Using the Web as an Investigative Reporting Tool


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Mark Horvit gives examples of how to use the Internet and online records effectively as a reporter to do investigative reporting.

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Using the Web as an Investigative Reporting Tool

  1. 1.  Strategy  Know what you’re after  Know what is available  Know when enough is enough Be a smarter searcher Be skeptical – treat each online source just as you would any other
  2. 2.  Advanced search  Search for phrases  Use Boolean logic  By domain or site  By file type  Words in URL
  3. 3. • No one knows for sure, but estimates are that Google searches far less than half of what’s available on the Web – maybe a small fraction. • Each search engine has its own strengths and weaknesses. • Total shared results of any two search engines: 8.9 percent. • Any three search engines: 2.2 percentSource: 2007 study by Dogpile, Penn State and Queensland University of Technology
  4. 4. • (advanced search options)• (Subject-Specific Popularity™)• (clustered results)• Yahoo! (directory)• Jux2 (Multiple search site results returned)• Bing• Twingine (side-by-side results)
  5. 5.  Wikipedia (for links, sources only) Census (esp. Data Finders feature) Public records portals • BRB Publications • Portico
  6. 6.  NICAR Net tour Reporter’s Desktop by Duff Wilson
  7. 7.  FedStats - Portal to government statistics. FirstGov - Portal to federal and local governments. Federal spending USASpending – search and download federal contracts, grants and more.
  8. 8.  The Visible Web (“Surface Web”) is made up of the typical results in search engines. The Invisible Web (“Deep Web”) includes searchable databases / dynamic content. Some estimate the Invisible Web is 550 times bigger than the Visible Web. Google says more than 1,000 federal government sites can’t be “crawled.”
  9. 9.  Facebook Pipl 123people SocialMention Whostalkin Samepoint Icerocket PeekYou
  10. 10.  Search engine cache (Google, Bing) Wayback Machine CyberCemetery – sites of defunct government agencies and commissions Yahoo Site Explorer
  11. 11.  Domain searches reveal all. Domain Tools Allwhois Quarkbase
  12. 12.  Find the location:  Find IP: “Show original” or “View source” of the email.  Lookup IP: Whois Reverse email searches:  Facebook People searches:  Pipl, spokeo Check usernames at Knowem
  13. 13.  Salaries, travel: Cash and votes: Federal: From the source:
  14. 14.  990s –What all 501(c)3 organizations that have more than $25,000 in annual revenue must file with the IRS. Churches are exempt. IRE database library