Those beloved — and ever valuable — news researchers….
Aug 17th, 2005 by JTJ

Friend Barbara Semonche,
queen of the news research kingdom (queendom?) at the Univ. of North
Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, posts these
always-pertinent observations today on the NewsLib listserv:

comm students will be returning to colleges and universities within the
next week or two. Time to get fresh examples for these emerging
journalists about just what news researchers are capable of doing for
and with them.

       Here is what I'm seeking for our beginning and advanced reporting students.

     Current (within the last couple of years or so)
examples/strategies of the research methods and sources news librarians
used for both investigative projects and breaking stories. Here is what
I have now:

1. Kathy Hansen's and Nora Paul's recent book, “Behind the Message: Information strategies for Communicators,”
has a classic example of a 1994 Minneapolis Star-Tribune story by
reporter Tony Kennedy which was enhanced by not only his investigative
research, but supplemented by the efforts of the Star-Tribune's news
research team. The case study in the book reprinted Kennedy's article
on the privately-held Schwan Company and then detailed each fact with
what resources were discovered and used.  Interesting note: the
local public library and librarian proved to be a gold mine of
information for Kennedy as did local interviews with former Schwan

Alison Head's (former head of research at The Press Democrat in Santa
Rosa, California) handout on the news research involved with a breaking
crime story. She took the text of reporter Tom Chorneau's 1995 article

highlighted all the resources used to get the data for the story. A
sort of “Anatomy of Crime Research.” [Note: please check this URL: ]

3. John
Martin's (St. Pete Times' researcher) 1998 description of how he worked
with a reporter on retrieving information on an alledged murderer's
identity on deadline. [Note: please check this URL:

U.S. government GIS mega-library
Jul 20th, 2005 by Tom Johnson

The good folks at Directions Magazine today tipped us off that is open for business. was spawned by the “Geospatial One-stop” program.

  • “Through the Geospatial One Stop portal (, anyone can access geospatial
    information from federal agencies and a growing number of state, local,
    tribal and private agencies through one comprehensive and comprehensible
  • “Advanced information on future investments in geospatial information
    can provide opportunities for collaboration, intergovernmental partnerships
    and reduce needless duplication of data investment
  • “Building communities around data categories through the efforts of
    “data stewardship leaders” and teams to seek out and highlight
    new and preeminent ways to utilize geospatial tools
  • “In conjunction with FGDC, Geospatial One Stop facilitates standardization
    and intergovernmental agreements on standards and interoperability”
doesn't have everything about everywhere  (yet), but it's a solid — and
very rich — data resource that should be high on a reporter's list of
“data sites to check early in the reporting process.”

What's behind the curtain? "Private Warriors"
Jul 7th, 2005 by JTJ

We're pleased that the PBS program “Frontline” is keeping up the good fight to produce important journalism.  And thanks to the Librarian's Index to the Internet for pointing us to:

Private Warriors

This Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Frontline program looks “at
private contractors servicing U.S. military supply lines, running U.S.
military bases, and protecting U.S. diplomats and generals” in Kuwait
and Iraq. Website features discussions of the appropriateness of
outsourcing, whether privatization saves taxpayer money, and the role
of contractors. Includes contractor profiles, interviews, a FAQ, video
of the program, and related links.

Subjects: Government contractors — United States | Public contracts — United States | Private security services | United States — Armed Forces — Management | New this week

Created by
je – last updated Jul 6, 2005

Be sure to drill down to the section, “Does Privatization Save Money.”  A nice example of a reporter asking the right questions.

What a little prodding of the data can show
Jun 12th, 2005 by JTJ

Kudos to Dan Eggen, Julie Tate and Derek Willis
for asking the basic question this week: “What do we know and how do we
know it?”  When that process is applied to White House claims
about the value of the Patriot Act in fighting terrorists, the WH looks
a little gray.  And all it took was some digging of the data, followed by
counting, to help set the record state.  See:

U.S. Campaign Produces Few Convictions on Terrorism Charges:
Statistics Often Count Lesser Crimes

By Dan Eggen and Julie Tate

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 12, 2005; Page A01

Still more on digital research tools
Jun 12th, 2005 by JTJ

James Fallows column in
Sunday's NYT discusses some of the frustration with keyword searching
and the El Dorado of having search engines “just answer my
question.”  Fallows points specifically to work to develop
The CIA, NSA and similar federal organizations are apparently quite
interested in the approach initially developed at Stanford University's
Knowledge Systems Lab.  Of deeper interest to serious researchers (or search-tool forecasters) than Fallows' column might be the lab's research papers.

Online Research Tutorials
Jun 9th, 2005 by JTJ

were multiple sessions at last week's IRE convention related to online
research methods and tools, reflecting the constantly dynamic nature of
that activity for journos.

We recently were referred to RDN's “Virtual Training Site.”   It's mission: “The Internet is a rich source of information for
students, lecturers and researchers. The RDN Virtual
Training Suite tutorials teach the key information
skills for the Internet environment. Learn how to use
the Internet to help with your coursework, literature
searching, teaching and research.

site's organization is uncommonly arranged by topic and academic
discipline instead of search engines.  While there is no category
for journalism, per se, many of the disciplines we utilize are there
and worth a look.  There are some fine tools here for educators,
both in the classroom and the newsroom.

It's good to see that the AP is starting to figure out the infosphere
Jun 9th, 2005 by JTJ

good to see the word “taxonomy” creeping into the newsroom.  And
the AP is looking for someone who can make them.  Here's the job

The Associated
, NY

a rapidly evolving technological environment, the Taxonomy Developer
will collaborate with journalists,  technologists, product
specialists and news librarians to coordinate taxonomy creation,
development and maintenance across media types and products, with the
goal of aiding in the efficient retrieval and distribution of

The Taxonomy Developer for the
Associated Press will  develop taxonomies as well as create the taxonomy
management and implementation strategy for AP's content delivery.

The taxonomy developer will help
define overall AP Taxonomy Integration Strategy for content classification,
delivery and user experience; work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on
editorial, technical and product teams to develop taxonomy implementation,
process and management strategy; and help evaluate and work with appropriate
tools for taxonomy management, data collection/analysis and surfacing of new

In addition, duties will include
selection and prioritization of appropriate taxonomy domains. This includes
developing taxonomies for new and existing products; selecting allowed values
lists for proper names, products and companies; creating extensions and
qualifiers to integrate AP's taxonomic scheme to external standards (ISO,
SIC/NAICS, etc.); and working with and extending NewsML, IPTC News Codes and
NITF. This person will work closely with the editorial, technical and product
teams ensuring the taxonomies are usable and will develop and manage automated,
semi-automated and manual processes for gathering taxonomy data, including
adding terms, synonyms, aliases and new relation types as needed.

The Taxonomy Developer will work as
part of a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team that is creating multimedia news and
information products for AP and bringing them to

Qualifications include:
1) familiarity with industry
standards groups, such as ISO, SIC/NAIC,
2) understanding structural
metadata standards for content classes and entity
3) ability to validate usability of
taxonomies with internal user groups (editorial teams) as well as external
4) expertise with taxonomy
management and data collection/analysis,
5) surfacing of new terminology,
6) familiarity with Search and Auto
Classification tools (Autonomy and
Teragram; Text extraction tools (InXight; Taxonomy/Ontology maintenance tools (SchemaLogic and Teragram

MLIS degree or 3 years experience

For consideration, please send
cover letters and resumes to

The Associated Press is an
Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

"How To Conduct a Background Check"
Jun 9th, 2005 by JTJ

Interesting article on The Virtual Chase, a web site dedicated to “teaching legal professionals how to do research.”  For the details, see “”How To Conduct a Background Check.”

Scrape the site before you go home tonight
Jun 3rd, 2005 by Tom Johnson

Nils Mulvad, one
of the early champions of analytic journalism in Europe and founder of the Danish Institute for Analytic Reporting, demo-ed
a fast web-scrapping tool at the IRE conference this week.  Web-scrapping?  It’s a way to get just the data you need from a web site that has
a dynamic search engine.  The FECinfo site is an example: the user enters
the search terms and the site’s server returns the desired results. 

As a one-off, that works OK.  But what if you need all the data on the
server?  Turn to “RoboSuite.”  It’s a point-and-shoot, build-your-own-script
application.  A good PERL coder can do
the same thing, of course, but if you can afford it, RoboSuite is a fast
solution to data harvesting.

Snippets from this week’s IRE convention in Denver….
Jun 3rd, 2005 by Tom Johnson

Paul Walmsley, a programming wiz at IRE, has developed a
neat PERL script for doing a bit of Social Network Analysis online at the IRE

JustLooking” is a members-only tool that has been up for a
year, Walmsley said, but lacking publicity, it’s been pretty much
backstage.  The app is a relatively
basic, yet impressive tool whose results are designed to be integrated/imported
into UCInet, an early SNA tool.

“JustLooking” comes, so far, with two network templates to
save time in common situations.
  * Campaign Finance:
for tracking campaign dollars
  * Rolodex: for
entering basic networks of people and organizations

 Dig out your IRE membership number and check it out.

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