Top 10 Web Tools and Tricks for Journalists
By Julian Sher
A journalist without the web is a like a journalist without a pen: all good intentions but no way to get the story.
The web has revolutionized the way we do our business. It gives freelance writers the same access to research libraries and resources once the preserve of only major media organizations; it allows editors from the smallest publications to do fact checks and hunt for story ideas around the globe.
But mastering the web as an investigative tool is not as easy as most people think. The internet has also created a generation of lazy journalists who think by they've done their homework by punching in a few words into a search engine. The web doesn't make stupid journalists smarter, but it can make smart journalists smarter.
Want to be a smarter surfer? Here - in no particular order -- are some of the best tools and tricks for today's researchers, beat editors and storytellers:
1. FIND NEWS:
Google News Alerts (www.google.com/newsalerts) The best way to keep abreast of any breaking stories. Put in any keywords on the topic you're covering and you'll get regular emails. Plus make full use of all the other tools and tricks at Google News (www.news.google.com)
2. FIND ANYTHING:
Advanced Google Search Domain searches (www.google.com/advanced_search)
Don't waste your time with regular Google. Go to Advanced Google and do a domain search - allowing you to search by country or, better still, search just one massive web site.
3. FIND PEOPLE:
Ixquick International Phone Books (http://us.ixquick.com/eng/phone.html) A easy drop-down menu gives you access to phone books around the world.
4. FIND NEWSPAPERS:
ABYZ Newslink (www.abyznewslinks.com) A directory of newspapers across Canada, sorted by province, and also for publications in every country around the world.
5. FIND THINGS FAST:
Cyberjournalist Quick Search (www.cyberjournalist.net/supersearch.php) A single page that offers you not just the top search engines, but also phone searches, references, experts and databases.
6. FIND FACTS YOU CAN TRUST:
Librarians Index (http://lii.org/) Billed as "Web Sites you can trust" these Amercian librarians have found some of the best and most reliable resources on everything from art to science
7. FIND THE BBC'S TREASURES:
BBC Advanced Search (http://news.bbc.co.uk/shared/bsp/search2/advanced/news_ifs.stm) The world's largest and most-respected news organization offers you access to more than decade of news, video and audio. You can search by keyword, world region and date.
8. FIND YOUR LOST DATA:
XDrive (www.xdrive.com) The worst thing that can happen to a journalist is to lose your files - a computer theft, a meltdown or an accidental delete. This free website from AOL allows you to back up your files and folders. Plus you'll have them handy on the road wherever you log on.
9. FIND YOUR OWN STUFF:
Google Desktop(http://desktop.google.com/) The single best piece of software you should install on your hard drive. It constantly archives your hard drive - all your emails, memos, story notes. You can then find any scrap of files, a snippet of a name or a fact that you saved you can't remember where.
10. FIND YOUR BEST FRIEND ON THE WEB:
JournalismNet (www.journalismnet.com ) Alright, it's a bit of shameless self-promotion. But my website is listed by Google among the Top Ten journalism sites in the world. All the sites listed above are there - plus an explanation of how to use them.
Julian Sher is the creator and webmaster of JournalismNet.com. He has trained journalists at magazines such as Reader's Digest and Actualité, newspapers such as the Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun, and TV networks such as CBC, CNN and BBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org