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Getting Started in Online, Open-Source Investigations

At First Draft, we frequently receive emails from a whole range of people asking how they can start doing the sort of online open-source investigation and verification that they’ve seen us doing. The skills and methodologies used are all something that can be learnt through a little persistence, but here are a few pieces of advice to get you started.


Digital Self-Defense for Journalists: An Introduction

Digital self-defense is becoming an important part of the journalistic toolkit. Beyond risks to everyone’s digital lives—webcam hacking, email breaches, identity theft—people who work in newsrooms have even more at stake. Newsrooms are some of the biggest targets in the world for state-sponsored digital attacks, as well as more routine threats.


The Digital Journalist’s Toolbox: Video

Engaging and interactive journalism is still possible even without an extensive knowledge of coding. But how? We’ve taken the guesswork out, scouring the internet to find the most accessible tools to create multimedia content. Below, you’ll find a collection of completely free applications that will do all the work for you — no coding required. This week: video.


The 10 Most-Used Tools in Today’s Newsrooms

In the very early days of building Sonr*, we talked to newsrooms all over New York City and London to get a sense of what tools journalists are currently using to get the job done. Some of these newsrooms were more traditional than others, but we found that there was a core set of digital tools that most writers and editors couldn’t get through the day without. Let us know what you think, or if this list is missing anything in the comments!


New Tools Open Up Virtual Reality to Journalists

When Gustavo Cerati, a legendary Argentinian musician and songwriter, was asked to share his best advice for new musicians, he refused—saying instead that “experiences are not transferable.” You may agree or may not with his statement, but if you’ve ever worn an Oculus Rift or a similar virtual reality (VR) headset, you’ll know we are getting closer and closer to transferable experiences.


A Tour Of Aleph, A Data Search Tool For Reporters

In a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, the Aleph is a point in space that contains all others. To those who see it, it presents the entire universe at once — an investigative reporter’s dream. Over the past six months, I’ve been working for OCCRP to produce a tool named after this mythical object. It’s based on a prototype I hacked up as part of my 2014 Knight International Journalism Fellowship, and it has now grown into a data research tool as part of the Investigative Dashboard.


When Virtual Reality Meets Data Journalism

Isn’t the best journalism always immersive? Whether it’s Walter Kronkite’s journalistic take on history “You are There” from the 1950s or Declan Walsh’s mobile phone reporting from Syria in June, the best journalism makes you feel like you are part of the story. You care what happens. Virtual Reality is a powerful tool in making journalism more immersive to its readers and increasingly it’s becoming an essential part of the journalist’s toolkit. There are great examples of reporters using VR, such as the work of VR pioneer Nonny de la Peña, The Guardian’s 6×9 exploration of solitary confinement, or the Berliner Morgenpost’s exploration of life as a refugee.


A Poor Journalist’s Text-Mining Toolkit

How can you search and analyze collections of documents on your own computers with simple tools? At DataHarvest, Robert Gebeloff and I ran a workshop to answer that question. As people were seemed interested, here’s a write-up of the two key tools we worked with: Apache Tika for content extraction and regular expressions in Sublime Text as an advanced search tool.

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Humanizing Data: Using Numbers AND People

With the growing relevance and popularity of data journalism, it may be easy to prioritize numbers over people, and spend our time emphasizing the data through graphics, maps, charts, and other visual products. But sometimes the faces and names behind the data get lost. Fortunately, we have some guiding lights to keep us on the path of good journalism. Consider these highlights from the panel Humanizing Numbers at IRE16…

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From Research to Publication: A Snap Look at Tips from IRE16

When it’s time to start a new investigation, journalists prepare themselves in different ways: from doing the research to pitching the story to building the narrative. It’s not about a single formula, but about integrating different resources and strategies. Here, we present a selection of the tips presented at the 2016 conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors (#IRE16), useful for starting and developing investigations.