Archive for December, 2012

Wrapping up the semester

December 22nd, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

One last batch of bylines to close things out right…

From the Mott Haven Herald, we had Anna Teregulova’s story about a youth soccer league and a police blotter by Irina Ivanova and Shamanth Rao.

Individually, Irina’s story about the vintage book movement made the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Shamanth’s profile of Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx’s borough historian, was featured on Narrative.ly.  In addition, Shamanth had a piece in the Herald on a startup offering home nursing.

Not to be outdone, Irina combined with Nicholas Wells on another police blotter for the Herald.  Brianne Barry and Jesse Metzger teamed for one too, and Jessica Glazer compiled one solo.

Brianne also reported on the murder of a hurricane evacuee and Jessica wrote about the danger of future floods in the South Bronx.  Plus, Nathan Place got the scoop on a Mott Havenite serving the community through an open gym.

On the nerd librarian beat, I wrote stories for SLA NY ChapterNews on the group’s annual meeting and NPR researcher Kee Malesky.

Hopefully, many more bylines to come in all our lives!  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 219 Magazine as a potential outlet for some, recently relaunched with my esteemed colleague Steve Strasser at the helm.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Quiz recap

December 18th, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

The quizzes are all graded and the class as a whole did better than any group I’ve ever had, by a wide margin.  Congrats!  Almost everyone scored in “double digits,” led by Irina Ivanova and Nick Wells, who each got 15.5 out of a possible 16.5 points.  Nick in fact got full credit for all the main questions, missing only the bonus.  None of the questions was a total stumper for the entire class, but the bonus was the one that the fewest people got, which is how it should be.  It was referred to only in a September e-mail about a potential enterprise project.

Really, only two other questions are worth mentioning…

I didn’t love all the answers to the first one about the superiority of Nexis and Factiva compared to Google, even when I awarded credit.  A number of answers were technically correct, although I didn’t think they expressed the most important advantages.  If I had just a few words at my disposal, I would’ve said, “More customizable searchability and deeper and denser archives of reputable sources.”  And yeah, I know that’s 11 words…sue me…or throw a semicolon between “searchability” and “deeper” instead of the word “and.”  I gave ya two ways for the price of one there anyhow.  LOL

The question about the founding and staff size of the Innocence Project was the second.  When I composed it, it was with the idea that you’d get the info from Associations Unlimited, which some of you did.  But others went to Guidestar, which is just as reputable of a source.  So I accepted a slightly different staff size number from Guidestar, so long as you reported it correctly.

Again, great job overall, folks.  I’m really happy.  I’ll be back with one last semester wrap up post soon.

Mining the web like a pro: Google and beyond

December 3rd, 2012 by Jack Styczynski

Points of emphasis for critical thinking:

  1. There’s more to search engines than just plugging in words.  The best searchers use the advanced features.  There are many places to find Google tips.
  2. No mainstream search engines, even Google, search anywhere close to the entire web.  They don’t index every page or database result, nor the entirety of many longer documents.  What’s not retrievable via these engines is known as the “deep web” or “invisible web.”  That’s why you need to familiarize yourself with many of the sources I’ve reviewed this semester.  You can’t rely on Google exclusively.
  3. Web sites are not all created equalEvaluate, and trust primary sources FIRST.  Sometimes you’ll want to check who owns a web site.
  4. Web pages don’t die easily.  Old pages can be treasure troves.
  5. The first breakout web search tool was a subject guide.  They are still around and still useful.
  6. In addition to the “general” search tools, there are great “specialty” engines too.  Among the best known are Google NewsGoogle Books and YouTube.

For more, see Barbara Gray’s guide.

Court research

December 2nd, 2012 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.