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Enhance your breaking news reporting with data and documents

By Quint Forgey

The old newspaper adage, “there is no news in the newsroom,” no longer applies to American media. That’s because journalists can easily access publicly available data to quickly enhance reporting and put journalists hours – even days – ahead of competitors when local news breaks.

In Thursday’s session, “Data for breaking news,” John Keefe of WNYC and Stephen Stock of NBC Bay Area offered on-the-job anecdotes emphasizing that the key to great data reporting in high-stress situations is preparedness.

Citing some examples, Stock recounted using the tail number of a downed plane and aviation registration data to track down the name of a deceased pilot. Keefe said he used the name of a crashed ferry in lower Manhattan to mine through U.S. Coast Guard incident reports and discover that several similar incidents had befallen the vessel in the past.

Stock advised reporters to familiarize themselves with various databases well before incidents occur and make topic-specific folders for data websites on personal computers.

“In your community,” Keefe told the attendees, “what kinds of disasters could happen?”

Here are some of Stock’s favorite go-to sites when breaking news strikes:


Aviation Accidents




Political Campaign Data


U.S. Court System


Federal Spending


Federal Environmental Workplace Safety Sites




Business Records and Non-Profits






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