Archive for April, 2010

Maneuver journalism

April 29th, 2010 by Jack

Although our final research lesson of the semester was scheduled to be on politics and elections, we’re scrapping that next week in favor of something different.

We’ll justify this with Wayne Svoboda’s allowance for “maneuver journalism,” which gives Craft profs the leeway to reshape the syllabus based on what we think is most valuable to you at the moment.

So while I’ll admit politics and elections might be a more valuable research lesson in the grand scheme, your current profs recognize that spring is not prime election season, and right now you’re working on a stimulus project, with a research quiz soon to follow.  That in mind, we’ll kill two birds with one stone next week and assign an in-class stimulus-related research exercise very similar in design to the upcoming quiz.

Come prepared, thank us later, complain about us to Wayne, whatever.  Just remember I invoked the phrase “maneuver journalism.” 


P.S. to crushed “politicos”:  Feel free to peruse my notes from a 2008 politics lesson or visit the Political Reporting Wiki compiled by Consuella Askew and Tinamarie Vella.

Court research

April 27th, 2010 by Jack

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, herehere, here and here.)   FindLaw is another good site to search Supreme and Circuit Court decisions.  The Federal Judiciary 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 accessible to CUNY students.
  6. Beyond PACER and LexisNexis, you should check individual court sites, such as the New York State Unified Court System’s eCourtsAppellate Courts, SCROLL or Slip Decisions pages, to find out what is and isn’t available online.  (Note: Cornell’s Legal Information Institute has archived New York Court of Appeals decisions.)
  7. For higher-profile cases, you can sometimes find court documents posted at sites such as FindLaw, Jurist, 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

Schedule change

April 21st, 2010 by Jack

Due to your court visit Tuesday, the court research lesson originally scheduled for this week has been pushed back to Wednesday, April 28th.  I’m also aware the visit precluded you from attending the Facts on File research clinic, which was unfortunate.

On a brighter note, we have more class bylines to report…

Vishal Persaud had a piece in the Mott Haven Herald about an after-school program at P.S. 18 in the Bronx.

Michael Cohen wrote another story about a Golden Gloves boxer with a side gig in modeling, this time for Urban Latino’s web site.

Today’s bonus: The Library of Congress will be housing Twitter’s entire archive, and users may not have a chance to opt out!

Odds and ends

April 12th, 2010 by Jack

First and foremost, a reminder about next week’s research clinics offered by the Research Center.  I highly recommend attending, especially the Facts on File session Tuesday at 12:30.  It will be worth your while, guaranteed.

Going back to last week’s lesson for a moment, I read an interesting article in the Weekly Standard about the Census Bureau’s “Orwellian American Community Survey.”

From the byline congratulations department, Danny Gold’s story about crime plaguing a senior citizens housing development in Brooklyn made City Limits.

As for my own work, if you heard me mention my “manual labor” during our break in class last week, I was talking about my trip to New Orleans last month.  Photos and a story are here.

Educational bonus: In case you missed it, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times did some great enterprise work last week.  Stories here, here, here and here.  Also, here is some stinky, but good, enterprise reporting from AM New York.

Fun bonus: The Film Forum is in the midst of showing a month’s worth of newspaper-related flicks.

Stimulus tracker resources

April 6th, 2010 by Jack
  • is the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to stimulus data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.
  • With the NYCStat Stimulus Tracker, New Yorkers can track the City’s use of federal stimulus/recovery funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
  • Eye on the Stimulus is a project from the ProPublica public interest journalism site that may be of use to you.  It includes a state-by-state Recovery Tracker.

Census data

April 5th, 2010 by Jack

The Census Bureau has one of the most valuable and densely-packed web sites you’ll encounter.  Like, it seems 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, with thanks to fellow research colleague Barbara Oliver for her assistance.

  • First and foremost is the American FactFinder, which includes fast access to fact sheets for your community, as well as annual American Community Survey data.  The latter provides the best place to get estimates since the last decennial census was undertaken in 2000.  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.
  • The Statistical Abstract is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.  Note that past years of the publication are also available.
  • 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.
  • Also worth a look are the United States and World PopClocks, and Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000.  Check to see how common your name is!

Additionally, it’s important to note that there are many excellent “third party” sites that aggregate Census Bureau data.  Below are a few of my favorites in that category.