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Beyond Google — using the Web as an investigative tool

Here are some tips from Jaimi Dowdell, training director for IRE, on using the Web as an investigative tool:

  • Use advanced search on Google plus at least one other search engine to search for phrases, domain types, file types, or words in a URL. For example, if you are looking for government data, search for the file types .xls, .xlsx or .zip on sites with the .gov domain. You can also look for URLs with the word, “download,” in them and the .gov domain.
  • Use the links at the bottom of the page on Wikipedia.org as a resource to lead you to potentially better information.
  • Try these federal sites when you’re looking for specific data: Census, FedStats and FirstGov.
  • In addition to BRB Publications, the University of Virginia also maintains a public records portal.
  • Here are two reporter-vetted portals: NICAR ‘Net Tour and Reporter’s Desktop by Duff Wilson.
  • ChangeDetection.com will send you an e-mail when a site you’ve registered has been updated.
  • BugMeNot offers ways of getting into password-protected sites, such as newspapers.
  • For tracking what’s happening on Twitter, try Monitter or Twitter’s search.
  • To find out who is behind a Web site, try Domain Tools or Allwhois.
  • For the “dead Web,” or historic versions of sites, use cached sites on Google, the Wayback Machine, the Library of Congress’ MINERVA for specific recent events or the CyberCemetery for defunct government agencies.

About the Author

Linda Austin is the executive director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. A former business editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, she spent a decade as a top newsroom leader, serving as the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky; executive editor of The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind.; and managing editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. She offers business-story ideas and notes good #bizreads @LindaAustin_

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