Reporter Tools

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Reporter Tools


The following guides and reporting tools are resources for professional and citizen journalists. Reporting guides written by investigative reporters offer tips for interviewing, finding and using data, and covering specific beats. Tech tutorials offer step-by-step guides for creating multimedia journalism—audio, video, and web reporting.


REPORTING GUIDES


E-Tools from the Exposé Reporters
Reporting guides written by seasoned investigative reporters offer helpful tips for conducting interviews and using data.

Covering Communities
Tips for journalists—professional and citizen—to get back to the basics of their communities. Emphasizes the importance of “third places” for journalists – getting out into public places where members of the community gather, and listening to what they’re talking about. The site also covers issue of bias, where to look for stories and voices, and how to build online communities for your work.

A Profitable Beat: Covering Business Today
Ten techniques for getting to the heart of stories about business: what documents to look for, tips for finding sources and interview pointers.

Paper Trails: A Guide to Public Records in California (for sale through Amazon.com)
From birth to death, California government agencies record hundreds of significant events in the lives of individuals, organizations and businesses. Now you can enjoy the same access to public records as veteran investigative reporters, private detectives, corporate researchers and librarians. This handbook is your key to unlocking state, county, city, and special district records; records available on the Internet; digitally stored government records; property ownership records; motor vehicle licenses and registration; civil and criminal court records; birth, death and marriage certificates; and hundreds of other records.

Raising Hell: A Citizens Guide to the Fine Art of Investigation
Knowing the facts is essential to educating and organizing citizens so they can participate in the decision making that affects their lives. Citizens have a right to know the facts but this right is useless unless they also have the know-how to obtain them. This guide is an introduction to how and where you can use libraries and public records for facts about individuals, government, corporations and ownership of property. You will want to check many other records, books, publications and people not mentioned here. They are all ballast to balance the secrecy of power with the public's right to know the truth.

Gun Reporting Methodology
This gun reporting methodology stems from CIR's investigation "Hot Guns," a 1997 Emmy award-winning public television documentary on stolen handguns, into one of the largest gun-theft cases in United States' history. There is little journalism in the area of stolen and crime guns, particularly at the local level, and law enforcement is sometimes ignorant about how the black market in handguns functions. This methodology is an attempt to increase public understanding of the black market in handguns and how to investigate and report on this world.

How To Look Up Your Judge
When checking on potential financial conflicts, a good place to start is the judge’s investment list. Every federal judge and magistrate judge must submit a report of their financial interests every year to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington D.C. Filings from the last six years are kept on file there. Apart from annual reports, judges file a nearly identical financial disclosure form when nominated for a judgeship. CIR's Will Evans put together this step-by-step guide for researching the financial disclosures of federal judges.


TECH TOOLS


Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive
This book by Mark Briggs is available for free PDF download thanks to the Knight Digital Media Center. After introducing basic concepts and Web 2.0 it moves into practical guides: how to blog, digital audio and podcasting, taking and managing digital photos, shooting and editing video, scripting and voiceovers and online reporting techniques like crowd-sourcing.

Knight Digital Media Center Tutorials
The motherlode for learning how to use specific equipment, software and skills. There are categories for video, audio, photography, web design, Flash, reporting and mash-ups, with practical tips for beginners to pros.

Online Journalism “How To” Guides
This page presents articles in wiki form – so that more experienced reporters can share their knowledge – on different online journalism skills. Online publishing, writing for the web, managing online communities and tips for video and audio production are all here, along with a discussion on online journalism ethics.

J-Learning: Your How-to Site for Community Journalism
This comprehensive, step-by-step tutorial guides the aspiring community or citizen journalist through the process of making their voice heard on the internet. From planning and building a website, to using multimedia to tell your story and then promoting it: this is a great starting point for DIY reporting.

Make Internet TV
Chapter by chapter, this website uses great visuals to take you through the process of getting a video online. From equipment, shooting and editing techniques, to publishing and promoting your masterpiece, copyright and licensing are also covered.

Google Geo Developers Blog
Loaded with geek-speak, this blog isn’t for the faint-hearted. But if you’re looking for detailed tutorials on how to use the latest features of Google Maps and Google Earth, this is the place for you.


PUBLIC DATABASES


Jump Start Your Reporting
A treasure trove of links to find that source or get your story started. Find out how to search government data, link up with citizen journalists, locate contacts and experts, and follow the money trail behind non-profit organizations. Track the voting history of any member of Congress, analyse federal government spending, or test a document for plagiarism. It’s all here.

Power Reporting
Columbia Journalism Review presents this compendium of journalism resources, to help you know where to look for documents, people and references.

US Public Records Law
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a U.S. law that gives the public a right to obtain copies of certain documents from federal government agencies. The FOIA applies to records held by agencies in the executive branch of the federal government. The executive branch includes cabinet and military departments, government and government-controlled corporations, and other offices, such as independent regulatory agencies. Every U.S. state and some cities have passed laws similar to the federal FOIA that permit the public to request records. Learn more, with resources including a sample FOIA request letter, here.

FOI: Creating Document-driven Newsrooms
Learn how to use Freedom Of Information to access public records and government information in your state, with this collection of tutorials presented in Powerpoint. The Society of Professional Journalists developed these presentations for newsroom training.

Investigative Reporters & Editors
View an archive of databases and resources pulled for news stories by IRE and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. IRE and NICAR have a wealth of tipsheets for different kinds of stories and beats, as well as database services. You will need to become a member to request new data though.

Campaign Finance Information Center
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) track stories and resources on campaign finance and donations here. There’s a state-by-state breakdown as well.