Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekend update: More research links from last week

Just a few last week, but some very useful, and one really interesting anecdote about a story I didn't see publicized much, some politicians who made a small sacrifice to make a point:
Congressman Tim Ryan's blog on losing his food to TSA: Ryan is one of a few congresspersons trying to live on $21 -- the equivalent of food stamp money -- for a week. TSA seized his PB & J. The comments on this posting, from others who have learned to live on food stamps, is amazing. One suggests this site for good tips on how to eat well with little. Some really good recipes here.

The other links:
  • U.S. Drought Monitor maps the problem areas. We're in one.
  • Global Environment Yearbook 2007 from UN Environment Programme.
  • Global Terrorism Database from National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at UMd.
  • Terrorism Knowledge Base

  • Accepting Realities in Iraq, a new paper from Chathamhouse, UK, by Dr Gareth Stansfield. Among the findings: ...Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation.

    Governments, Politics:
  • from OMB Watch, a free searchable database of grants and contracts. (I may have linked this earlier, but worth another look.)

  • Mining social networks for sources and stories; nice roundup by Depth Reporting's Mark Schaver.
  • military searches: free til June 6 (but you must register to see records). Includes more than 700 databases and titles and 37 million images of original and often personally autographed documents from all major wars and conflicts from American history, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts as well as the Spanish-American War and the War of 1812.

  • Google Trends, improved search trends report. Each topic leads to search results.
  • DocMorph, from the NIH, converts files into PDF, TIFF, text, or synthesized speech through a Web browser. Or download MyMorph software to convert multiple files.
  • Koolwire converts any file into a PDF; just attach the file and email it and it comes back in a few minutes, converted.

  • Monday, May 28, 2007

    Memorial Day

    Actually, eve, the sun nearly blotted out at dusk last night.

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Public library databases

    It seems to be -- finally -- entering the public consciousness that public libraries offer great value in access to online databases. A Metafilter poster links to several, and many more readers add links in the comments. (Many commenters seem surprised at the concept, though, so this may not have quite gotten through yet.)
    One comment links to this timely story about Maine's public access, in the Kennebec Journal.

    I started collecting a few links recently, although since you can't get into any libraries you don't belong to, it's hard sometimes to find out what they contain. It may be worth the extra $100 to join the NYPL, though (although it looks as though you have to go to NY to get one). I love my access to NCLive but there aren't enough online newspapers in the Newsbank section.

    A little outrage

    No political posts here for a few days, so maybe it's time to link to some real outrage for a change:

    Keith Olbermann: The entire government has failed us on Iraq. Always a classic.
    ...after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this...
    How shameful it would be to watch an adult... hold his breath, and threaten to continue to do so, until he turned blue.
    But how horrifying it is… to watch a President hold his breath and threaten to continue to do so, until innocent and patriotic Americans in harm’s way, are bled white.

    The Carpetbagger Report: ‘Can you explain why you believe you’re still a credible messenger on the war?’ The question came from NBC's David Gregory.
    Gregory asked why Americans should find the president credible on Iraq after he’s gotten every question, every challenge, and every opportunity wrong. The president started by sort of addressing the point — he says he’s credible because he reads the intelligence — but even that’s hardly reassuring. First, he’s misinterpreted the intelligence before. Second, he’s been reading the intelligence since before the war began and has nevertheless managed to screw up every step of the way.

    Meanwhile, on this war on terror, the Center for Public Integrity has analysed its effect: Collateral Damage: U.S. hands out vast sums of money to combat terrorism while ignoring human rights records; lobbying key to funding flows. Great.
    ...five years on, the influence of foreign lobbying on the U.S. government, as well as a shortsighted emphasis on counterterrorism objectives over broader human rights concerns, have generated staggering costs to the U.S. and its allies in money spent and political capital burned.

    And then, there's this project, from the Environmental Integrity Project: Paying Less to Pollute: Environmental Enforcement Under the Bush Administration.
    Over the past five years, environmental violators have been less likely to face court actions, be subject to criminal investigation, or pay civil or criminal penalties.

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    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Knight winners

    I've been seeing mentions of this in several blogs, but it wasn't until I went to the website that I realized how close to home this is:

    The winners of The Knight News Challenge include several former colleagues and friends (Nora Paul, Rich Gordon, Geoff Dougherty); Bloggers I've read for years, like J D Lasica, Jay Rosen and Amy Gahran; Journalism innovators I've admired, like Adrian Holovaty and Chris Callahan. Among them, too, even the daughter of a long-ago colleague, Dori Maynard.

    Congrats to all the winners who all are helping to find ways to make journalism work in this new confounding future.
    (photo: Nora Paul. Long way from the old days on Biscayne Bay.)

    (Updated:) Rich Gordon discusses his initiative to offer master's degree scholarships for programmers and web designers here: Seeking a new breed of techno-journalists. Or, as Sheila Lennon puts it: Newsrooms need programmers. Boy, do they.

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    Front pages

    Here's a great tip, posted by a respondent to someone asking how to get newspaper front pages from the invasion of Iraq to the NewsLib listserv:

    The Newseum's Today's Front Pages collection also archives front pages from newsworthy events. Here's the collection from March 20, 2003. There are 214 front pages archived there, from 25 countries.

    Also in the collection: the Virginia Tech shootings, Ford, Hussein, Reagan and Rosa Park's deaths, Hurricane Katrina (several dates) and many more.

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    The Morgue

    Many news librarians hated this term, but it works. And here's a wonderful story in the New York Observer about one of the biggest, which is still used but being moved to a new building: The Times Morgue Packs Up and Ships Out.
    The morgue was born in the early 1900’s, when clerks began clipping the various editions of each day’s Times, along with the city’s other daily newspapers and important magazines. Images were preserved in the picture library, originally part of the art department, which joined the clippings down in the basement.
    ...The clipping of stories had officially stopped in June of 1990, with the rise of electronic archiving. The morgue was on the third floor then...Portions of the holdings were shipped off to the New York Public Library (e.g., biographies, aircraft, Connecticut) and to the University of Texas (e.g., Lyndon Baines Johnson, foreign coverage).
    ...The clippings include stories that have never made it into any database, including ProQuest. Although ProQuest contains nearly 130 years’ worth of late-edition stories, it doesn’t include the early editions, which were clipped and filed as they came out. The files also contain some stories that made it into galleys but were never published.


    Monday, May 21, 2007


    Derek Willis is still thinking about how newsrooms apply technology, and has posted the latest essay in his 'The Fix' series, Better Tools:
    The basic way that journalists gather information - reading, calling, interviewing, researching - will not go away, and this isn’t an attempt to argue that they should. Rather, it’s a suggestion that we need to start doing all of those things better, not just because we face greater competition for news, but because we can.
    Required reading, and includes some interesting links, too.

    And here's an example of a newspaper helping readers get access to public records: The Arizona Republic's Data Central. It uses Google Maps to map crime data, has useful databases of real estate, restaurant inspections, campaign finance, and more, with links to other Arizona public records, and FOIA forms and advice on requesting public records.

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    Another piece of history lost

    I was really moved by this commentary on the Guardian's Newsblog by Nancy Banks-Smith, about the great loss that occurred in Greenwich, UK this morning when the Cutty Sark burned.
    From the Newsblog:
    But as you crept out of the dark into the salty air at Greenwich the first thing you saw was Cutty Sark, rearing up like a wild horse, pawing the air...The first time you saw it, the shock, the beauty stopped your heart. Poor immigrants, blinking as they emerged from stinking steerage, must have felt like that when they first caught sight of the Statue of Liberty.


    Weekend update: More research links from last week

    Among the interesting things found last week, this great example of illustrating data. Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait. Fascinating works by Chris Jordan depicting America's consumer culture. See what 11,000 jet trails looks like (the number of commercial flights in the US every 8 hours); or 426,000 cell phones, the number retired in the US every DAY! and many more, from SUVs to paper and plastic bags.

    I've added a couple more public records sites and want to say one more thing about my Friday posting: although I am focused more on tools for freelance writers and researchers these days, especially no-cost tools, I think any newsroom that doesn't subscribe to Search Systems is missing out on a great deal. Certainly any researcher/writer who needs public records constantly should also subscribe. It's still the best out there.

    The links:

  • Little Green Book 2007: pocket size compendium of environment data from The World Bank.

  • Cub Reporters: advice and links for aspiring journalists from Mark Grabowski, a third-year law student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. who's learned the ropes.

  • PIPL: a new Web search for finding people: digs into 'the invisible Web' to find links and info about a person that might not show up in another search engine. Gives phone/address search results as well as stories, web pages, My Space, and suggests other name variations. Review in SearchEngineLand.

  • has country background profiles, statistics, rankings, and risk assessments.
  • Researching Public Companies Through EDGAR: A Guide for Investors; tips from SEC.

    Public Records:
  • WikiFOIA has links to state laws, info on using FOIA requests. There's a blog, too: State Sunshine and Open Records.
  • Free Bankruptcy Search from Courthouse Direct; you'll still have to pay for dockets or documents, here or from PACER.

  • Sputtr searches everything, with a funky format.

  • Six Day War 40th Anniversary Guide From The Israel Project.

  • The Bluegrass Blog.
  • Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990, UCLA library's collection of photos from the LA Times and LA Daily News. Searchable and browsable.

  • Friday, May 18, 2007

    People finders and public records

    (Update: please read comments on this posting, from Search Systems' Tim Koster, explaining why it became a fee service, and offering hope some of it will be free again. He also explains why it's worth subscribing too, if you can.)
    An email from asks me to post notice of their public records finder database, Free Public Records Directory. I've known about this site for a long time and have linked to it from here before. I certainly use it often and have featured it on links pages I've done.

    At any rate, this is probably the best free directory of online public records around right now. It also features a collection of free searches and a public records blog, both of which I've linked recently.

    It replaced -- for me -- the directory at, which I used for years and still see recommended by researchers. But that directory is no longer free so not useful for many who once swore by it. You can still use it to discover if a record exists but must subscribe to see the link. Unfortunately most other directories don't have the international section that made Search Systems even more useful.

    The most important thing to remember, though, is that no directory is complete. New records go online all the time and finding out that a particular county has put marriage licenses, for example, online, can take months. Besides Free Public Records, I also check directories from BRB, Merlin, and NETRonline.

    For news of new online public records, The Virtual Chase's (link fixed) newsletter often lists them, as well as PIBuzz.

    There are a couple free search sites that help find public records on people at times; Pretrieve and ZabaSearch. You will have to pay for details, though.

    As far as people finders, last week I mentioned a new subscription service, Reporter's Edge, which does a great job of providing info previously available only in more expensive services. A couple free ones that have caught my eye (they give just enough detail to determine where to search, at least) are VoomPeople, and the search at Free Public Records Online, which leads to

    Even more interesting, notice of a new search engine just for people, called PIPL. This finds references to people in blogs, news, some public records, besides phone and address and email directories. It's been reviewed in SearchEngineLand, and by Mark Schaver at Depth Reporting.

    I've tried to keep up with public records search links -- especially Florida links -- on my public records reference page, and am in the process of updating it now (some links may not work).

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    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Being from an Influential family helps

    Just in case you were worrying what was going to happen to Jeb! Bush now that he's no longer governor of Florida: he's got a new job. And what a job! (Huffington Post).
    A bit more on this in this Florida Politics post.


    Newspapers in transition

    Is this the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end? Great journalists are leaving the newspaper business in droves, some due to retirement age, some due to changes in ownership. An optimist would say the old-school is being replaced by a new Newspaper Journalism 2.0; pessimists just think it's over.

    is the place to keep up with all these changes. Several just today:

    In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a long goodbye column from Editor Doug Clifton, who I worked with for years at the Miami Herald. Today is his last day at the Plain Dealer. A good journalist, who thinks seriously about what will happen to newspapers and journalism: The Work of Journalism, in Whatever Form, is Vital. Says Clifton:
    To some - perhaps even to many - newspapers' demise would be no loss. To them, the press is an intrusive, sensational, often malevolent, purveyor of negativism. Worse, many newspapers rake in double-digit profits. The mainstream media, or MSM, as they call it, has become the slur of choice for the critics.
    Perhaps the excesses of the few in this business have tainted the reputation of the many. And perhaps the many have, at times, given critics reason to be distrustful.
    But an evenhanded review of the work of newspapers over the last 100 years tells another story. No other institution in a democratic society performs their function.

    He goes on to list some of the great Pulitzer-Prize winning story projects over the years, and to decry the need for papers to give their work away for free on the Internet:"The Internet doesn't produce the content, it merely distributes it...If you go to Google News or Yahoo News you will find news, but it will have been provided by AP, Reuters, the Washington Post, The Plain Dealer and countless other newspapers."
    Food for thought.

    Also leaving newspaper journalism this week: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Ann Gordon, who's interviewed in Philadelphia Weekly: "The industry's problems are technology-based and lifestyle-based, and the changes are more profound than any of us want to admit. Newspapers are suffering the pain of their failure to innovate."..."Newspapers will be one of hundreds if not thousands of ways people receive their news. I see print journalists playing an active role less in the breaking of news and more in the analytical side-explaining it."

    I looked around to see if there'd been a similar exit column or interview by the Miami Herald's Tom Fiedler, who left a month or so ago: all I found was this story by Rebecca Wakefield in the Miami Beach Sun, which ran in December when the upcoming retirement was announced: Parting Ways. Fiedler:
    “I try to resist thinking that the golden age of journalism is behind us,” Fiedler told me this week. “I think it’s simply that things changed. Clearly what drove the change was the readership, when our circulation began to dip and readers began to indicate they were no longer interested in the kind of journalism we all treasure.”

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    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Blog serendipity: small world

    Some days it's surprising to find that the people you know (even if you only read their blogs) know each other.

    I've been meaning to post about Ronni Bennett (of Time Goes By) and her new blog highlighting stories and essays by elders. It's called The Elder Storytelling Place, and this week it featured a Mother's Day story by Fred First: While There is Yet Time: Mothers Day 2006.

    Fred, of course, is the creator of Fragments from Floyd, which I've linked to since I discovered this great community in the Blue Ridge of Virginia, and Fred's great writing and photography, several years ago.

    Check out The Storytelling Place. When I first found it there were only a couple of stories there but now it's full of great stuff.


    Not quite Tennessee, and a blog survey

    Thanks to the Knoxville News Sentinel's Jack Lail for including me on this list of Tennessee women bloggers. I'm flattered, but there's a slight glitch: I live about 10 miles from the Tennessee line, in North Carolina.

    I do often post photos of places in Tennessee on my photo blog, though, which was also in the list.

    Speaking of blogs (and Tennessee), a note from Texas Tech's Tom Johnson asks me to link to a survey he helped organize with Barbara Kaye of the University of Tennessee, on blogging and the Iraq War for UT researchers: A Survey of Blogs and Blog Users:
    Results from an earlier version of the survey have been published in academic journals and books as well as presented at international conferences. We are trying to reach blog users from a wide range of political perspectives and from a wide variety of types of blogs, so participation of your readers is important.

    If you read blogs, other online news sources, or use conventional news sources, please take this short survey.

    (Updated:) Oh my, also a mention on Byron Chesney's fine Knoxville Trivia blog, about my photo blog, where I'll post more about his posting:
    If you love to see good nature photographs, you should visit Southern Highlands Cam. Liz, the site's author, produces some of the most beautiful photography work on the entire web. According to the "about" section of the site, the photos are from "the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and points north on occasion." I've had the pleasure of visiting many of the places that she photographs and I really enjoy getting to visit them again via her blog.

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    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    More news research links from the week

    Not a lot this week, but here's some new public records searches, and interesting blog and resource guide:

  • National Board Certified Teacher search. PI Buzz has links to more teacher searches, by state.
  • North Dakota Courts search searches district courts and some municipal courts for civil, criminal and traffic cases.
  • Nebraska Court Searches ($15).
  • What's New at the Internet Archive, blog noting some of the fascinating things available there.
  • Civil Rights Resource Guide from Library of Congress.

  • Friday, May 11, 2007

    Cost of war

    Just another reminder of how our economy is being devastated by the war in Iraq, the Boston Globe's slide show, What does $456 billion buy? It's a bit Boston-centric, claiming we could have 30 'Big digs' or 3000 new schools like the most expensive new school in Massachusets with the money, but also includes "Free gas for everybody for 1 1/2 years". This one's an eye-opener.

    Thanks to Sean Kelly for the nudge.

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    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    A people finder for reporters

    Just in this week, announcement of a new online database service geared to journalists, Reporter's Edge.

    It's not often I mention a particular product. But this is news, folks, a chance for smaller newspapers that can't afford the big-ticket databases to track down the information they need, or for reporters to get quick access to addresses and phone numbers without going through hoops.

    Created by Judd Slivka, a former newspaper reporter (Arizona Republic, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) who confesses to being a former 'AutoTrak addict', it's the first tracking database designed by, and aimed toward, other reporters and news researchers.

    News went out on the newslib listserv yesterday, and I expect journalist groups are already getting the word.

    I got a chance to try the service and was impressed. First off, it's not a profiling service like Accurint or Autotrack, but is designed for cheap and quick people finding, using address/phone services, credit headers and the like. The results on a name search are similar to, and occasionally more complete, than those on the other services. From a results screen you can get a 'trace detail' that aggregates results on the person you've identified.

    There are several phone searches available, too, including reverse searches, if the name search doesn't find a good one. You can also search properties and UCC filings while there, and combine all the searches into one report.

    For customers who are willing to undergo a 'site inspection' you can also add a fairly comprehensive selection of criminal records checks, from Rapsheets, corrections databases, etc.

    There's no signup fee, no monthly or annual subscription fee, and you pay per search, with people search costs from $1.50 up (phone searches start at $.35) You don't pay for no-hits.

    Besides the online databases, there's also a court search and document retrieval service and more searches can be requested through the parent private investigations company, Olympia Conceptual. For more information: '877-616-4388 or e-mail us at reportersedge (at)' or judd (at)

    I'll be checking this out a bit more, will post any additional thoughts.....

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    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    What we've always needed

    News researchers who've been searching news archives for thirty years, now, have always known the limitations of news retrieval databases.

    From the old days when reporters had to ask a researcher to 'do a Nexis on this', to now, when everyone's doing their own research, we know that when you dip into the archives you don't necessarily know where to focus the search, until you've browsed a lot of less relevant stories.

    Researchers on a mission to find, say, only the best investigative stories on a topic have tricks like searching the IRE's story archive. Or maybe now, using something like LexisNexis News to find a quick collection of stories on a hot topic. But now, how to also add the best blog postings and oddball news sources to it?

    So here's someone else thinking about this, linked by Dave Winer: Amyloo writes Cull it for me, but be specific: who has the best news coverage of this one thing. Great thoughts about what a boon a service that aggregated the best coverage for you would be.
    For ongoing stories, like the U.S. attorney firing scandal, you get all the Talking Points Memo posts about it, plus all the stories about it from a big paper, maybe it's the Post, maybe not, for that particular issue. Depends on whose reporter has fire in the belly about it or seems to have the closest sources.
    For the story on selling the need to attack Iraq, it was the McClatchy (then Knight-Ridder) reporters who owned the story, but most of us didn't know about that until Bill Moyers told us years later.

    (Ahem, a few others pointed that out a long time ago....)

    Wouldn't that be great?

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    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Short weekend roundup

    Not enough new this week for a major research list, but several good things including some public records links:
  • Classic Short Stories to read online.
  • Marine Protected Areas Virtual Library: search/browse literature in the field.
  • The Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants, 1970s classic scanned and put online. From Erowid, 'providing access to reliable, non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants and chemicals and related issues.'
  • Pinellas County, FL Court searches: login as 'guest' for free access.
  • Hillsborough County, FL court dockets; recording index and high-profile cases here.
  • Justia Regulations Tracker searches Federal Register from Jan 2005-present.
  • NFL Player arrests, list of arrests since 2000 compiled by San Diego Union-Tribune.
  • Historic Government Document from World War II, project of SMU and Natl Archives.

    Much more lately on my other blog.

  • Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    May Day

    It was just four years ago today we were told the war was nearly over.

    May Day? We can't call it May Day, the communists celebrate it.

    49 years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower made it Law Day.

    Today, George W. Bush has come up with a 'better' commemoration: Loyalty Day.

    From law:
    "WHEREAS our government has served as an inspiration and a beacon light for oppressed peoples of the World seeking freedom, justice and equality of the individual under law"
    to loyalty:
    "All citizens can express their loyalty to the United States by flying the flag, participating in our democracy, and learning more about our country's grand story of courage and simple dream of dignity."

    Speaking of that, you still have a chance to make your voice heard about the upcoming national 'Real ID'.

    And, how's that War on Terror going again?

    Not so well for foreign visitors to the U.S.: The New Zealand Herald calls it America's War on Tourists.

    25 Years ago today, the World's Fair opened in Knoxville, Tennessee. Calmer days.

    When journalism was king

    Among the still-proliferating tributes to David Halberstam, here's something totally different: Doonesbury has posted a series of strips from 1979, in which Halberstam interviews Rick Redfern about his membership in the fraternity of 'giants of journalism'.
    It brings back memories of the heady days of post-Watergate hubris, when journalism was where everyone wanted to be. Remember? Thank goodness we got over that, but sad to think how much things have turned around. Isn't there a middle ground?

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