Miami Herald reporter discusses online research

Miami Herald metro reporter Evan Benn will begin speaking with a UM journalism class (CNJ 216 news reporting) in about a minute or so. I’m crashing the party with my laptop, digital recorder and point-and shoot.

He will be discussing online research and has a handout called “Finding people, getting stories.”

This will be my first real liveblog – the test one I did with Cover It Live doesn’t count.

Here are the points he will discuss:

1. Plug ‘Em In

2. Find public records

3. Call around them

4. Play dumb

5. Be yourself

I’ll be expanding these based on his talk as it occurs, so please be sure to check back for updates.

9: 42 A.M.: “Even when I first got into this business all we did is go out with a notebook and pen, but now it’s so much different.” Now, he has a Blackberry (for filing and photos), takes a digital recorder, etc.

He shot photos from courtroom with Blackberry, but they said they sucked, so he brought a point-and-shoot the next time.

Side note: I brought Evan to speak to our SPJ chapter last semester where he mentioned how he liveblogged the O.J. trial from Vegas.

“You really have to be fast and efficient and versatile, that’s always the linchpin of journalism.” (Hey! That’s the name of this blog.)

Tip 1: “There’s so much information available on the Internet,” that should be where you start. Use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.

Tip 2: Public records: “There’s a wealth of information you can find about people’s lives.”

9:58 A.M.:

Web resources:

Evan showed this entertaining video while discussing Bird Road Rudy (the Herald story is no longer online.

10:02 A.M.: We’ve moved on to blogging, yay!

“I think that’s important in this day and age.”

Evan gave an example of a recent post he wrote about an item from his hometown papers.

Tip 4: Play dumb.

“Don’t be afraid to say, ‘Can you slow down?’ “

“When you’re writing, pretend like your telling it to your friend.”

For difficult stories, such as deaths and tragedies.

“Be a human first, a journalist second. Often journalists are seen as vultures.”

“Be empathetic. It’s O.K. to not be a robot. Make a human connection, find some common ground. If you can find that human connection, you’ll find people are a lot more willing to talk to you and make you job easier.”

Question from student: Are blogs replacing columns?

No, Evan says he thinks they add to the conversation.

Question from student: Do you do your own radio work?

He takes all his own audio, uploads it, listens and edits before taking it to radio studio. He writes a minute-long script, voices it and they put it all together.

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