EdMedia Commons Archive

Online Tools to Make Your Job Easier as a Reporter

NEC Multispeed EL by Leslie WongMap of Washington: Screen grab of Google Fusion final product

Whether you’re out to secure your content or bone up on web tools that can improve your journalism, this list of sources and the accompanying brief descriptions should get you started on connecting loose ends and protecting sensitive material from prying digital eyes.

Encryption is your friend: Four easy ways to protect yourself and your sources

As a policy organization or enterprising reporter, you’re likely to store sensitive information on your hard drive. Here are four hints on protecting your output and your sources:


Beyond encryption: Hold the phone! And other security strategies

Sometimes email and cellphones can get you or the source in trouble. Here are tips on minimizing those risks: http://www.cjr.org/feature/beyond_encryption.php

Query wisely

Google is your friend, but with the help of a few punctuation marks and clever conjunctions, the search engine can save you a lot of time and effort in getting answers to vital queries. This link was featured on the listserv, but it proved to be a hit so here it is again:


Who has time to read when there’s writing to be done?

There are probably dozens of stories you’d like to read in one day but deadlines and background work leave you with scant time to sit down and peruse an interesting write up. Finding a way to organize what you intend to read later can minimize the potential for a backlog of unread articles. These two sites offer seamless options to prioritize your reading list. Even better, it works for tablets and mobile devices, too: Readability http://www.readability.com/ and Instapaper http://www.instapaper.com

Google Fusion Tables—making visuals like a pro with the skills of a tyro

Got data? Turn it into a map. If you want to illustrate school districts by levels of poverty, Google Fusion Tables can help. Here’s a living example of Fusion at work. Here’s the link to the program.

Know the source of the photo image

An EWA’er gave writers a great assist with this bit of software: http://www.tineye.com/. Enter an image url into the search bar and fancy algorithms will scan the interwebs for the same photo. In the case of Nicole Dobo’s excellent piece, tineye helped her learn that a degree mill website pilfered a photo from another university and placed it on its own site.

What did that webpage look like before controversy struck?

The Wayback Machine stores caches of websites. That is useful if you’re out to see if think-tanks or PR teams altered content or distanced themselves from a previous position. For fun, take a look at what EWA.org looked like in February of 2001. National Center for Education Statistics circa 1998 is also a treat.

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.