Quiz recap

May 14th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

The quiz results are in and everyone should now have their scores and semester-long research grades. Congratulations to Max Parrott for the highest quiz score, as he was perfect through the first nine questions before getting tripped up. Kudos also to Molly Enking, who had the highest overall grade for the semester combining her quiz score with her participation in the “real world research” exercises. As a class, the grade variation was pretty typical. There were people whose grades were both helped and hurt by their performance in the exercises. In fact, some who scored lower on the quiz than others ended up with a better grade for the semester because of their participation.

As for some of the individual quiz questions, you collectively did best on the one about sex offenders. Tim Harper was right when he said, “always give ’em the sexy.”

On the other end of the sexy spectrum, the performance was not great on the Factiva search strategy question, as few got full credit. Given past experience, I kind of expect this going in. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t teach it well enough or because everyone these days is just Google addicted when it comes to searching. Either way, I will say that if you’re fortunate enough to work in a place where you have access to Factiva (or Nexis), it’s well worth it to bone up on your search strategy skills.

For the questions on National Teacher Appreciation Week statistics and polls on guns and gun laws, I awarded a lot of credit for answers other than the ones I really sought. I was looking for you to cite the Census Bureau’s Stats for Stories page for the former and Polling Report for the latter. Some got those, while others gave me answers I deemed “good enough,” even though I didn’t think they were the best ones.

There were a lot of folks who got partial credit on the question about what you should consider before filing a Freedom of Information request and the bonus question about how you can use social media in reporting. Both of them were kind of a test of how closely you were listening to me in class. I made it clear that you should check the web site and call a press contact before bothering with a FOIA or FOIL, and although Rima said a lot of things in her social media lesson, I summed it up at the end by saying you can use the tools she demonstrated to either find stories or enhance breaking news stories (which generally includes finding eyewitness sources).

Last, and in this case least, no one got full credit on the Jonathan Dienst bonus question. Only one person even got partial credit, as Gurami Jamaspishvili remembered that he recommended “Writing News for Broadcast,” which he took about 30 seconds to look up on his phone that day. He also recommended the AP Stylebook.

That’s all, folks. Thanks for a fine semester and I hope you enjoyed the field trip and guest speakers in particular. Good luck in the future!

Field trip links

April 25th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

Here are the resources from David’s Freedom of Information presentation yesterday:

And here’s the PBS Frontline series Jonathan recommended:

Thanks again to both of them!

Jonathan shows off the Nightly News studio.

Jonathan shows off the Nightly News studio.

More odds, more ends

April 23rd, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

On Tuesday, we’ll take a field trip to meet WNBC investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst. Among other things, we’ll discuss filing Freedom of Information requests. The Washington Post has an excellent primer video on the subject and ProPublica has a useful article, even if Illinois focused.

While I’ve got NBC on the brain, you might be interested to learn my employer recently launched Archives Xpress, a searchable library of license-ready content from NBC News and other NBCUniversal brands that’s available for immediate download by consumers. Users can select from different pricing options.

Max Parrott has become a reporting machine at AM New York, with bylines on stories about a hockey guidebook, the New York International Automobile Show, an event commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an approaching deadline for e-cigarette shops and the closing of a club I’ll definitely miss. (Sorry New York doesn’t prioritize music venues like my beloved New Orleans does.)

Elsewhere, Karina Hernandez partnered with Max for a Queens Latino piece on undocumented bakery workers. Check out the video!

Finally, I’m in a good mood since I last saw you, given that my favorite basketball team won the national championship

Interviewing two-time national champion coach Jay Wright of Villanova.

Interviewing two-time national champion coach Jay Wright of Villanova.

Odds and ends

March 26th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

On Tuesday, J-school alum and NBC colleague Rima Abdelkader will join me to talk about social media research and reporting. Please read and be prepared to discuss the social media policies for NBC News and the New York Times.

Also Tuesday, the New York Public Library will be at the school for library card signups from noon to 3 p.m. Barbara Gray created a list of NYPL resources available remotely.

Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are now available online CUNY-wide. For subscription information, click here.

Last but not least, I’m tardy in shouting out some of your work…

Amy Mackinnon wrote about how hundreds of thousands of patients are likely misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in a story for Slate.

Max Parrott is interning at AM New York and has written stories about a spry Harlem sprinter and a midtown wellness retreat.

Make sure to send me anything you want spotlighted here!

Data for trends: Census tools and polls

March 19th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

As you prepare for your “trends” project, you should definitely peruse the Research Center guide on Data Resources (which includes sections on Census Tools and Polls), as well as the separate one on Mining Census Data.

The U.S. 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!
  • QuickFacts provides some broad statistics for states, counties, cities and towns.
  • Facts for Features and Stats for Stories are collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background for topics in the news.

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

Opinion polls are also a great way to detect trends in the population.

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.

Bonus tip: The J-school also subscribes to Statista, a searchable database of statistics, studies, dossiers, infographics and more, from over 100,000 vetted sources.

Backgrounding people, businesses and non-profits

March 9th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

Of all the research topics we teach here at the J-school, backgrounding is among the most important. Certainly, not doing proper backgrounding has great potential to make you look bad. You don’t want to do a friendly story on someone, only to be burned by not doing proper backgrounding.

My rather glib definition of backgrounding is “searching for information about people they don’t want you to know.” I do it as a matter of course in my job as a news researcher, but reporters should be able to do for themselves too.

You’ve already learned of some resources that will help you do backgrounding. For starters, you can do general article searches on people, businesses or non-profits in Nexis, Factiva or Access World News, as there will often be something written about controversial (or criminal) topics. Furthermore, you can search court databases for civil and criminal cases, using the resources in the Research Center guides for court records and criminal histories at both the federal and state level. (This blog has similar guides for both court and crime research, albeit somewhat dated.)

For this lesson, I want to point you to the Research Center’s public records guide and review some of the resources I think are most useful.

For people:

  • Accurint and TLO are undoubtedly the top resources for backgrounding individuals, as each provides a comprehensive compilation of public records (including criminal), contact and family information on a person. Both are available by subscription only and we do not have access to TLO here at the J-school, but you can visit Barbara Gray in the Research Center to have an Accurint report run.
  • Although there are other kinds of records you might seek on a person, checking for criminal records is the most common type of “backgrounding.” For the incarcerated, you can check inmate locators at the federal, New York State and New York City level. (For other state and county jurisdictions, check here, here and here.) In New York State, you can also check WebCriminal for court information on criminal cases with future appearance dates in many jurisdictions.
  • There are separate databases for sex offenders. You can do a National Sex Offender Search or search at the state level, including New York. One useful secondary source is Family Watchdog, where you can search for registered sex offenders in a neighborhood by address.
  • For more resources, this blog has a backgrounding handout, although again, it’s somewhat dated.

For businesses:

For non-profits:

Bonus tip: While a 990 filing is a good way to find salaries for non-profit executives, public employee salaries are also often available through sites such as the New York City civil list and SeeThroughNY. You can find similar databases around the nation at PIbuzz, including Congressional staff salaries.

Occupational Safety project

February 28th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

Here are the resources I cited in class yesterday:

Finding video and graphical archives

February 23rd, 2018 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.

  • TVEyes (student login info here) allows you to search TV programming from many networks via closed captioning, which along with getting video can also serve as an alternative method of getting (rough) transcripts not available in databases like Nexis and Factiva.  (I’m also aware of the similar services Critical Mention, ShadowTV and Volicon, 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 Media Central.
  • Although they don’t qualify as a professional subscription databases, the Internet Archive also has useful TV News, moving image and ephemeral film 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 and Amsterdam News (via “Black Newspapers”) through the J-school’s subscription to ProQuest.  Dates of coverage vary.  In addition, the Brooklyn Public Library provides free access to PDF archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1841 to 1955 via Newspapers.com, which also has varying archives from more than 6,000 papers worldwide that you can access by visiting the Research Center and asking to use our subscription. Elsewhere on a national scale, the Library of Congress has a collection of newspapers from most states (including New York), ranging from 1789 to 1949.
  • You can get PDFs of current newspaper front pages around the world from the Newseum.  Archives are also available for selected dates.  Only front pages, though.
  • We have access to many magazine and journal PDF archives through the J-school’s subscriptions to BrowZine, EBSCO MasterFILE, Gale Academic OneFile 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.
  • UNZ.org has PDF archives of several magazines that are not under copyright.  You have to peruse the list of titles to see which are available.
  • 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 PDF 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 New York City Department of Records Municipal Archives has an online photo gallery of over 900,000 images.

Hey, y’all. “Research Party Central” is back in the building!

January 20th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

Welcome to “The Craft of Research,” the official research blog for the Spring 2018 Craft class of Susan Farkas and Kayle Hope. It’s the spot for research lessons, handouts, news, tips and whatever else comes up during the semester, including links to your work.

My name is Jack Styczynski and I’m a researcher at NBC News. I previously taught at the J-school from 2008 to 2013 before leaving to serve two years as a Tulane VISTA at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. Along with AmeriCorps and the Big Easy, I love basketball (both playing and writing about) and hitting the dance floor, so if you want to get on my good side, you know what topics to raise. 😜

Here’s to a great spring semester!

Enjoying beautiful flora at the front desk of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

Enjoying beautiful flora at the front desk of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

Hello, WRKF!

June 25th, 2015 by Jack Styczynski

Thanks to J-school alum Ann Marie Awad for inviting me to speak about people finding and backgrounding, finding experts and unearthing statistical and demographic data. Since my old research lessons are somewhat CUNY-centric, I put together a Louisiana and Baton Rouge supplement…

There’s nothing I love more than being at a radio station!

Hamming it up with Ann Marie!

Hamming it up with Ann Marie!