Archive for February, 2011

Finding video and graphical archives

February 28th, 2011 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.  (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

Regarding graphical print archives, remember Haiti at the Homefront from the first day of class?  At the 3:41 mark of that video is a great example of using newspaper graphics for a story.

  • We have access to PDF archives of the New York Times, Amsterdam News, Village Voice and the old New York Tribune through the J-school’s subscription to ProQuest.  The titles have varying dates of coverage.  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, 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 People, the Economist, JAMA, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine and Science via separate web sites, the last five 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: The J-school also has a subscription to the AP Images database.

Kudos to Carmel and Alva!

February 18th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

Ms. Delshad and Ms. French got some video love from the New Yorker!

And what would a congratulatory post be without Annais Morales?

Backgrounding & fact-checking, a.k.a. due diligence

February 7th, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

Backgrounding and fact-checking are related in the sense that they both fall under the umbrella of “due diligence” or “doing your homework.”  Of all the research topics we teach here at the J-school, this is probably the most important.  Certainly, not doing proper backgrounding and fact-checking has the most potential to make you look bad.  As I said in my introductory backgrounding lesson in Craft I, you don’t want to do a friendly story on someone, only to be burned by not doing proper backgrounding.  We saw an example in class last week.

My rather glib definition of backgrounding is “finding out 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.

In the same vein, 100% factual accuracy in stories is a goal worth pursuing, no matter how tough it may be to achieve.  Among the most common kinds of facts that need to be checked and double-checked in any story are statistics, names, dates, ages, quotations, locations, titles and degrees.  Preferably, you want to verify them via primary sources–as opposed to secondary–and then cite these sources, where appropriate.  As my past students know, fact-checking really boils down to answering two basic questions…

  1. Are you sure?
  2. Says who?

If you crave a little more detail on fact-checking, a few good accuracy tip sheets can be found here, here and here.  And here is an example of what can happen if your fact-checking is lax.

What specific sources do I suggest?  (Wikipedia?  Ha ha.  No!)  While Accurint is undoubtedly my favorite backgrounding resource, there are plenty more you can use on my backgrounding handout, many (but not all) of which are also suitable for fact-checking.  I particularly recommend government resources, and premium subscription databases like we have through the Research Center.  One such database good for fact-checking is Facts on File, especially useful for finding dates and details of major events going back to 1940.

Then there are a whole host of court resources not on my backgrounding handout, which I hope to review later in the semester.

Again, keep in mind that primary sources are generally preferable to secondary sources, but that’s not to imply there aren’t unreliable primary sources or very reliable secondary ones.  For example, people could easily lie, exaggerate or make errors on their (primary) Facebook pages, while Facts on File is a strong secondary source.  And the more reliable sources you have for any fact, the better.  Relying on a single source is asking for trouble.  I checked five secondary sources on a fact just last week.

Bonus fact-checking tip: Superlatives such as “only,” “first” or “most” are often misleading and/or difficult to verify.  Use them judiciously.

Critical Mention is live again!

February 3rd, 2011 by Jack Styczynski

You should now be able to get into Critical Mention without any username and password.  Remember, this is the database we used Tuesday to get closed captioning.  Make sure to use the “new advanced search” template when you access it.  Compared to Nexis and Factiva, the advantages to Critical Mention are:

  • There are many more networks and channels available, and it’s not just limited to news programming.
  • The closed captioning is loaded into the database much more quickly than transcripts are loaded into Nexis and Factiva.
  • Video is also available.

The disadvantages are:

  • Content goes back only one month, as opposed to many years for the transcripts available in Nexis and Factiva.
  • The closed captioning is much less accurate than the transcript services, and it’s not well formatted the way transcripts are.

 Anyway, take advantage of this great resource!