I remember getting an email from a seasoned reporter who asked me why he was having trouble finding articles on his topic in Nexis, a database used to search for news articles and popular in many newsrooms.
When I trekked over to his desk so we could troubleshoot, I noticed the combination of words, connectors and fields strung together in his search box. It was a shock that he got any results at all. If you squinted, his search looked just like a viable search strategy that power searchers including reporters and editors use all the time.
But his search was something else. If you were a grammarian, a librarian or a programmer, you would say that his syntax was off. One or two word endings or symbols in the wrong place or order and, just like a math problem, you won’t get the right solution, or results from your search.
I have some tips to help your students practice this skill before they hit the newsroom.
Students need to master the art of the clip search for every pitch and story they write to add context, detail and history to their pieces. Professionally, their editors will expect them to know how to search commercial news databases like Nexis, Factiva and Access World News (Newsbank) so they won’t be reporting in a vacuum and will know what journalism has already been produced. These commercial databases have archives that go back farther than what’s findable on Google. Additionally, they circumvent paywalls, allow you to refine your searches…