Saturday, March 8, 2014

SXSW Top 10 tips - and a bonus 11th one too

Here's a few of the tips and tricks from my  SXSW Interactive talk about getting beyond the invisible web, thinking outside the box and using social media and shoe leather to get stories.

1. Remember Google won't search it all. Maybe not even half of what's out there. Know and use advanced Google searches (like searching within URLs or by file type) and try OTHER search engines, especially for other countries.
2. For social media, search inside Linked In, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter itself and use advanced searches there too - you can easily uncover connections between people who aren't your friends by comparing their friends or look for relatives of contacts you can't otherwise find via FB; you can find ex-employees of companies you're researching and then send people messages via LI.
3.  Sample various Social Media search tools - they're constantly evolving. Compare results on sites like with others. Doug Haddix of Kiplinger does a good job of keeping track - check out his presentations on Social Media Sleuthing. Here's one:
4. Remember Twitter itself only searches recent tweets. To go back, you must use another tool.
There are several choices - is an example. To look at your own stuff, check out "all my tweets."
5. Public records are everywhere these days.  I start with the assumption that the document is probably somewhere out there  - or at least the index or an e-mail of the source will be. A directory with many links is Search Systems Even small county courts are increasingly online. Justia has some cool  court-related links
6. Explore the many tools for tracking corporations worldwide, like   or Open Corporates 
or Investigative Dashboard. For non profits, there are many more - Charity Navigator, Foundation Search are examples.
7. Check out tools in - a paid but inexpensive site set up for historians and genealogists that can be useful for finding connections between individuals. Use free directories like and Zabasearch, and even too.
8. Remember to search not just for one name - but associated names, associated addresses and variations of names (nicknames, misspellings, etc).
9. Just because it says so in a document doesn't mean it's true. Sometimes the stories are in exposing the lies.
10. Remember photos and e-mails - private records - can be really useful documents too. Ask sources to e-mail records, ask lawyers to share statements, documents obtained via lawsuits.
11. Protect yourself and your sources - the things we know can be used against us.  Margot Williams of ICIJ did a nice summary of tips on this topic from #NICAR14 here:


Americans murdered in Mexico

Americans murdered in Mexico
US citizens continue to be killed in ongoing border violence. I've been covering this since 2009.

Was this teen offender wrongfully executed?

Was this teen offender wrongfully executed?
Debate over this 2005 Chron investigation - and other cases continues in Texas

Who killed Baby Jane Doe?

Who killed Baby Jane Doe?
A 2003 investigation from the now online-only newspaper gave this baby back her name. But her murder remains unsolved...