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Quiz Prep

Your final research quiz will be on Tuesday, May 5. Here again are the topics and some sample questions.

1. Sources for video and graphics

Sample question: Find images of the front pages of three newspapers from April 16, 1912. Paste the URLS here.

2. Polling and trends

Sample question: Find President Obama’s current favorability rating from three reputable polling organizations. Cite the percentage, the source and the date of the poll.

3. Government sources

Sample question: Using a government source, find the number of people in U.S. prisons in 2013. Cite your source (name, URL, etc.).

4. Census

Sample question: What percentage of people in New York State were born in countries other than the U.S.? Cite your source (name, URL, etc.).

5. Advanced Nexis and Factiva

Sample question: Find the headlines of the three most recent Washington Post stories about Jeb Bush that are at least 1,000 words long.

6. Magazine story research

Sample question: List three think tanks that have conducted research on prison reform. What source did you use to find them?

Session 6: Magazine Story Research

Producing a magazine-style story — the kind you would see on 60 Minutes, 20/20, etc. — will call upon all the research skills you have acquired over the past two semesters. Let’s take a look at some of the specific sources and techniques you can use to develop an in-depth piece, using the recent 60 Minutes piece on the Sony hacking as an example.


Tap into people with expertise on your subject early on in the process. They can point you to resources including databases, agencies and major stories on your topic. The 60 Minutes hacking story used experts from a think tank (the Center for Strategic and International Studies — try Harvard’s cool search function for finding think tanks) and the corporate world (FireEye, a leading cybersecurity outfit).

Other sources for experts include:

This flashback blog post from Craft I provides more tools for finding experts.


  • Free with your CUNY tuition: Statista, a database of facts and figures from more than 100,000 vetted sources.

Reports and transcripts

  • The Journalist’s Resource at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center is a goldmine of reports, data sources, etc.
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports offer concise, well-researched analyses of major issues. As we discussed, you can find them on the Federation of American Scientists website and from Open CRS.
  • WikiLeaks might contain the leaked documents of your dreams — including, most recently, a searchable database of documents and emails from the Sony hacking.
  • Nexis and Factiva have transcripts of congressional hearings.

Freedom of Information Law/Act (FOIL and FOIA) requests

The government doesn’t always make it easy to obtain its records. Try using the power of FOIL (New York State) or FOIA (federal) to get authorities to hand over the goods. Some recent examples of successful FOIA-ing include the Wall Street Journal’s “Medicare Unmasked” report (which just won a Pulitzer) and the NBC4 Washington story about diplomats getting away with driving offenses. Check out the Research Center’s FOIL/FOIL FAQ for information on how to file a request.

For more information on in-depth research, consult the Research Center’s guide on Researching the Explainer.

Session 5: Advanced Nexis and Factiva

By now you’re all experts at using Nexis and Factiva — right? But hey, even experts sometimes need a refresher.

Why we would use Nexis or Factiva instead of Google? Factors include precision, availability of archival news stories, and access to publications that are not freely available on the web.

Here’s a quick review of Nexis and Factiva commands.

Nexis Factiva
Headline or lead paragraph hlead(terms) hlp=terms
Byline byline(name) by=name
Boolean operators and, or, and not and, or, not
Proximity operators w/5, pre/5, w/p w/5, near5, same
Truncation character ! *
Frequency atleast4(term) atleast4 term
Length length > 1000 wc > 1000
Company company(name) co=name
Publication publication(name) sn=name

A recent real-life request from a New York Times reporter:

Have there been any other racial incidents involving the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity over the years and decades?

Here is a Nexis search strategy for finding previous incidents. Search by Content Type: News, then go to Advanced Options and select the news categories you’d like to use. Then try this:

hlead(sigma alpha epsilon) and atleast2(sigma alpha epsilon or sae) and raci! and (discipl! or ban! or barr! or expel! or expuls! or suspen! or shut!  or sanction!)

Using a transcript search to find video clips

If you wanted to string together a bunch of quotes from Sen. Ted Cruz about Benghazi, you might use this strategy.

In Nexis: go to Search by Content Type: Broadcast Transcripts, and try this:

hlead(ted cruz) and atleast5(cruz) and cruz w/p benghazi

In Factiva: select subject Transcripts and try this:

hlp=(ted cruz) and atleast5 cruz and cruz same benghazi

Some quick tricks for Nexis and Factiva news searching

To find profiles, use one of these formulas:

Nexis: hlead(firstname pre/2 lastname) and atleast5(lastname) and length > 750

Factiva: hlp=(firstname w/2 lastname) and atleast5 lastname and wc > 750

For fast facts on a topic, try this search in Factiva (don’t forget to evaluate the sources): hlp=(factbox and topic)

Finding company information

Nexis: Search by Content Type: Company Dossier

Factiva: Companies/Markets

Session 4: Census

The Census offers far more than simply a count of people in the U.S. It’s your go-to source for data on who we are, and the way we live and work. Here are a couple of examples of how — or perhaps how not — to use Census data in your stories.

CBS Evening News: Homeownership (and the Census data behind it)

NBC Today: Census Bureau: Whites will be minority by 2043 (and the Census data behind it)

Let’s start with a quick explainer on the difference between the 2010 (decennial) Census and the American Community Survey (ACS):

2010 Census American Community Survey
Shows the number of people who live in the U.S. Shows how people live
Straight count of population and basic characteristics (sex, age, race, Hispanic origin, and homeowner status) Demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics
Happens once every 10 years Ongoing survey that provides data every year

Thus, ACS data will provide a richer source of information for your stories. ACS 1-year estimates provide data for areas with population of 65,000 or more, ACS 3-year estimates give figures for populations of 20,000 or more, and ACS 5-year estimates offer information on populations of almost any size, down to block groups (about 1,300 people). Note that ACS figures are estimates, and you should always identify them as such.

Official Census sources

State and County QuickFacts offer easy access to broad info.


American FactFinder, which includes American Community Survey data.

Facts for Features — collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas that commemorate anniversaries or observances and/or provide background information for topics in the news

Census press releases

The Census is also starting to release data from the 2012 Economic Census.

You can use Census data to localize a national or international story (for example, how many people of Ukrainian ancestry live in New York?) or to provide context for local story (what percentage of people in New York live below the poverty level?).

Third party sites that aggregate Census Bureau information

New York City Department of City Planning’s Population Page

Baruch College NYCdata and research guide

Infoshare Online and Social Explorer are available through the J-School

The University of Virginia Library’s Historical Census Browser has data from 1790 to 1960.

All Things Census blog from the Pew Research Center

Note: there is no religion data in the Census. For that, go to the Association of Religion Data Archives’ Religious Congregation and Membership Study.

Here’s the Research Center guide on Mining Census Data for Reporting.

Session 3: Government Sources

“I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan, 1986

Never fear: when it comes to data, the government is one of your best resources. It offers statistics on everything from foreign aid to the number of shoe stores nationwide. Whatever your story, you will likely find numbers from a city, state or federal agency that will help to illustrate the issues.

Federal government sources Data & Statistics is the motherlode of figures from the federal government. Use it as a jumping-off point to find the appropriate agency.

Here are a few of my favorite resources from the multitude of federal government statistical agencies. Keep in mind that the city and state of New York have similar entities.

National Center for Health Statistics
– FastStats

National Center for Education Statistics
– Fast Facts
– Digest of Education Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Labor Statistics
– Occupational Outlook Handbook
– CPI Inflation Calculator

Bureau of Economic Analysis (GDP)

Congressional Research Service reports offer objective, nonpartisan analysis on a wide range of issues, from the space program to bullying. You can find the reports on the Federation of American Scientists website and from Open CRS.

The Government Accountability Office is also a rich source of stats on government programs.

Looking for raw numbers to crunch? Here are some collections of government datasets:

And here are a few sources for international statistics:

Another cool tool, particularly if you don’t know what entity might track the data: Google’s Public Data Explorer, which displays statistics in graph form.

Here is the Research Center guide on data-driven story resources.

Now, for today’s drill.

Session 2: Polling and Trends

Whatever your topic, there is a probably a poll about it. A poll from a reliable organization that uses scientific methods can help illustrate a trend and capture the mood of society at a given point.

A quick definition of scientific vs. unscientific polls:

  • In scientific polls, the pollster uses a specific statistical method for picking respondents.
  • In unscientific polls, respondents select themselves to participate.

(Source: National Council on Public Polls)

To determine the validity of a poll, consult the National Council on Public Poll’s 20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results. Among the questions:

  • Who did the poll? Was it partisan? Done by a company?
  • How was it conducted? Self-selected (pseudopoll) or random sample? Online or on the phone?
  • Were the questions fair and unbiased? Avoid push polls.

Let’s look at this recent SHOCK POLL!!! — and an explanation of why it is problematic.

Sources for polls

Polling Report – aggregates polls from various sources

Huffpost Pollster – polling blog

Pew Research Center



Sources for New York-specific polls

Sources for public opinion on religion

Session 1: Sources for Video and Graphics

The goal in this class to use as much of your own amazing footage as possible. On occasion, however, you might want to supplement your pieces with outside video, audio or graphics. Here are some resources to help you get the goods.

First, a note on using other people’s material: for in-class use, anything is fair game. For broadcast purposes, get permission from the copyright owner (in writing is best). Questions? Contact Ruth.Hochberger[at] or Geanne.Rosenberg[at]


The J-school has an account with iQ media, a database of video and audio programs from a variety of media sources. Use it to find clips and get closed-caption transcripts for programs that aren’t in Nexis or Factiva.

CNN Newsource provides access to CNN video and scripts virtually in real time.

Internet Archive TV News is a free database of video clips going back to 2009.

The Vanderbilt Television News Archive has information about newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC dating back to 1968, as well as more recent coverage on CNN, Fox News and selected other outlets. You can order DVDs of broadcasts for a fee.

C-Span is a rich source for government and political footage, and offers transcripts as well as video.

A number of sources offer video in the public domain, including the Internet Archive Moving Image Archive and British Pathe on YouTube.


The Open Culture blog links to all manner of free stuff, including images from the world’s great art museums.

Google Images and Bing Images allow you to limit your search results to pictures that are free for commercial use. For Google, click on the gear icon on the top right, click Advanced Search, then choose Usage Rights. For Bing, pull down on the License menu.

Getty Images allows you to use embeddable images for non-commercial purchases. After searching, choose the Embed images option from the Sort and Filter menu.

New York’s Municipal Archives has hundreds of thousands of photographs of the city over the decades. You are permitted to use the watermarked versions in your pieces (credit NYC Dept. of Records/Municipal Archives); high-resolution, non-watermarked versions are available for $45.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery also offers hundreds of thousands of images; check the terms and conditions page for usage information.

As for newspapers, CUNY’s ProQuest account offers images of articles from the New York Times going back to 1851. The Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database has old newspapers from around the country, and the Brooklyn Public Library has images from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1841 to 1902. The Newseum has PDFs (front pages only) of the day’s newspapers as well as front pages from days of major news events. And finally, Google News has a collection of newspapers.

For magazines, check out the collection at Google BooksCUNY and the J-school offer students access to thousands of publications, many in PDF format.


The Free Music Archive and Internet Archive Audio Archive can help with audio for your pieces.

For further information, see the J-School Research Guide to Video, Graphics, & Audio for Broadcast & Multimedia.

Welcome to Video Craft

Greetings. I’m Susan Campbell Beachy, your research adjunct for Craft II: Video with Barbara Nevins Taylor and Aine Pennello. We’ll build on the skills you developed in Craft I and add some new tools to your research kit. Each one-hour research session will consist of an interactive discussion, often followed by a drill to reinforce what we’ve learned. Here’s the plan:

  • Tues., Feb. 10: Sources for Video and Graphics
  • Tues., Feb. 17: Polls and Trends
  • Tues., Feb. 24: Government Sources
  • Tues., Mar. 10: Census
  • Tues., Mar. 17: Advanced Nexis and Factiva
  • Tues., Apr. 21: In-Depth, Magazine Story Research
  • Tues., Apr. 28: Workshop on Research in Your Stories

Research will make up 10% of your overall grade. Your research grade will be calculated as follows:

  • 75% – Research grade for your final project. Factors will include use of statistics, expert sources and the accuracy of information.
  • 25% – Final research quiz, based on the topics we covered in our sessions.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any research-related questions. If you spend more than 20 minutes searching for something, email me at susan.beachy[at] and I’ll give you a hand. I ask only three things of you:

  1. Tell me the ways you’ve already tried to find the information. This will prevent me from running over the same ground, and it will also show me areas where the class might need help.
  2. Give me a deadline. If it’s two hours from now, I’ll see what I can do. If it’s in two weeks, let me know that too.
  3. After I send you information, please let me know you’ve received it, and if it meets your needs.

Keep an eye on this blog for recaps of each session and other research tips. I look forward to working with all of you.