Magazine article Nieman Reports

The Internet as a Reporter's Tool

Magazine article Nieman Reports

The Internet as a Reporter's Tool

Article excerpt

`I'd be lost without it.'

As I left for my Nieman year in August 1999, we were just getting desktop PC's to replace an old system. The Internet was still the new guy in the newsroom. We said hello and tried to be friendly. Occasionally we picked his brain and let him entertain us.

Since my return this summer, he's become a valuable pal.

The Internet may yet cost us our jobs, ruin our lives, and wreck our democracy. But I've been constantly amazed at how much it's helped me do stories and even find them since I got back. This may be old news for a lot of journalists, but it's been new to me.

I cover politics in North Carolina. When finance reports came out just before the election, I saw that executives from one company had accounted for a third of the money raised by one candidate for state labor commissioner. I checked with the labor department to see if they had a file on the company and was directed to an OSHA Web site. There I found the company had a series of outstanding fines. They happened to add up to about the same amount the executives had given the rival party candidate.

Before the election, I did some stories about our new early voting program that let people cast ballots up to three weeks before November 7. When I needed statewide registration figures, I found them on the state board of elections' Web site. So were the phone numbers of election directors in all 100 counties. A couple of years ago, the search would have involved at least a long phone call and some faxes. …

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