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September 23, 2013

Experts' Expert: Investigative reporter Lee Fang discusses his document gathering techniques

Q: It seems like a big part of your reporting involves following the paper trail, utilizing various documents. How do you access them, and are they mostly public, or are you securing them confidentially via sources?

A: You know, I don't restrict myself in how I get documents for my reporting, I just try every approach that I can think of. But what's been very helpful to me is just familiarizing myself with the different ways that a lot of documents are just placed online. So, for certain IRS documents, nonprofit disclosures, there are third parties that've done a great job in digitizing these records and putting them online, and I've kind of gained from how unorganized these documents are, because I think very few reporters actually take the time to look through them because it's so unorganized. And just taking the time to carefully sift through these types of disclosers that are often overlooked has been very helpful to me. And also just kind of monitoring different government agencies and state governments that are digitizing and putting up records that ordinarily might've taken some leg work to locate, that's been helpful. At the same time, I've tried to familiarize myself with some of the more traditional document gathering techniques, like FOIA of course and other public record laws. And finally, you know, there's been an explosion in social media websites and other websites dedicated to the dissemination of documents. There's Scribd, there's SlideShare, there's about 10 other websites that simply help folks disseminate their documents. So that could be a lobbyist proposal, that could be different brochures from public affairs firms, and a lot of this is very interesting and helpful to my reporting and it's not something that even existed a few years ago. So its been good for me.

Q: And how did you develop this documents or records expertise? It seems like a lot of people wouldn't even know how to read the documents you're relying on, much less write about them.

A: When I kind of started out blogging and doing online research I kind of had such deadlines that I had to produce [laughs] content on a regular basis, and you had to get creative when you're under that type of pressure. The other thing is, I like looking at reporting in the New York Times or something else that's interesting and trying to pick through, "How do they get those documents?" and replicating it for myself because, you know, no one candidly reveals how they report a story, right? It's kind of the mystery of journalism. But you can tell, if you look carefully at a Wall Street Journal story or whatever, if you narrow it down — OK, this was their source. Where in the world are theses sources even available — it just gives you ideas for maybe future reporting and that's something I always try to do.

Q: What advice do you have for young journalists, particularly looking to get into progressive magazine journalism?

A: You know, I think two things; one, find your niche, at least initially. Is there a political race coming up that that you want to cover, is there a policy issue that you're interested in? Become an expert and do it really well, because I think that leads to a lot of other opportunities even if you don't want to take this one type of reporting for the rest of your life, it's good to establish yourself in some way. And two, don't follow the herd. There are a lot of, I think, things you can do to just try to replicate what you see in a major media outlet. I would say: try to take it to the next level. Is there a research method that you don't think anyone else is using? Obsessively take control of that and exploit it. Is there a way of reporting or disseminating your reporting that no one's doing? Try that. Just be creative because there's a lot of competition and you have to distinguish yourself in some way.

[via The Investigative Fund]

September 23, 2013 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe's Favorite Thing: Plastic Pill Bottle


These clear plastic vials are intended for pills but have pretty much limitless applications outside the apothecary space.

No, they're NOT waterproof: that is, the closure isn't what I would call super secure.

The soft plastic top clicks down nicely but can be dislodged inadvertently — trust me on this.

Having said that, still an excellent addtion to your pocket, bag, or glove box.

They measure 13/16" in diameter and stand 2-1/16" tall.

25 for $9.95 (pills not included).


September 23, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday Afternoon at the Movies: "The Wild Ride" (1960) starring 23-year-old Jack Nicholson

Don't play games with me: we both know you haven't done a thing at work all day and now are just watching the clock, waiting till you can make your (hopefully unnoticed) early exit.*


For you, then — while you wait for just the right moment to attempt your escape — here's young Jack Nicholson doing what he did better than anyone in the world.

YouTube caption: "A rebellious punk of the beat generation spends his days as an amateur dirt track driver in between partying and troublemaking. He eventually kidnaps his buddy's girlfriend, kills a few police officers, and finally sees his own life end in tragedy."

*I'll never tell.

[via Open Culture]

September 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: smaller than a bread box.

Another: not plastic.

A third: or wood.

September 23, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Catme 13/Glass Effect 78 — Gray Cat naps on a quiet Sunday evening (through Google Glass)

More and more email saying "Enough of the cat."


I'm doubling down.

September 23, 2013 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Flat Wire No-Tangle Earphones




I am so tired of untangling the stupid knotted wires.


Below, excerpts from Taylor Bryant's Cool Tools review.


What I really want to evangelize is the idea of the flat headphone cable.

I love earbuds. I hate dealing with tangled cords. I stuff my headphones in my bag and they come out in a Gordian knot. All the solutions proffered seemed just as labor intensive as untangling them afterwards, involved wrapping them so tightly I can't help but think it's going to damage the wire or give it a memory — so it would revenge-tangle itself when I turned my head for a moment — or both.

Flat cables don’t "feel the need" to twist so you can drop them in the bottom of your backpack, pull them out, and they're ready to go.

These earbuds have a remote to pause/play/skip ahead, turn volume up and down, and take calls with an integral mic.


Eight colors — including some great wild neon ones that you'll actually be able to find in a crowded bag or drawer: $15.66.

September 23, 2013 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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