A journalist’s handbook of tips and resources

Web searches / Breaking News / Newspaper, Blog Searches / Open Records / People Finders / Backgrounding Tools / Experts, Issues / Campaign Finance / Business / Nonprofits / Government / Cops, Courts / Medical / Military / Environment / Crashes, Disasters / Databases, Visuals /Libraries/ Reference/Stats / Maps / Smart Phone Apps, Software / Writing Tools / Daily Checks

For journalists — students and professionals alike — it’s easy to get lost in all the tipsheets, books, articles, conferences, and blogs that discuss the latest ways to conduct research and find people.

And it’s easy to forget the old-school methods that faded from memory, but might work just as well as the newest trend.

There’s a way to keep track of it all.

Create your own system, your own tipsheet, in the format that works best for you. Every time you learn about a new resource, write it down in your own web page or document. If it’s an online resource, link to it. Organize your checklists by topics, such as “People Finders” and “Backgrounding.”

Refer to your checklists when you’re working on a story. Add new tools that work. Get rid of the ones that don’t.

You can use your checklist throughout your career. It will help you remember techniques you haven’t used in years but might suddenly be valuable for the story you’re currently working on.

Web Searches and Strategies

  • Wolfram|Alpha: Type your search query, and Wolfram|Alpha finds public data about it and presents the information in an easy-to-digest format. Links to sources are the the bottom of the results.
  • Google Custom Search: Set up your own customized searches for specific websites. Example: San Antonio journos and bloggers. Great for beat reporters.
  • Google data tables search: Finds Fusion Tables and tables on web pages, import the data into your own Fusion Table.
  • Use reverse dictionaries when you know how to describe something, but don’t know the name for it.
  • Google Scholar: For academic articles and legal opinions.
  • Searching for primary documents: Run searches on DocumentCloud, the Government Attic and Scribd, you’ll never know what you find.
  • Google Archive: For old newspaper archives going back decades. Also try New York Times archives, free for subscribers.
  • Google Book Search: Search text inside millions of books. Also check Amazon’s book search.
  • Google Groups: to follow specific topics.
  • For video: video.google.com for everything, not just YouTube.
  • Image search: You can plug a picture into Google’s image search and it will search for similar pictures.
  • Topsy: Search social-media reaction to specific web pages.
  • Facebook public status search.
  • Twitter search.
  • Scirus: Search for scientific studies.
  • FirstGov: Powerful search engine for federal websites.
  • Clusty: Search engine that sorts results into clusters of topics.
  • Whois searches for the owner of a specific web domain: Internic, Network Solutions, Cool Who Is and All Who Is are some options.
  • Alexa: Profiles specific websites.
  • Web strategies:

  • Don’t forget keyword searches of hard drive, Evernote for good material you’ve already found. Evernote’s Chrome plugin allows you to simultaneously search Evernote and Google.
  • Internet archive: The Waybackmachine let’s you plug the url of a website or a page to see older versions of it. Also try Google’s cache feature.
  • If you need a photo that is no longer up, right click on square, save url, and paste url into the Waybackmachine. Old picture should come up.
  • The holy grail of forgotten pages is “index of.” Do a google search for that on a site to find it.
  • Web forms: Use %% or ** in a search box to pull up everything.
  • It is possible to find pages that an agency doesn’t want spiders to crawl. Type in the web site home page /robots.txt. It shows internal pages that they don’t want Google to find.
  • Fun searches: Type mashup [issue of interest] to see what kind of data crunching previous journalists have done.
  • Type filetype:kml [issue of interest] for interactive maps.
  • Google alert: Set one up whenever a new story comes up.
  • Monitor specific web pages and see get an email alert if they’re altered by ChangeDetect.com
  • Google search tips from Dan Russell, a research scientist at Google:

  • intext:[keyword] Sometimes Google drops keywords from your results. Intext:[keyword] forces Google to include that word or phrase.
  • inurl:[keyword] Search result must have that word in the url of the page. Good for finding content under subdirectories of a website.
  • intitle:[keyword] Search result will have that word in the title of the page.
  • [keyword] AROUND(number) [keyword]: Useful for finding words near each other on a web page. Typing John Tedesco AROUND(3) journalism finds any mention of that mysterious name within three words of the term journalism. Useful search for terms like “grand jury” or “lawsuit” near someone’s name.
  • Number range: You can type two periods between numbers and Google will search for that range, such as: 1945..1955 war. Can use within a phrase, and you can use it without the second number to use it to go from a starting point up to infinity. Also seems to work with ..[number].
  • * for whole-word wildcards: Useful when used in conjunction with quotes to find variations of boilerplate language, such as: “how * is celebrated in *”
  • Filetype: Specifics specific file extensions, such as filetype:xls or filetype:doc, for certain types of documents.
  • Site: For searching within a particular website or domain. site:gov shows results from government websites. Site:census.gov shows results from the Census Bureau’s website.
  • Typing an asterisk,*, in a Google Map will pull up all the known locations in the area.
  • Breaking News

  • Geofeedia: Collects social-media posts within a geographic area. Offers livestream and archives. You can go back in time for past events.
  • iWitness: Collects social-media posts within a geographic area. Offers livestream and archives. You can go back in time for past events.
  • Facebook open search
  • Twitter search
  • Google Custom Search: Set up your own customized searches for specific websites. Example: San Antonio journos and bloggers. Great for beat reporters.
  • Police scanners online at Broadcastify.com.
  • DPS daily situation reports for major disasters. Division of Emergency Management.
  • In San Antonio after a major fire, San Antonio Fire Department conducts a review of what went right and what went wrong.
  • For fires at specific companies: Hazardous chemical inventory reports, kept by Texas Department of State Health Services, must make open-records request. Database also available.
  • For emergencies at polluted sites: Check EPA risk management reports.
  • For dilapidated structures, check code compliance complaints.
  • Weather: Interactive Weather Map.
  • Climate: Local, historical stats from the National Weather Service.
  • San Antonio Fire Department active calls: For fires, water rescues, etc.
  • San Antonio Police Department traffic accidents: Includes link to map.
  • TransGuide shows road conditions in Bexar County.
  • Interactive map of TxDOT highway conditions for all of Texas.
  • Bexar County road closures: Due to flooding or other reasons.
  • San Antonio street closures: Due to flooding or other reasons.
  • San Antonio floodplain, safe route map.
  • Newspaper, blog searches

  • The main object of searching through newspapers and periodicals is not simply to compile more and more clippings. It is to find live sources, the people behind the news stories who know the things that didn’t get printed — from “Get the Facts on Anyone.”
  • Google News search.
  • Google’s blog search.
  • IceRocket for blogs, Twitter, Facebook and web searches.
  • Express-News archives: Public search, Intranet.
  • LexisNexis news search.
  • NewsBank.
  • Highbeam: Pay-as-you-go site for newspaper and magazine articles.
  • Google News Archives for historical searches.
  • New York Times archives, free for subscribers.
  • Online Newspapers, to find specific publications.
  • Newspaperarchive.com is another archive resource for old news clippings.
  • Newspapers.com: Another fee-based archival service.
  • Fulton History: Free, searchable newspaper archives.
  • Brooklyn Newsstand: Free, searchable archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, one of the best newspapers of the 19th Century.
  • Wall Street journal archives.
  • Alternative Press Index.
  • Obits: Legacy.com.
  • Open Records

  • Tipsheet from the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2013 conference about how to win open-records battles. Includes tips about navigating the Texas Public Information Act.
  • Texas Attorney General web page, to search past open records opinions, see what’s available and get ideas. Type in an agency name and see what pops up.
  • Text of the Texas Public Information Act, Open Meetings Act.
  • Tapping Officials’ Secrets: Are you trying to figure out if you can access autopsy reports, personnel records or hospital records in California, Texas or any of the 48 other states? You can find out at this incredible site. Each state has an online guide to its open record and open meetings laws. Click on a state and browse through the list of topics.
  • People Finders

  • LexisNexis person locator, includes credit reporting agency header information.
  • Unclaimed property: Can check known addresses for people on Comptroller’s website.
  • Bexar County web app for criminal and civil cases: Single search to find both criminal and civil cases.
  • Check filings at county clerks’ offices. Judgments, deeds, liens and other types of records are filed there. Bexar County County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff offers free searches for records going back decades.
  • Land records search of the county where the person lives to see if they own property.
  • Pipl: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • 123People: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • PeekYou: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • Zabasearch: Useful site to find addresses, phone numbers.
  • PeopleFinders.com: Does what it says. Free search, pay a fee for more info.
  • Public records search systems.
  • Spokeo: Generates profiles from a variety of sources. Free and paid search.
  • IceRocket for blogs, Twitter, Facebook and web searches.
  • Fonefinder: For reverse searches if you have a phone number.
  • Google phone numbers and addresses, see what pops up.
  • County recorder’s office: Shows deeds, judgments other type of records.
  • Check Facebook Can also check Facebook public posts.
  • ZoomInfo: Site that creates dossiers on the web for people or companies you’re interested in.
  • Check Panda (Searchable public databases on news Intranet sites) or search your hard drive for any references in public data or documents you’ve already downloaded. Copernic Desktop Search is one option.
  • Voter registration records.
  • Driver’s license info.
  • Appraisal District property search, shows owners actual address.
  • Bexar County deed search; assumed name search can find home addresses.
  • Marriage license search can help you find current and former spouses, dates of birth.
  • County court, district court, and federal court indexes.
  • Texas boat database (on CD at work)
  • Pet license database.
  • City Directories, reverse look ups, old phone books are on file at city libraries.
  • AT&T Toll-free National 800 Directory: 800-555-1212.
  • Phone directories at agency or business.
  • Phone numbers: Anywho.com
  • Google Groups, formerly Deja News: Newsgroups are the Internet’s version of bulletin boards. People who share interests on a topic post messages to a site. There are newsgroups on many topics ranging from computers, sports and hobbies to politics and business. Search a newsgroup that corresponds to your beat. Talk to people from around the country.
  • Four11 phone number Web Searcher: The Four11 database is huge – including more than 500,000 listings. Before you start your search, you will have to register your own name and e-mail address. When searching for an individual, you can enter their name, address, and last known e-mail address. Hints to searching: searches are NOT case sensitive, start with just a name search and narrow down from that list.
  • To find owners of websites: Whois: Internic, Network Solutions, Cool Who Is and All Who Is are some options. DomainsDB.com offers reverse IP searches. Find out what other sites are shared on the computer of a site you’re looking at.
  • Yahoo People Search: Search for people using their name and location. This search engine also allows you to search using phone numbers only.
  • Switchboard: The Internet phone book. Switchboard is a nationwide residential and business directory.
  • Ancestry Search: Site directed specifically towards those doing genealogical research but does link to the Social Security Death Index.
  • The Church of Christ offers its genealogy searches at www.familysearch.org
  • WhoWhere? This site will help you find individual’s e-mail addresses, phone numbers or mailing address, as well as directory information and Web pages for businesses.
  • AnyWho directories can find people and businesses.
  • Yellow Pages.
  • Backgrounding

  • Get correct spelling for complete name, date of birth, address, associated companies, family members, etc. Start doing parallel searches on those people, entities and addresses too.
  • Parallel backgrounding: As other names affiliated with subject come up, look up what they’re up to. Check articles they’re mentioned in.
  • Good way to run Internet searches for people: Type [“first name1 OR first name2 last name” OR “last name, firstname1 OR firstname2″ firstname AROUND(1) lastname.] Helps deal with middle names, name variations and pages where last name precedes the first name.
  • Unclaimed property: Can check known addresses for people on Comptroller’s website.
  • Check filings at county clerks’ offices. Judgments, deeds, liens and other types of records are filed there. Bexar County County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff offers free searches for records going back decades.
  • Bexar County web app for criminal and civil cases: Single search to find both criminal and civil cases.
  • Do focused, creative web searches: intext:[name] plus terms such as “grand jury” or “lawsuit” or “indicted” can lead to interesting sites. Try using Google’s “AROUND” function to narrow results: [name] AROUND(3) “grand jury.”
  • Try searching for individual with Google Image search, see what pops up.
  • Try searching for their username. If not known, try initial of first name, then last name.
  • Searching for primary documents: Run searches on DocumentCloud, the Government Attic and Scribd, you’ll never know what you find.
  • Pipl: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • PeekYou: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • Spokeo: Generates profiles from a variety of sources. Free and paid search.
  • 123People: Searches the invisible Web by plugging name into various websites.
  • Newspaper/Blog Searches
  • Check Panda (Searchable public databases on news Intranet sites).
  • Search your hard drive for any references in public data or documents you’ve already downloaded. Copernic Desktop Search is one option.
  • Check the professional or licensing boards of their profession. For example, the Texas Real Estate Commission has thick files on licensed real estate agents.
  • For businesses: Check consumer complaints filed with Attorney General’s office. Can often find contact information for consumers.
  • For businesses: Better Business Bureau.
  • Federal tax court, search for keywords.
  • Voter Registration records, can get date of birth.
  • ZoomInfo: Site that creates dossiers on the web for people or companies you’re interested in.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter
  • PublicData.com, LexisNexis: Track down public records.
  • Vital Check: Paid site for vital records such as birth and death certificates.
  • Public records by location.
  • Driver’s license records, can get date of birth.
  • Motor vehicle records, to see asset ownership and find addresses.
  • Court files and police records: Probate, criminal (also check with San Antonio magistrate’s office for recent arrests), civil, Pacer, DPS conviction search and sex offender search. Bankruptcy files and tax court records contain personal financial info. Check police calls made to subject’s address. Can contact Texas Department of Correction to check time served. For other states, try Courthouse Direct. Check the federal inmate locator to find out whether the person ever served time in a federal prison and when they were released.
  • County deed records: key word search on Bexar County page. Can find judgments and tax liens, among other records. For other states, try Courthouse Direct. On same site, assumed name search can lead to home address, and marriage license search can lead to date of birth.
  • Court depositions can lead to date of birth, family members.
  • County appraisal districts, for property ownership.
  • Birth certificates.
  • Who Is search. Cool Who Is also works.
  • Obits: Legacy.com.
  • The Work Number, site that charges a fee for those who want to verify the employment history of an individual.
  • Who is John Doe?
  • Texas Public Record finder.
  • Patents. Also check Google patents advanced search.
  • Copy rights search
  • College degrees: Degree Check
  • Texas Administrative Rulings: Searchable index includes names and offers a rich source of cases for many state agencies.
  • If you have an e-mail address, try a @xxxx.xxx search on Google and Google groups to see what pops up.
  • “Index to Marquis Who’s Who Publications,” includes publications such as “Who’s Who in America.” There’s also a “Complete Who’s Marquis Who’s Who Plus,” a CD Rom product. Marquis provides a search service for a fee.
  • Family History Library Catalog.
  • Gale Research’s “Biography and Genealogy Master Index,” or BGMI. A collection of Who’s whos. It indexes over 8 million biographical sketches from 2,000 editions and volumes of 700 source publications.
  • H.W. Wilson Company’s “Biography Index,” an index of articles in over 2,700 periodicals.
  • www.namebase.org is a database of people and entities who have been named in investigative books.
  • Social Security Death Benefits Index.
  • Merit Systems Protection Board: Good way to find federal whistleblowers.
  • SEC records show stock holdings.
  • Department of Labor form LM-30 lists business dealings of labor union official’s family members.
  • Robert B. Slocum’s “Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works.” It describes 16,000 source publications. Good if you know a subject’s background.
  • Social registries for prominent families. “Vanity” directories.
  • State government handbooks for state legislators and officials.
  • College class anniversary directories.
  • Books written by family members. (Remember the former Corpus Christi mayor)
  • Archives (IRE tipsheet) might have files on subject. Check National Security Archive for declassified information.
  • Vertical files in libraries.
  • Presidential libraries for bigwigs.
  • Check campaign contributions, personal financial disclosures, if relevant.
  • If checking assets, use the Texas boat database (on CD at office)
  • Ancestry Search Site includes link to American Biographical Library.
  • Biography, for famous figures.
  • Congressional Biographical Directory
  • Grolier Online: The American Presidency Biographies on presidents, vice presidents, and first ladies. Also includes articles on American government, elections, and politics since 1776.
  • Catalogue of federal documents, freakin’ awesome. Will show you which federal depository keeps the documents.
  • Specific professions:
  • Lawyers: www.texasbar.com — Find Texas lawyers and find out if they’ve been disciplined for infractions. Can also try Martindale Hubbell.
  • Realtors: Ask for file from Texas Real Estate Commission.
  • Doctors: Texas medical board; www.searchpointe.com.
  • Pilots: Landings.com, FAA
  • Experts, issues

  • Wolfram|Alpha: Type your search query, and Wolfram|Alpha finds public data about it and presents the information in an easy-to-digest format. Links to sources are the the bottom of the results.
  • FirstGov: Powerful search engine for federal websites.
  • ProfNet has databases that reporters can search by area of expertise to find potential sources.
  • Yearbook of Experts.
  • IRE morgue, tip sheet archive.
  • National Reference Center, for criminal-justice issues.
  • Congressional Hearings.
  • Findlaw: Directory of lawyers’ names as well as contact information. Site also allows you to search by subject for a lawyer.
  • Yearbook of Experts, Authorities and Spokespersons: Provides a searchable database by topic and keyword.
  • Kitty Bennett, news researcher at the St. Petersburg Times, has created a one-stop site for finding expert sources.
  • St. Mary’s University, UTSA, UT Austin and A&M offer their faculty for media contacts.
  • GPO Multiple database search, useful for finding government reports.
  • Google Groups.
  • FedStats: The one-stop-shopping place for federal agency statistics.
  • “Who Knows What,” book on my desk.
  • “Business Information Sources,” on my desk.
  • Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator
  • ProfNet: A service of PR Newswire that attempts to connect reporters with experts.
  • Experts.com
  • Census Data.Multiple sources. IRE has a user-friendly page.
  • Historical Census Data
  • Current Population Survey: Information from the monthly Current Population Survey, the primary source of information on the labor force.
  • City and County Reference Book
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics Access to BJS publications, press releases and public use data files.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
  • National Center for Education Statistics.
  • National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Catalog of government publications.
  • Campaign Finance

  • LegiStorm: Look up trips and other disclosures. Awesome site.
  • Maplight: Shows contributions to lawmakers by interests and topics and how they voted.
  • Center for Responsive Politics: This campaign contributions site details how much candidates have raised, how much they’ve spent, and how much cash they have on hand. Also learn about the source of funds, who the contributors are, and what industries give the most.
  • Vote Smart: A nice site that lets you search past speeches of politicians.
  • Campaign Finance Information Center: This site, sponsored by IRE, is well-organized and easy to use.
  • Texas Ethics Commission, for state office holders. This page has other reports, such as lobbying records. Center for Public Integrity has financial disclosure forms for Texas Reps and Senators.
  • Federal Election Commission: The Official FEC website.
  • Former site of FEC Info: This site is one of the most up-to-date campaign finance sites available. It was founded by a former FEC aide.
  • Texas Secretary of State Elections
  • San Antonio campaign finance web page, searchable.
  • Business

  • Search Facebook, Linked Premium to find former employees.
  • Edgar Full Text search
  • How to use SEC filings: Tips by the Reynolds Center.
  • Texas Secretary of State’s SOSDirect offers search of scanned company incorporation papers and public information reports for companies in Texas.
  • Open Corporates: Searchable, open-source site that collects business filings.
  • Unclaimed property: Can check known addresses for people on Comptroller’s website.
  • FRED: User-friendly economic data compiled by the Federal Reserve:
  • ZoomInfo: Outstanding site that creates dossiers on the web for people or companies you’re interested in.
  • Search consumer complaints made to Texas Attorney General office about a particular company.
  • Window on State Government: Texas Comptroller: Offers a corporation search for companies public information reports showing company officers in a web interface.
  • Dunn & Bradstreet: Get credit reports
  • Hoovers.com. Site contains information on thousands of public and private companies. You can access capsules about companies and news, but not company profiles. Hoover Company Profiles are available on LexisNexis.
  • Standard & Poor’s Online Registry.
  • The Work Number, site that charges a fee for those who want to verify the employment history of an individual.
  • TCEQ’s database of environmental complaints tracks companies.
  • www.corporateinformation.com.
  • For $100, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce will provide a credit report and background info on foreign companies. Ask for World Trade Data Reports, www.doc.gov.
  • Federal tax court, search for keywords.
  • www.businesscreditusa.com will provide, for $3, location, employees, liens, and other types of documents.
  • The Annual Reports Library: This is a library of over 1.45 million original reports (and proxies) from corporations, foundations, banks, mutual funds and public institutions. The site also has helpful information about reading annual reports. Although the focus is on researching public companies, the site also discusses checking the background of not-for-profit or private companies.
  • Thomas Regional: Try the online version of the Thomas directory. which offers quick Internet access to over 480,000 manufacturers, distributors and service companies organized under 4,500 product/service categories in 19 key U.S. industrial markets. You can search by product/service or company name in the region of your choice. You can also refine your search based on company type, geographic location, trade name, keywords and more.
  • Yahoo! Finance: Company profiles from Market Guide, who provides information on over 8,000 public companies, including contact information, business summaries, officer and employeee information, sector and industry classifications, business and earnings announcement summaries, and financial statistics and ratios. Yahoo adds stock charts based on historical data from Commodity Systems, Inc. (CSI), and links to other resources.
  • EDGAR: Search the SEC’s Edgar site for 10-K’s, 10-Q’s and other SEC documents. NYU Stern Business School: Search SEC documents at this site too. At this site, the full-text of the SEC document is searchable.
  • www.namebase.org is a database of people and entities who have been named in investigative books.
  • Small Business Administration
  • Department of Commerce
  • Metropolitan Area Exports – U.S. Dept. of Commerce: This report furnishes 1997 statistics on merchandise export sales by businesses located in 253 of the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).
  • U.S. Business Advisor
  • U.S. International Trade Commission
  • Department of Treasury
  • Real Estate Center: Access data on home sales, building permits, rural land values and more.
  • Law Guru.com: The Legal Research link allows you to search over 400 legal search engines, including a Multiple Resource Research Tool which allows you to search different legal resources at the same time. The Questions and Answers link allows you to search a database of past legal questions that have been answered by a network of attorneys. Currently there are over 3,000 questions and answers in over 25 legal categories.
  • Consumers Union: Offers information on a variety of consumer issues, including health care, financial services, food safety, etc. Searchable.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Elevators, escalators and more: Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Also oversees barbers, cosmetologists, and other industries. Go here for elevator and escalator inspections. Go here for checking out architectural plans filed by companies for new construction.
  • Nonprofits

  • Guidestar: For nonprofit information and 990 tax forms.
  • Citizen audit: Keyword searches of 10 years of 990 tax forms. New resource.
  • The Foundation Center has 990s, just like Guidestar.
  • For 990s directly from the IRS, contact the Ogden office: Internal Revenue Service, Ogden Service Center, P.O. Box 9941, Ogden, UT 84401, Media Request Desk. Fax: 801-620-7896. Phone: 801-620-7291.
  • Texas law says nonprofits must open their financial books to the public. Vernon’s Texas Civil Statutes, chapter 9.
  • Federal audits database: Audits of nonprofits that receive federal grant money.
  • Internet Non-Profit Center.
  • BBB Wise Giving Alliance has dossiers on many organizations.
  • American Institute of Philantrhopy is another watchdog.
  • IRS charity search: Online database of nonprofit agencies.
  • Charity navigator offers reports on more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations.
  • Nonprofit CEO compensation study, by charity navigator.
  • How to read a 990.
  • Government

    Federal

  • GPO Multiple database search, useful for finding government reports.
  • FirstGov: Powerful search engine for federal websites.
  • Searching for primary documents: Run searches on DocumentCloud, the Government Attic and Scribd, you’ll never know what you find.
  • LegiStorm: Look up trips and other disclosures. Awesome site.
  • Maplight: Shows contributions to lawmakers by interests and topics and how they voted.
  • U.S. Government Manual
  • The Congressional Directory.
  • Federal Information Center at www.info.gov indexes government agencies.
  • Catalogue of federal documents, freakin awesome. Will show you which federal depository keeps the documents.
  • U.S. Code Annotated, searchable index.
  • Code of Federal Regulations
  • Federal Register, searchable.
  • Declassified Documents Reference System, for FOIA. Also check out descriptions of records that are available at each agency. Found in Federal Register. The Office of Budget and Management has an agency-by-agency inventory of forms and procedures by which information is gathered from the public.
  • GAO reports
  • IGNet: Links to 60 federal Offices of Inspectors General. Provides public access to IG reports on a number of topics.
  • “Index to U.S. Governmental Periodicals.”
  • National Technical Information Service, for periodical info and government reports.
  • Presidential libraries.
  • Firstgov for government searches.
  • Federal Contracts: Check the Federal Procurement System.
  • Federal News Service, for transcripts of speeches and other material
  • Vote Smart: A nice site that lets you search past speeches of politicians.
  • National Archives.
  • Merit Systems Protection Board: Good way to find federal whistleblowers.
  • U.S. Government Subscriptions Catalog.
  • GPO Multiple database search, useful for finding government reports.
  • Congressional Hearings.
  • THOMAS Legislative Information: Full text of legislation, full text of the Congressional Record, information on bill status, connection to C-SPAN gopher.
  • The Hill: The Hill has the largest weekly circulation on Capitol Hill and has a target audience composed of Congress, the Executive Branch, Cabinet-level departments as well as public-interest and lobbying groups. Online version is not complete.
  • Voter Information Services: Evaluations of individual congresspeople from a number of organizations. See who opposes or supports various interest groups.
  • FedWorld: Developed by the U.S. National Technical Information Service.
  • Search the U.S. Government Manual.
  • Superintendent of Documents: Main page of the GPO. Find products on sale from the GPO, link to searchable databases or browse federal bulletin boards.
  • DefenseLink Includes a searchable database of defense information sources. Official homepage of the department of defense.
  • National Archive of Criminal Justice
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service: Great for crime studies.
  • National Archive of Criminal Justice Data: Look up crime statistics.
  • Federal Register.
  • Texas, states

  • Search Systems: Lists public web sites, can confirm whether agency has one.
  • 50 States and Capital Cities Information Link
  • Texas Almanac
  • The Portal to Texas History: Site includes searchable index of state regulations.
  • The New Handbook of Texas Online: The most comprehensive historical encyclopedia of any state with easy access to more than 23,900 articles on every aspect of Texas history.
  • Texas Register: Official publication of state for state government open meeting notices and for proposed or amended administrative law (rules and regulations). Issued twice a week. Current and back issues are available and searchable.
  • Texas Administrative Code: Official compilation of state rules and regulations.
  • Texas Administrative Rulings: Searchable index offers a rich source of cases for many state agencies.
  • Real Estate Center: Access data on home sales, building permits, rural land values and more.
  • Texas Transparency: Links to public databases.
  • Texas Legislature: Watch videos of legislative hearings and look up the progress of a bill.
  • Bexar County civil index. New searchable online index.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals – 5th Circuit: Federal appeals court. Links to Tarleton Law Library’s site which enables one to search for 5th Circuit cases by docket number, the parties involved or keyword. Can also find full-text of the controversial Hopwood case.
  • Supreme Court of Texas
  • Opinions of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Texas Fourth Court of Appeals, search for legal opinions.
  • Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.
  • Local

  • BRBPub: Quickly find agencies by location, jurisdiction. Drill down to the local level.
  • City Hall phonebook of city employees.
  • Development Services site allows you to look up city permits by address and applicant.
  • San Antonio Development Services documents
  • San Antonio’s municipal code, a searchable site
  • Texas Counties, property searches and more.
  • Bexar County Appraisal District: Click on “Property Search” and enter an address, an account number or a name. Typical record may include an owner’s name, the appraised value of the property for two to three years, property characteristics, tax information, and a blueprint sketch of the home or building on the property.
  • San Antonio City Council agendas.
  • San Antonio digital records archive search
  • Cops, Courts

  • Pacer: For looking up federal criminal, civil and bankruptcy cases.
  • Bexar County District Clerk index to civil cases.
  • Magistrate search: Check whether someone’s been arrested in Bexar County.
  • Bexar County web app for criminal and civil cases: Single search to find both criminal and civil cases.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service: Great for crime studies.
  • National Archive of Criminal Justice Data: Look up crime statistics.
  • National Institute of Justice, for studies.
  • Search.org for justice policy issues. The Clearinghouse for Justice Information & Statistics is produced by the Department of Justice. Contains links to datasets and codebooks for downloading to ASCII files, Acrobat files, or ordering. Full-text reports on corrections, capital punishment, jail inmates, probation and parole available.
  • Security on Campus site for crime stats at colleges.
  • Justice Technology: Research into new tech.
  • Sourcebook of criminal justice stats.
  • Supreme Court Decisions: Decisions of the Supreme Court as well as historic decisions and other related material.
  • Tax Court.
  • FindLaw: Many links to Internet legal resources including judicial opinions.
  • Legal Information Institute (Cornell Law School).
  • Medical

  • PubMed: Access to MEDLINE database which contains references to articles in over 3800 biomedical journals.
  • WONDER: Disease statics from the CDC.
  • Texas Cancer Registry.
  • Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy: Search the Merck Manual for lists of causes, symptoms and prognosis of diseases. Also covered are: mental conditions, pediatrics and infectious disease.
  • Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this site has information on public health topics like emerging infectious diseases, immunization and environmental health. You can also search MMWR materials back to 1993. Link to morbidity tables by year, week and location.
  • American Board of Medical Specialties: Access two great search engines at this site. Certified Doctor Verification Service checks the board of certification status of any physician certified by one or more of the 24 member boards of the ABMS. Certified Doctor Search Service allows you to search by specialty and geographic region.
  • Texas Medical Board: Check the status of a doctor’s license.
  • Texas Board of Nursing: Check whether a nurse had been disciplined.
  • Healthcare Report Cards: Performance ratings of hospitals based on Medicare data. Select by procedure and geographical area for rating charts.
  • Military

  • DefenseLink Includes a searchable database of defense information sources. Official homepage of the department of defense.
  • Media requests for retired military veterans: Fax request on company letterhead with any information we have about veteran to 314-801-0763. State “Media request” on letter on on coverage page.
  • Finding personnel: Tipsheet from Poynter
  • Air Force Personnel Locator: HQAFPC/MSIMDL 550 C Street West, Suite 50, Randolph, AFB: 565-2660. Provide full name and soc. Number. Can also provide a Certificate of Record of Military Service to substantiate service. (P. 4 ILLB)
  • Army Personnel Locator: Send letter to Army World Wide Locator, U.S. Army Enlisted Records & Evaluation Center, 8899 E. 56th St., Indianapolis, IN 46249-5301, 703-325-3732. Online at www.erec.army.mil/wwl. Certficiate of service request can be made to U.S. Army Enlisted Records & Evaluation Center, ATTN: PCRE-RP, Indianapolis, IN, 46249-5301.
  • Former military personnel: National Personnel Records Center: 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO, 63132-5200 . 314-801-0764, Write Media Request.
  • DEERS – “Defense Enrollment Eilgibility Reporting System.” How the gov. knows who’s in the military. From California: 800-334-4162. Alask and Hawaii: 800-527-5602. All other states: 800-538-9552
  • Environment

  • CDC Pocket Guide to hazardous chemicals.
  • EPA document search.
  • Hazardous chemical inventory reports, Texas Department of Health, must make open-records request. Database also available.
  • EPA’s Envirofacts web page profiles polluters.
  • EPA’sTRI “Toxic Release Inventory” reports.
  • TCEQ tracks environmental complaints.
  • The Right to Know Network: Look up risk-management plans filed by companies.
  • Society of Environmental Journalists, offers valuable tip sheets.
  • Crashes, Disasters

  • Google Public Alerts: Map of severe weather warnings, other disasters.
  • TxDOT offers crash data for the entire state.
  • DPS daily situation reports for major disasters. Division of Emergency Management.
  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System: The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) contains data on all vehicle crashes in the United States that occur on a public roadway and involve a fatality in the crash. This site provides instant access to FARS data via the Query Engine, Wizard, and Reports Library. A lot of the information can be broken down by state, county and city.
  • Aviation accidents: Searchable by the “N number” of an aircraft to look up past accidents.
  • Landings.com: Search a variety of aviation databases, such as aircraft registrations and pilot licenses.
  • Carfax: Look up whether a vehicle has had past accidents.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Safercar.gov
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • Transportation research library.
  • Safer: For truck safety.
  • Marine Information: Coast Guard accident data. Search and find accident reports in the Coast Guard Marine Information Exchange.
  • Cruise line crime stats.
  • Bexar County flood maps.
  • Forest Fires: Bureau of Land Management
  • Floods: U.S. Office of Hydrology
  • Elevator accidents: Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation posts elevator and escalator inspections. Also handles barbers, cosmetologists, and other industries.
  • National Response Center: Site where chemical spills are reported.
  • Chemical safety board.
  • Databases, Visuals

  • Use Google’s site: and filetype: operator to find spreadsheets, forms and other types of files that hint at the kind of data an agency keeps.
  • Google data tables search: Finds Fusion Tables and tables on web pages, import the data into your own Fusion Table.
  • batchgeo: Geocode data to create interactive maps.
  • Wolfram|Alpha: Type your search query, and Wolfram|Alpha finds public data about it and presents the information in an easy-to-digest format. Links to sources are the the bottom of the results.
  • Statwing: Upload a spreadsheet and quickly create visualizations.
  • Keep an eye out for interesting statistics that might reveal the existence of a unique database.
  • Socrata: For sharing and posting data.
  • Data Toolkit: Offers all kinds of open-source tools, such as geocoding addresses in Microsoft Excel.
  • SkyDrive
  • Google Charts
  • Google Fusion Tables: Create embedable, interactive maps and charts.
  • Google Playground: Coding for interactive charts.
  • Google Media Tools: An assortment of tools for online journalists.
  • Datawrapper: Tool to create interactive charts.
  • Chartbuilder: Quartz app that helps you build a data viz.
  • Timeline JS: Easily create an interactive timeline based on a Google spreadsheet.
  • Timemapper: Built on Timeline JS, with mapping capabilities.
  • Libraries

    Using libraries efficiently – p. 29 of the “Reporter’s Handbook”

  • Tap the Library of Congress’ search headings.
  • After finding a useful book, bottom lines of the title page should be checked for a “tracing,” the subject heading assigned to that title. Can find other books that way.
  • Browsing leads to unexpected finds.
  • With a specific book, a citation search can tell you who has cited it and lead to more sources.
  • Bibliographies.
  • Reference, books to check at library, online resources:

  • Library of Congress.
  • National Archives
  • Finding guides: Used to find pertinent material, finding guides are sometimes posted online, or archives will send them to you. Check out WorldCat, a library catalogue that includes 50,000 finding guides.
  • Catalogue of federal documents, freakin’ awesome. Will show you which federal depository keeps the documents.
  • clippings: Ex-files, LexisNexis news search, Google news search, http://www.findarticles.com/, Wall Street journal web archives, Factiva, Alternative Press Index.
  • New York Times Archives going back a century.
  • Searching for primary documents: Run searches on DocumentCloud, the Government Attic and Scribd, you’ll never know what you find.
  • GPO catalogue: A searchable database of government publications.
  • Highwire Press: A database of peer-reviewed journals.
  • Congressional Research Service. CRS, a research arm of Congress, provides legislators and congressional aides excellent non-partisan briefing papers on many complex issues. CRS does not make its reports available to the public, but many reports are online. CRS environmental-related reports are available through the National Library for the Environment.
  • Congressional Quarterly.
  • Newsletters search. “Newsletters in Print.” (own) “Oxbridge Directory of Newsletters.”
  • Archives: Check the Archives Portal for locations. Presidential archives for bigwigs and National Security Archives for declassified info. Texas Archives offer indexes, and UTSA at downtown office offer local searches. National Archives search, easy and awesome. Finding guides: Used to find pertinent material, finding guides are sometimes posted online, or archives will send them to you. Check out WorldCat, a library catalogue that includes 50,000 finding guides.
  • NTPA: “National Trade and Professional Associations” directory. Located on second floor, section 61 of main library.
  • “Research Centers Directory,” located on second floor, section 61 of main library. Awesome.
  • Loompaniacs Unlimited, offers weird publications.
  • “Directories in Print.” Own recent edition.
  • City Directories.
  • Encyclopedia of Associations. (Own)
  • Who Knows What, book. (Own)
  • Newsletters in Print.
  • Who’s Who in America.
  • Standard Periodical Directory, by Oxford Communications.
  • Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory.
  • Newsletter Publishers Foundation.
  • Find newsletters online: http://www.newsletteraccess.com/.
  • National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States, and State and Regional Associations of the United States, by Columbia Books.
  • Dissertations and thesis, found through Dissertation Abstracts International or Masters Abstracts International. Also try digital library at http://www.ndltd.org/.
  • Phone directories at company or business.
  • Reference, Stats

  • Wolfram|Alpha: Type your search query, and Wolfram|Alpha finds public data about it and presents the information in an easy-to-digest format. Links to sources are the the bottom of the results.
  • Google data tables search: Finds Fusion Tables and tables on web pages, import the data into your own Fusion Table.
  • C-Span archives: Searchable database of C-Span coverage.
  • IPL2: Research site set up by reference librarians.
  • “Statistics Sources” (Book I own)
  • Fed Stats
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States.
  • National Safety Council for stats on injuries, deaths in United States.
  • National Bureau of Economic Research: Carries economic time series for the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, and a macro history database with monthly and quaterly analysis. Covers construction, employment, money, commodity prices, foreign trade from pre-World War I to the end of World War II. Data is ASCII and can be downloaded in DBMS format.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Data and reports on transportation safety for aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians, etc., including the FAA Statistical Handbook on Aviation.
  • Maps and Geography

  • Online: Google maps, Google Earth, Microsoft Live Search has incredible bird’s eye view and business and people search features; Yahoo Maps has nice business search
    feature.
  • Google Maps Gallery: Organizations can upload their data to make Google Map mashups that are open to the public.
  • Sharp aerial photos: Terraserver, GlobXplorer, SpaceImaging.com, USGS’ Earth Science Information Center, Google maps, Google Earth, Microsoft Live Search, Yahoo Maps.
  • San Antonio GIS homepage and the TIF page and city aerial photo page at Image Server. Also, KML generator of San Antonio map layers.
  • Longitude, latitude finders
  • The TIGER Page: Census maps.
  • USGS Mapping Information: GNIS Data Base Query Form.
  • UT Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection.
  • Floodplain maps in Bexar County.
  • Handy Smart Phone Apps, Software

  • Storyful Multisearch: Chrome plugin that lets you search multiple social media networks.
  • Google Media Tools: An assortment of tools for online journalists.
  • Datawrapper: Tool to create interactive charts.
  • Chartbuilder: Quartz app that helps you build a data viz.
  • Ban.jo: Alerts you when your social-media contacts are nearby at a breaking news event.
  • Wolfram|Alpha: Type your search query, and Wolfram|Alpha finds public data about it and presents the information in an easy-to-digest format. Links to sources are the the bottom of the results. Also has a paid smartphone app.
  • FRED: Official app of the Federal Reserve Economic Database. Check economic data on the go.
  • Cam Scanner, Handy Scanner and Genius Scan: Scan documents to your smart phone as jpeg or pdf files.
  • PrimoPDF: Desktop app that creates pdf files out of a series of jpg images.
  • Voice recorder: Phone app.
  • Google Voice: For text, voice mail and making calls. Get your own Google number.
  • Evernote: Save everything from your phone or computer and make it all instantly searchable. Uses OCR technology to make jpg images searchable, too. Handy for keeping track of business cards, story files, Web bookmarks.
  • Yelp and Foursquare: Can be used for researching businesses and finding customers.
  • Audioboo: For instant podcasting — make a recording on your phone and upload it straight to the Web. Simple.
  • Reference: Dictionary.com has an app that gives you a mobile dictionary and thesaurus, and Wapedia offers a simple interface to look up information on Wikipedia.
  • For political junkies, the Sunlight Foundation made the Congress app. You can look up bills and profiles of U.S. senators and representatives, read their tweets and check out their YouTube videos, and contact them. The foundation also made Sitegeist, which gives you a statistical snapshot of a neighborhood.
  • Police scanner: Scanner Radio checks for live streams of emergency channels in your area and lets you listen to police scanners on your phone.
  • Photoshop: Smart phone app for touching up photos.
  • Writing Tools

  • Use reverse dictionaries when you know how to describe something, but don’t know the name for it.
  • Google Dictionary: Chrome extension lets you double click on a word to quickly see the definition.
  • Visual Thesaurus: Shows how words are related.
  • After the Deadline: Proofs copy, improves your writing.
  • Poynter’s Writing tips: Here and here
  • Answers.com: Browser add-on that lets you double click on words to instantly get a definition.
  • Define operator: Type define:[term] in Google to find obscure meanings of all kinds of words, including memes that aren’t in any dictionary.
  • Synonym finder, Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com. Merriam-Webster dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Term.ly: A dictionary and thesaurus in one.
  • Daily Checks

  • Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Feedly, Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter Times, #opengov daily, #journalism daily, John Tedesco daily, Express-News daily, Watchdog Daily
  • Local media: mySA.com, Express-News.com, WOIA, KSAT, KENS, KABB, San Antonio Current, Texas Public Radio.
  • Local blogs, websites: City-Data San Antonio forum, Reddit San Antonio forum, Reddit Texas, Rhetoric and Rhythm, Poli-Tex, South Texas Chisme, Concerned Citizens, Waspy Redhead, Jennifer Hiller, Puro Pinche
  • Texas media: Texas Tribune, Texas Watchdog, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chron, Austin American-Statesman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Caller-Times, Texas Monthly, Breitbart Texas, Don’t Grow Texas, Grits for Breakfast.
  • Journalism: Romenesko, Poynter, Nieman Journalism Lab.
  • Other news sites: ProPublica, NYTimes, Washington Post, LA Times, Talking Points Memo, Consumerist, io9.
  • Search websites of San Antonio news orgs and blogs.