I still blog!

November 30th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

Anyone looking for updates on how I’m doing in New Orleans, click here!

With CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer and my fellow Tulane AmeriCorps VISTAs.

With CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer and my fellow Tulane AmeriCorps VISTAs.

Celebrating Super Service Challenge winnings with my YRNO colleagues.

Celebrating Super Service Challenge winnings with my YRNO colleagues.

Chillin' with Jim Coningsby at the Project Homecoming gala.

Chillin’ with Jim Coningsby at the Project Homecoming gala.

Hangin' with the Tulane volleyball team in the 9th Ward.

Hangin’ with the Tulane volleyball team in the 9th Ward.

Relocated!

July 9th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

As of July 2013, I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA at Tulane’s Center for Public Service, working with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.  Part of my job is volunteer coordination, so if any of y’all ever want to have some fun and help rebuild my most beloved city, be it for a day, a week or a month, just shout and I’ll set you up right!

Thanks to everyone for five great years at the J-school!  This blog should stay up as an archive of all the material I taught over that time.  I hope it remains useful to you.

In case you missed it, I left New York with a bang, writing about my pickup hoops life, “having coffee” with a fellow researcher and celebrating with friends at one heck of a farewell blast

The scene: Bourbon Street Bar & Grille in midtown, a/k/a NYC's New Orleans embassy.

The scene: Bourbon Street Bar & Grille in midtown, a/k/a NYC’s New Orleans embassy.

Pray for me: Speaking out on pride day and national gender pay equity...LOL.

Pray for me: Speaking out on pride day and national gender pay equity…LOL.

I'm sure fellow research prof Sandra Jamison will take excellent care of her new tie.

I’m sure fellow research prof Sandra Jamison will take excellent care of her new tie.

With the Wall Street Journal's Maya Pope-Chappell and the J-school's Tinamarie Vella.

With the Wall Street Journal’s Maya Pope-Chappell and the J-school’s Tinamarie Vella.

With my favorite video biographer Mathilde Hamel, Cesar Bustamante and Annais Morales.

With my favorite video biographer Mathilde Hamel, Cesar Bustamante and Annais Morales.

People mag researchers reunite to salute the Jack Styczynski Memorial Reading Room.

People mag researchers reunite to salute the Jack Styczynski Memorial Reading Room.

And the fun didn’t stop there… Read the rest of this entry »

Farewell, my friends!

May 25th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

It was obviously a busy final month of the semester…

On the News Service, Ilie Mitaru, Lisa Rinehart and Anna Teregulova contributed to stories.  Previously, Mathilde Hamel and Angela Johnson reported on the increase in adoptions by same-sex couples, while Sierra Leone Starks reported on the rise in crowdfunding efforts for movie projects

In addition, Sierra Leone’s piece about plans for a design-to-manufacturing fashion house in Industry City landed in Brooklyn Based.

Meanwhile, Mathilde’s talents were on display in both the April and May editions of 219 West TV Magazine, as she co-anchored the first and filed stories for both.  Furthermore, Aine Pennello filed a story in April and Nadja Thomas had one in May.

Happy summer, and much love to you all!

Quiz recap

May 19th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

The quiz results are in and I would call the overall performance “typical.”  There was a wide variation in grades.  Congratulations to the high scorers–Orie Givens, Aine Pennello and Divya Verma.  Aine and Divya each missed one question, while Orie was perfect (with 10 minutes to spare!), minus the bonus.

For the record, no one got the bonus, so I’ll assume you thought “mandatory viewing” only applied if it came from the professor’s mouth, not Jonathan Dienst’s (LOL).  Anyway, you can see the answer if you watch segment 17 from the PBS Frontline series “News War”, which can be found in part three.

Of the regular questions, there were several that gave many of you problems, starting with the one on Pete Thamel’s biggest mistake.  Even if you forgot our class discussion, I did write about it later and post a link on the blog.  As I’ve said, the blog is not for my own health.  I was also somewhat disappointed a bunch of you didn’t get full credit on the query about the two basic questions for fact-checking, which was right there on my post of February 13th.  Easiest question on the quiz, IMO.

What else tripped you up?  Well, most of you knew to go to the Vanderbilt Television News Archive and ProQuest respectively for the questions about Nixon’s resignation video and New York Times front page headlines from my birthday, but made mistakes when you got there.  A lot of you provided video links for something other than the NBC evening newscast on August 9, 1974 and headlines from stories on November 18, 1965 that appeared somewhere other than the front page.  ProQuest does have a way to limit your search to front page stories, folks.  We used the advanced search to do this in class.

Next, the two questions where I asked for separate answers that were supposed to come from the same place obviously caused some confusion.  The answers on births and baby names were at the latest Mother’s Day compilation of the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features, and the poll numbers on background checks for gun buyers could be found in the guns section at Polling Report.  Both sources were listed on my post of March 11th.

Lastly, the Bernard Madoff question proved to be one of the most difficult, for whatever reason.  Many of you missed it entirely, while others gave me a Manhattan Supreme court case where he was a plaintiff (for which I did award credit), but what I really wanted was the case where he was a defendant from the SCROLL database, as we called it up in class before heading out to NBC.

Anyway, thanks for a memorable semester, friends.  I’ll have one last roundup of your work posted soon.

April’s best

April 23rd, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

Time for another roundup of your work:

Ilie Mitaru’s exclusive on a lawsuit claiming a transgender patient was left to die by EMS responders made Sheepshead Bites.

For the Mott Haven Herald, Brianne Barry profiled a pastor who’s fought through cancer to serve.

On Voices of NY, Sierra Leone Starks profiled a Scottish illustrator.

Posted this month, the March edition of 219 West TV Magazine was co-anchored by Orie Givens and Nadja Thomas. Lookin’ good!

And I’ve been busy too, contributing research to stories on Internet gun sales and a quirky basketball league, as well as an audio package on the Boston Marathon bombing.

Bonus shot: In Atlanta to collect an award, check me out on the afternoon of the NCAA basketball championship game, hangin’ with Rick Pitino before falling asleep in front of my TV back in New York…

Hat trick Rick: the Hall of Fame, a national championship and me, all in one day.

Hat trick Rick: the Hall of Fame, a national championship and me, all in one day.

Court research

April 5th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

Points of emphasis for critical thinking:

  1. With many courts at the federal, state and local levels, there is no “one stop shopping” for court research.  In most cases, you’ll need to know the jurisdiction before you can find anything.
  2. In many jurisdictions, particularly at the local levels, case information isn’t online at all.  For those cases, you have no choice but to visit the courthouse or contact the court clerk to get info (unless you can get it from participating lawyers).
  3. Of the courts that do have case information online, there’s no uniformity.  Some post full case documents.  Others provide only basic docket information.  And many times, you’ll have to use a fee-based service to get the info.
  4. For federal cases, PACER is the best place to go.  Although fee-based, it’s relatively inexpensive.  It has both docket information and (most) case documents.  (Note: The Supreme Court has its own no-cost site separate from the PACER system.  Historical SCOTUS info can be found here, here, here and here.) FindLaw is another good site to search Supreme and Circuit Court decisions. USCourts.gov also publishes the very useful Journalist’s Guide to the Federal Courts and Understanding the Federal Courts.
  5. LexisNexis has case information for the most jurisdictions–federal, state and local–but not all of it is available in the academic version universally accessible to CUNY students.  See Barbara Gray in the Research Center for access to the professional version.
  6. Beyond PACER and LexisNexis, you should check individual court sites, such as the New York State Unified Court System’s eCourtsSlip Decisions or SCROLL (for Manhattan Supreme) pages, to find out what is and isn’t available online.  (Note: The Bronx County Clerk’s Office has a Law Case Search page, including access to court documents for anyone who registers.)
  7. For higher-profile cases, you can sometimes find court documents posted at sites such as MoreLaw or The Smoking Gun.
  8. You’ll probably need to talk to them for your story anyway, so if all else fails, lawyers might provide case information.  My favorite sites to find lawyer contacts are LegalDockets and Martindale.com.

For more tips on court research, see Barbara Gray’s guide.

Enjoy the break!

March 23rd, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

Noting the work below, it’s well-deserved…

Sierra Leone Starks wrote about a library reborn in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Danielle Valente’s piece about a firm that combines fashion and philanthropy found a home in Lifestyle + Charity Magazine.

Danielle was also a contributor to a News Service multimedia report on the future of the old Rockaway Railway, along with Sarah Khuwaja, Anne Lagamayo, Ilie Mitaru and Aine Pennello.

Also on the News Service, Orie Givens profiled an artist who nearly lost her sight.

Keep up the good work!

C’est magnifique, Mademoiselle Hamel!

March 19th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

You made a research nerd look (sorta) cool!

The Life of Jack Styczynski from Mathilde M. Hamel on Vimeo.

Update, 3/21: Thanks to Jim Coningsby for the kind words after seeing the video!

March Madness bonus: It’s been a busy month doing research for stories about
the (not so) fast and fraudulenta cannibal cop and gun rights vs. protection orders,
not to mention writing on hoops.  (Check out all the comments on the Big East story!)

Finding statistical trends: Census tools and polls

March 11th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

The Census Bureau has one of the most valuable and densely-packed web sites you’ll encounter.  You’ll constantly find new information there that will amaze you with its obscurity and level of detail.  Below are some of my favorite Census Bureau pages.

  • First and foremost is American FactFinder, which includes annual American Community Survey data.  It’s the best place to get estimates since the last decennial census was undertaken.  You definitely should familiarize yourself with how to navigate this!
  • State and County QuickFacts provides easy access via a map for a quick look at some broad statistics for states, counties and cities.
  • Facts for Features & Special Editions consist of collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background information for topics in the news.

Additionally, some excellent “third party” sites aggregate Census Bureau data.  Below are a few of my favorites in that category.

  • The New York City Department of City Planning’s population page has some useful resources, including American Community Survey data and a map delineating Community Districts and Census Bureau PUMAs.  (Baruch College’s NYCdata site also has New York statistics beyond just those from the Census Bureau.)
  • Infoshare Online and Social Explorer are two subscription sources we have.  Take advantage of CUNY access!
  • The University of Virginia Library has a great Historical Census Browser with data from 1790 to 1960.  Need slave and slaveholder statistics?  (Ugh.)  This is one place to easily find them.
  • Last but not least, check out the All Things Census blog from the Pew Research Center.

Bonus tip: Barbara Gray has compiled a handout on Mining Census data for reporting that does an especially good job explaining the differences between the decennial census and the American Community Survey.

Opinion polls are also a great way to detect trends in the population.  When most people think of polls, they think of political polling, but there’s much more to be found.

Warnings about polls: Many times there are concerns about the credibility or methodology of a pollster, so be cautious of sources.  Also remember that polls always have a margin of error, which you should cite.  Here are 20 questions journalists should ask about poll results.

Finding video and graphical archives

March 4th, 2013 by Jack Styczynski

Looking for video online?  Of course, there’s YouTube and the like, but what about professional databases with substantial broadcast archives?  The J-school has subscriptions to such databases, which also feature superior search functionality.

  • Critical Mention was introduced in this semester’s first lesson when I mentioned getting closed captioning of programming as an alternative when transcripts are not available in Nexis and Factiva.  (I’m also aware of two similar services called ShadowTV and ITV, which we don’t have.)
  • Whereas the services above allow viewing of recent broadcasts, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive is a deeper archive of news broadcasts from major national sources–with streaming video available from CNN and NBC, and DVD ordering available from all sources.  Also, keep in mind that a broadcast operation will usually have its own internal archive.  At NBC, the searchable database is known as Ardome.
  • Although they don’t qualify as a professional subscription databases, the Internet Archive also has useful TV News and “moving image” collections that you might explore.

Regarding graphical print archives, there are many more places to go.

  • We have access to PDF archives of the New York Times, Amsterdam News and Village Voice  through the J-school’s subscription to ProQuest.  The titles have varying dates of coverage.  In addition, the Brooklyn Public Library also has scanned archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1841 to 1902.  On a national scale, the Library of Congress has a collection of newspapers from selected states (including New York), ranging from 1836 to 1922.
  • You can get PDFs of current newspaper front pages around the world from the Newseum.  Only front pages, though.
  • We have access to many magazine and journal PDF archives through the J-school’s subscriptions to EBSCO MasterFILE Premier and JSTOR, which are aggregator databases similar to Nexis and Factiva, but are not limited to text only.  Also, CUNY and the J-school maintain lists of where you can obtain articles by publication name, many of which are in PDF format.
  • You can get PDF archives of the Economist, JAMA, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine and Science via separate web sites courtesy of J-school subscriptions.  Again, varying dates of coverage.
  • Google Books has scanned archives of many magazines, popular and otherwise.  Billboard, Ebony, Jet, Life, New York, Spin and Vibe might be especially useful, but there are plenty more.  These aren’t completely up to date, but do have deep archives.  On screen images only, though.  No downloads.  Similarly, Google News has scanned archives of many newspapers, including the Village Voice.  Same deal with the lack of downloads.

This is the warning NBC uses for the sites above:  THESE SITES ARE FOR REFERENCE ONLY.  You will be connecting to external sites and all images must be cleared for on-air use, regardless of source. If you have questions, please contact the Rights & Clearances Department.

Bonus tip: Looking for photos?  The J-school has a subscription to AP Images and the New York City Department of Records Municipal Archives has an online photo gallery.