Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Beat memo advice

September 19th, 2011 by Jack

Some things to keep in mind when compiling your beat memo:

  1. Don’t skip questions.  You’d think this would go without saying, but based on past experience, it needs to be said.  If you’re having problems with a question, ask us for guidance.  We won’t give you answers, but we will try to point you in the right direction.  This is not like my final research quiz, where in the interest of time I do suggest skipping questions that give you too much trouble.  In this case, you have more than enough time to overcome problems.
  2. Whenever possible and wherever applicable, we want you using primary sources to answer questions.  There may be some that require the use of secondary sources, but sourcing answers from other media outlets is not permitted.  So no links to newspaper articles or the like.  That’s not to say you can’t scan articles to figure out where those outlets got their information, but then you have to go to the primary source and get the info yourself.
  3. Speaking of links, whenever you get information from an online source (especially statistical data), provide a DIRECT LINK to that information in your answer.  For example, sourcing an answer as just “” or even the department on is not acceptable.  If for any reason providing a direct link is not possible, give step-by-step instructions on how to get the info online.  (Sometimes this is necessary with searchable databases.)   All that said, not every question is designed to be answered with an online source, so for those, you obviously don’t have to be concerned with providing a link.  Some are more of the “reporting” variety and others are more of the “research” variety.  It will be up to you to determine which is which.  Show us that you can get your boots on the ground as well as your fingers on a keyboard.  And don’t be afraid to make phone calls either.  Some people are too averse to that.
  4. There are some questions that are common to everyone and others that are specific to your beat.  As such, the latter are of greater importance to your individual beat memo grades.

Last but not least, remember that my lesson and the accompanying handout posted here August 29th were designed in part with the beat memo in mind.  So you’ll certainly want to peruse those, as well as the related post by Barbara Gray.

The M?ammar conundrum

September 7th, 2011 by Jack

Remember yesterday’s Factiva search when I used only the Libyan leader’s first name because there are so many different spellings of his surname?  I said using the “atleast” command to narrow the results of that search would be difficult, but for that specific search in just two sources (Reuters and WSJ), I now realize I could have used it without much trouble.  After I got my initial set of results, I could have scanned the stories to see what surname spellings those sources use, and assuming they spell the same way all the time, gone back and plugged them into an “atleast” command, such as atleast6 (gaddafi or gadhafi).  Or in this case, since the two sources use similar spellings, atleast6 (gad?afi).  The ? wild card character should work here because it represents the fourth character in the word.  Our problem yesterday with m?ammar was that Factiva didn’t accept the wild card as one of the first three characters in a word.

But again, this is only because I was searching a limited number of sources.  Had I been searching all sources, which would have many more different spellings of the surname, using the “atleast” command becomes tougher.

That’s not to say you couldn’t take a swing at it though.  For example, something like atleast6 (gad* or qad* or khad*) might catch most of the surname iterations.  (Remember that * is the truncation character in Factiva, as opposed to the wild card character in Nexis.)

Final roundup

May 25th, 2011 by Jack

On the News Service, Alva French had a piece on a mecca for graffiti artists.

Nathan Frandino and Annais Morales did a story on a New Yorker who recycles old bikes. Ms. Morales was also back in the New York Post last month. In addition, busy Annais had a contribution on the latest episode of “219 West”, as did Alcione Gonzalez, Sherrina Navani and Michael McCutcheon.

Elsewhere, Ad Age recently had a nice breakdown of The Demographics of Social Media. Speaking of which, check out The Most Complete Twitter Application List Available.

And what would the last post of the school year be without another Census tool?

Best semester ever.  Now please go out and kick you-know-who’s you-know-what in a research contest.

Have a great summer!

Broadcast Craft, Spring 2011: I'm expecting fame and fortune from this crew.

Broadcast Craft, Spring 2011: I'm expecting fame and fortune from this crew.

Last words: Until we meet again, Uncle Don.

Happy Easter!

April 24th, 2011 by Jack

First of all, prayers for my irrepressible cousin Tricia and a New Orleans recovery miracle.

And for those not celebrating this joyous holiday, I’ve got good wishes (and another useful Census link) for you too.

Census data continues to be released and one way to keep up is through the bureau’s own Random Samplings blog.

See you again on May 4th for a special court research session.  Don’t miss it!

New York 2010 Census data released

March 25th, 2011 by Jack

Update: Latest data has also been loaded into Social Explorer, and Andrew Beveridge was quoted in a story in today’s New York Times.  The Times has an interactive map as well.

So everybody knows New York is no longer the Census laggard by now, right?

That’s hardly to say all the 2010 Census data is out, but whatever has been released for the other states is available for New York now too.  For example, we now know mixed-race population is down slightly in New York as compared to 2000.  (Hint, hint.)

Now please excuse me while I return to my 80-degree New Orleans state of mind, New York shiverers.

Critical Mention is live again!

February 3rd, 2011 by Jack

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!

Greetings, intro, etc.

January 31st, 2011 by Jack

Welcome (and for some, welcome back) to “The Craft of Research,” the official research blog for the Spring 2011 Broadcast Craft class of John Schiumo and Marc Kusnetz.  It’s the spot for research lessons, handouts, news, tips and whatever else comes up during the semester.

My name is Jack Styczynski, and while this marks my sixth semester teaching research at the J-school, it’s my first in Broadcast Craft.  I couldn’t be more excited about the new assignment!

When I’m not here, I’m a researcher at NBC and the New York Times.  If you’re interested in more career details, click here.  One thing you’ll probably notice is that I’m a big college hoop-head.

Despite the fact I make a living as an online searcher, you may also notice past readings posted here and even my humorous Christmas post demonstrate a concern for the effects computers are having on us.  Matt Richtel of the Times often makes me feel old and feeds my fear.  For example, he shows why I worry about our brains on computers and why I don’t own a mobile phone.

Speaking of my concern with computers and stuff I’ve read in recent months, should we now fret about technology making some journalists obsolete? Or will Patch save us all?

This is tech! On my bike at the train station. No cell? No car since '95 either.

This is tech! On my bike at the train station. No cell? No car since '95 either.

Anyway, enough about me and my technology nightmares. I note that a few of you were busy during the break. Nathan Frandino had a story in the Daily News about Coptic Christians in Queens mourning a loss. Laura Shin had several bylines for OurTownNY. And Annais Morales had New York Post stories here, here, here, here, here, here and here, continuing her quest to be known as the hardest working woman in the biz. Either that or she’s addicted to getting love on this blog.

Research bonus: The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey now includes the first ever 5-year estimates from 2005-2009, and the New York Times has made some nice use of them.  On the subject of demographics, Social Explorer now has an excellent database of religion statistics right down to the PUMA level. We will be digging into Census and demographic numbers this semester.

Research recommendations

December 2nd, 2010 by Jack

First, another reminder…

On Tuesday morning, you will have a final research quiz.  You will be tested on your knowledge of topics discussed in class, as well as handout/blog resources that may or may not have been discussed in class.  It will be one hour in duration and “open blog.”  Short answer format, typically requiring you to find facts and figures.  No essays.  No multiple choice.  No trick questions.  NO MAKE UPS!

I also want to emphasize that you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking “open blog” makes the quiz a breeze.  As I said this week, there’s a “beat the clock” element factored into it, so you don’t want to waste time hunting around for resources.  Familiarize yourself with my blog posts and handouts beforehand!

Second, I want to highly recommend the January Academy courses being taught by Barbara Gray and Barbara Oliver on 1/3 and 1/18 respectively.  Getting all the research knowledge you can from as many pros as you can here at school will serve you well when you graduate.

More backgrounding magic

November 27th, 2010 by Jack

Remember the tool we used in class to find contact information for the woman with the Twitter account and web site?  Well, along with trolling the ‘net to find hints of a suspected scammer’s political leanings, you could have used it to find the domain creation date that helped sniff out the recent hoax as well.

And speaking of scammers and backgrounding, check out some great work by my colleagues at the Times.

Job seeking tip

November 18th, 2010 by Jack

Earlier this week, I was telling one of my former students–who’s rapidly approaching graduation–that I’ve always targeted the specific places I wanted to work (rather than just trying to find where the openings are), so I figured I’d share one of my success stories.

When I was in grad school, I knew I’d like to be a researcher in the NBC Information Center after having become familiar with it years earlier as an intern and freelancer in the sports department.  Anyway, we had a school assignment where we had to survey a library, so I set it up to spend a few hours at NBC’s version and interview the manager there.  When I finished the assignment, I sent her a copy of my report, which she seemed to like.

Several months later, as I was approaching graduation, I saw a posting for an entry-level job there, and I contacted her.  “Remember me?  I’m the guy who interviewed you.  Will you interview me now?”

The rest is history.

So the moral of this story is, even if you don’t have a similar school assignment, it might be worth faking one…or more. 😉

And here’s a funny addendum to the story too… (more…)