the social media platform, Foursquare, the mayor is the person who has checked in at that venue the most.  He or she might know a lot about that place or what’s been happening there.  So see if you can track down him or her.

You likely won’t find that mayor’s full name or phone number on Foursquare, but many people put links to their twitter and facebook links. Go there and see if the person lists an email. Or some people list a hometown  and you can use that with an internet phone book, to get a phone number.

Okay, it may not always work. But it takes you less than 90 seconds to see if it does. I’d say that’s worth trying. And when it works, you on your way to having a better story.

If this tip has worked for you, or you know another way to use Foursquare in reporting, please leave a comment.

Posted in Finding Sources | Leave a comment
Sep 06

Follow website changes

Follow changes or new info at a company or organization website by setting alerts such as to tell you when its homepage changes. Or any interior page.  It’s free!

You can have the updates sent as frequently as you want to your email or a special web page.

So if you want to keep abreast of changes for a school board or a local company (some of whom announce things first online) then this is the tool for you.

Let me know if it works and I’ll share your story back here.


Posted in Continuing Coverage | Leave a comment
Aug 24

Ready Reporter Launches Sept 6

Reporters are being asked to do more and more — find good stories, report them in multiple platforms, tweet and engage viewers/readers/listeners on social media. Ready Reporter is here to help reporters work quicker, better and smarter online.

Ready Reporter is a tweet feed, 2-3 times a week, backed up by a more detailed blog post. It will include tips, ideas and leads for quicker searching for information, better ways of finding sources and smarter coverage of local news topics with resources online.

Ready Reporter is produced by Barbara Croll Fought, an associate professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Fought, a former TV news special projects producer, has become known for her “Mining the Net” series, teaching modules to help reporters find quality information online.

Come back to this page regularly and set up your twitter account to follow: @readyreporter.

And when you have a tip to share, please share it below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment