4. Nov. 2016

posted Nov 28, 2016, 6:03 PM by Frank Steele

November 28, 2016

After a string of 70-hour weeks, I’m caught up in some of my work, but I’m obviously way behind in writing posts for this blog. If anyone’s following it, sorry about that. Here are some things from my inbox over the last two months or so:

Finding email addresses
Search Engine Journal has a good article on “How To Find Anyone’s Email Address In 60 Seconds Or Less.” I haven’t tried it yet, but the techniques look good, helpful, and simple. I doubt it’ll take “60 seconds or less,” but then I’m a slow typist.

Site credibility/questionable posts
Dan Russell at SearchReSearch wrote a good post on site credibility weeks before the election, before fake news and posts were such a big deal. It’s his answer to the question “Who backs the site?” and it covers searching for the authors of a post and evaluating their credibility, checking out the site itself to spot fakery, cross-checking with other credible sites, and provides nice examples and commentary. Good how-to on assessing online content.


Think tanks and their research
Back in October, Journalist’s Resource posted an article on “Writing about think tanks and using their research: A cautionary tip sheet.”

Think tanks often provide valuable and impartial policy research. But entrenched conflicts of interest across the political spectrum, and pandering to donors, often raise questions about their independence and integrity. A few years ago, think tanks were seen as places for wonky scholars and former officials to bang out solutions to critical policy problems. But today, as the Boston Globe has written, many “are pursuing fiercely partisan agendas and are funded by undisclosed corporations, wealthy individuals, or both.” This tip sheet aims to help journalists ask critical questions before citing a think tank’s research or experts. 

Many think tanks are nonprofits, and are therefore required to file a Form 990 with the IRS. You can learn all sorts of interesting information from these tax returns, if you have the patience to wade through them (something I’ve done a lot over the past month). Nonprofit tax returns are available online at GuideStar, ProPublica, and Foundation Center, among other places. Sometimes one site will have returns and the others won’t, so try them all if necessary.


Excel and research
This is probably obvious, but if it looks like a project is going to involve a lot of information, including numbers, start a spreadsheet to keep track of the information you find, whether you use Excel, Google Sheets, or something else. I did that with a recent research project involving a variety of numbers, and I’m glad I did. I was able to log names, dates, amounts, notes, paste in the links to each site I checked, and so on. Having the data in visual form, in one place, where numbers could be added automatically and links were listed so that I could click on them to check and double-check things was both a godsend and a time-saver.

To be continued this weekend, I hope.