Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Basic web sleuthing 101- web searches

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Whether you’re a seasoned journalist learning more about what the web has to offer or a freelancer trying to figure out how to navigate the changing sea of technology, proficiency in web searches are pivotal to your success. Through trial and error and a few essential tips, it isn’t that hard to find a wealth of information on just about anyone who owns a computer and regularly surfs the internet.

I’ve realized that one of my biggest gifts for journalism is being ahead of the curve when it comes to online research. In Jschool, I used to get blank stares from other students when I would come up with information about article subjects, just from stumbling around the internet for a few days. So, this will be the first in a potential zillion part series entitled “Basic web sleuthing.”

The first step for any journalistic sleuthing is the basic web search. My preferred engine is Google; it’s where I start before I branch out to other search engines and sites.

In the increasingly digital world we live in, people put their entire lives online to be viewed, and it’s usually easy to figure out who they are, even if they try to be sneaky.

Let’s take the hypothetical subject “Jane Doe.” For a search on Jane Doe, mother of two and an internet business owner who lives in Dade City, FL, I would type “Jane Doe” Dade City FL into my Google search box. I would hope for a personal site, some other articles written about her, a social networking page (Myspace, LinkedIn, etc.), a blog, and other sites with general information about her.

Let’s say I find a page for her business with her email address on it, but not much else. Her business is flying under the radar a bit, so it hasn’t garnered media attention, and she’s done a pretty good job of keeping her extracurricular online activities under my radar.

Except, her email address is from yahoo, and instead of being professional, it’s something like cookieroflmacopter22224545. Now, I can type her email address into yahoo and see what I come up with.

I find a deleted Livejournal, a private Myspace, some message board posts for an online game that may or may not be from her, and a personal ad.

One nice thing about Google is it offers cached results. So, from her deleted Livejournal’s cached pages, I find out she goes to Central Florida furry meets all the time under the name Janey Cat.

All of the sudden, it’s possible I might have an entirely different story on my hands. And, information like this begins to snowball after pulling a person’s layers of history on the web apart.

This is why some of my friends should fear me. I really would like some feedback on this post and the future series, so if you loved it, hated it, or didn’t care, please let me know.


Tips for covering the next Anonymous protest

In Anonymous, Scientology on August 4, 2008 at 1:54 am

According to my sources and some internet research, the next worldwide Anonymous protest is going to be August 16. Unfortunately, I have to work my day job and won’t be able to make it. Both sides of the protests fascinate me.

While trolling the internet for more information, I found an Anonymous training video.

Because the Anonymous movement is the first group of its kind, I thought it would be good to provide my own training/ tips to cover their protests. I have been to a few, and covering the group and their picketing has provided interesting challenges.

Tips for covering the Anonymous movement in your area

1. Bring a digital or video camera, a sound recorder, and a notepad and pen to take notes.
While this is a basic commandment of reporting, the camera and recording device are essential. Chances are, you won’t find anyone willing to share their identity for your article.

2. Find the centralized meeting location of the protest. This will be the best place to conduct interviews.
Protesters will probably congregate in one location to rest, get out of the sun, drink water, and eat pizza and cake provided by organization members. This is also a good place to find the “leadership.” Chances are, this is where members will be talking about topics like the group’s applications for nonprofit status and insider information about everything from advertising to wide held beliefs about Scientology.

3. Make yourself very visible and make sure protesters know you aren’t one of them or a member of Scientology.
Make sure Scientologists know the same thing. From my experiences, Scientologists won’t be willing to talk to you during the protests, but at least a few of the protesters will. I’ve heard that Scientologists hire detectives to track down everyone at the protests, but I haven’t experienced it. It’s just something to think about before you go.

4. Get both sides of the story.
While most Scientologists won’t talk to you, their PR people will. When I called one of the Clearwater offices, it only took me a few minutes to get transferred to the appropriate spokeswoman. At worst, you’ll get some press releases relating to the protests. At best, you’ll get a few good quotes about what the individual you’re talking to thinks about Anonymous and their own experiences with threats, pranks, and hackers.

5. Do not partake of the cake, pizza, and water Anonymous provides.
There are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t, the biggest being that if you’re eating and drinking with them, it can be construed as support. It also makes you look less professional.

6. Stay long past the protest has ended.
This is when you might actually be able to talk to members of Scientology about the events. Try to talk to the locals in the area about what they think. And, see if you can follow some of the protesters as they leave. During the last protest I covered, I saw a policeman stop a group of protesters as they left Clearwater, and I still regret I didn’t turn my car around to find out what was going on.

7. Do your research.
Any coverage of religion is going to be complicated. Make sure you learn what each side believes and why they believe it. An in-depth story of any cultural event is worth tons more than a shallow explanation of what happened.