Covering Specific Issues

Reporter's Rights/Media Law

Ethics and Responsibility

Investigative Tools

Writing Tools

Help with Technology

Online News Sources

Professional Networking


Developing the Craft: Investigative Tools

This site has resources for better in-depth coverage of issues, trends and government.

Please let the Institute know about links that do not work, or about sources we should add. If a resource here helped you in covering a story, please let us know by emailing al.cross@uky.edu.


The Investigative Report, The Center for Investigative Reporting's blog featuring "the best of investigative journalism from around the world and thorughs on the state of the Fourth Estate.

Public Records & Investigation Blog Bankruptcy courts are under-covered and this helps explain the process for reporters.


LLRX.com, which hawks "law and technology resources for legal professionals," has a state-by-state summary of online databases of business filings, most of which are available free.


The federal court system doesn't get the coverage it deserves from rural news outlets, partly because it only has a few courthouses in each state. But federal courts have a wonderful online system for tracking cases, called Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER. It includes not only district courts, which handle trials, but the appellate courts and bankruptcy courts. Sign up for it at https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

This website makes federal court documents freely available to reporters: http://www.justia.com/


Death Indexes, http://www.deathindexes.com/
"A directory of online death indexes listed by state and county. Included are death records, death certificate indexes, death notices & registers, obituaries, probate indexes, and cemetery & burial records."

FBI Crime Report, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr, Includes data for all sizes of cities and towns.

National Sex Offender Public Registry, http://www.nsopr.gov/
Here you can search names submitted by 22 states. Information returned includes the sex offender's crimes, date of birth, address, physical description, date registered and when the information was last updated.


Time and Date, http://www.timeanddate.com/
This site can give time zones for cities around the world along with sunrise and sunset times, convert one time zone to another, calculate the number of days between any two dates, provide dialing codes, and generate a calendar for any year, past and present.

Foreignword, http://www.foreignword.com/
A free database of online dictionaries and translation tools.

U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/
This site will give quick information from the latest census for each state.

U.S. Census Bureau Decennial Census, http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/hiscendata.html
This site will give you selected historical housing and population data, from 1790-2000.

Detailed Maps
, http://maps.huge.info/
This site has a small directory of mapping programs.

National Association of Counties, http://www.naco.org/
Go here to find the county a city is located in, or the cities within a county. The site also offers other information about all U.S. counties, including population, square miles, the year of founding, elected officials and phone numbers.

Safe Road Maps, http://www.saferoadmaps.org/home/
This website uses FARS data, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) makes vehicle crash information accessible and useful so that traffic safety can be improved. Fatality information derived from FARS includes motor vehicle traffic crashes that result in the death of an occupant of a vehicle or a non-motorist within 30 days of the crash. FARS contains data on all fatal traffic crashes within the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.


Local white and yellow page searches, http://www.areaconnect.com/
This site offers free access to each state's available white and yellow pages.

Reverse phone look-ups, http://www.whitepages.com/0000/reverse_phone
Find out someone's name or location from the phone number.

Geobytes, http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm
This site offers a free Internet Protocol Address geographical locator, so
that you can locate someone who sent you an e-mail. Just get the IP address
from the mail, it will be in the "source" information for the message,
usually in the e-mail header, and will have sets of numbers separated by
periods. It may look something like this: 123.456.78.90. Then enter this
in the locator tool to find out where the person lives.

Skipease, http://www.skipease.com/blog/
Use this blog to search for people or public records.


Investigative Reporters and Editors, http://www.ire.org/
IRE provides reporters for those in investigative journalism, including a government database and journalists' networking.

Investigation Tips, http://www.investigationtips.com/tips.html
This private investigator site offers tips on such things as how to investigate an accident, locate hidden assets or find bank accounts legally.

Blog for private investigators, http://yourpinews.blogspot.com/
This site has articles and advice from various private investigators.

Journalist's Resource, http://journalistsresource.org/
An organization to promote the concept of "knowledge-based reporting" focusing on "the idea of bringing journalism closer to the research world.

Math for Journalists, http://journalistsresource.org/reference/research/reference/foundations/math-for-journalists/
A resource to brush up on math terminology.


SearchSystems, http://www.searchsystems.net/
From Al Tompkins' Morning Meeting: "SearchSystems.net is a collection of more than 35,000 public record databases. You can tap into them for free, or pay about five bucks a month for fast access to the data. It is one of just a few Web sites I pay for. With it, you're able to search all sorts of licenses, inspection records, corporation records and a ton more in every state -- plus territories -- and even some other countries. When I show foreign journalists this site, their jaws drop. And, sadly, most American journalists have access to these kinds of open records and still do not use them to enrich stories and dig deeper."

Public Libraries Briefcase, Using Public Records
This site explains how to use public records to conduct business research.

The Fallacy Files, http://www.fallacyfiles.org/
This site investigates different illogical arguments, and the books that were published to support the original claims.

Weblens search portal, http://www.weblens.org/
"WebLens features dozens of embedded searches and links to thousands of the Net's most popular search engines, directories, metasearch tools, music and image searchers, people finders, company locators, reference tools, job databases, recipe archives, scholarly research resources and more."

Critical thinking portal, Limbicnutrition
Limbicnutrition has lots of information for critical thinking, including a list of popular fallacies, classic propaganda and persuasion techniques, and methods for argumentation.

Story Database, http://www.ire.org/resource-center/stories/
You can use this database to search thousands of investigative stories, either to get ideas or find out what other reporters have discovered in their research.


Dogpile.com, http://www.dogpile.com/_1_298VU2T09WVPEY__info.dogpl.iso1/
Mentioned in the Wall Street Journal online, this meta-search site compiles multiple search engines into one.

Repositories of Primary Sources, http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html
This repository has a list of over 5000 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar.

Data Place, http://www.dataplace.org/
Go here to find data about a variety of demographic topics for different areas in the nation.

JupiterResearch, http://www.jupiterresearch.com/bin/item.pl/home
Here you can search business research and reports.

GoshMe, http://www.goshme.com
This site calls itself a "Web Search Assistant." You post a keyword, click at least one category, and get a list of search engines with a description of how many results each one got for your keyword, ranked by relevance and divided by category.

Yahoo! Finance Search, http://finance.yahoo.com/search
You can search here for information on companies, business moguls, and subsidiaries.

Transportation Research Group, http://www.tripnet.org
This site has research, both national and state-specific, on a variety of topics related to transportation.

Rolling your own search engines, http://rollyo.com/index.html
You can use this site to develop your search engine, which will then search the sites you specify for the keyword.

Tools for thinking, http://www.ms.lt/ms/projects/toolkinds/index.html
This site has several tools to help great thinkers come up with new ideas.

Auto industry research, http://www.plunkettresearch.com/automobile/index.htm
This site has information on market research and trends, the transportation business and statistics on the automobile industry.

Using search engines to find medical information, http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020228
This is an open-access journal on the world's scientific and medical literature.

FirstGov, http://firstgovsearch.gov/
Here's a search engine designed for government.

Newsvine, http://www.newsvine.com/?pp=1
A place where anyone can "read, write and discuss the news."


SourceWatch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch
SourceWatch is a product of the Center for Media and Democracy. It's a directory of "people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda."

National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/index.html#search
"Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States."

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/default.htm
At this site, you can search for health warning letters.

U.S. Public Interest Research Group
, http://www.uspirg.org/
PIRG calls itself a watchdog group for public interest Washington.

Congressional Budget Office, http://www.cbo.gov/
Here you can find current budget projections and budget options, along with other items of interest such as the economic impact of Hurricane Katrina, recent social security analyses, and historical budget data.

National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/
NCSL is an organization for state legislatures. The group "provides research, technical assistance and opportunities" for policymakers to exchange ideas on pressing state issues.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/
The Center offers reports and analysis of issues facing the federal budget.

U.S. Department of Energy, http://energy.gov/
The USDE website has information on current energy policy and the energy budget.

State employee retirement systems, http://www.census.gov/govs/www/retire.html
The Employee-Retirement System survey provides "revenues, expenditures, financial assets, and membership information" for individual, national, state and local retirement systems.

National Council on Public Polls
, http://www.ncpp.org/
This site has a list of questions journalists should ask before analyzing public poll data.

Database on political nonprofits, http://www.publicintegrity.org/527/
This database has research tools, projects and summaries of political nonprofits.

Public Health Reports, http://www.publichealthreports.org/
This site has information on research and projects related to public health. "Public health carries out its mission through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the physical, mental and environmental health concerns of communities and populations at risk for disease and injury. "

Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections
, http://www.uselectionatlas.org/
This site has information from all the past presidential elections, including the dates of the election and each state's electoral votes.

Library of Congress Search Engine, http://thomas.loc.gov/
Search legislation on file at the national library.

Center for Public Integrity, http://www.iwatchnews.org/
This site focuses on news reports that hold the current administration accountable.

FirstGov, http://firstgovsearch.gov/
Here's a search engine designed for government.

Stateline, http://www.stateline.org/live/
Stateline offers a directory of public policy and politics, state by state.

Governing, http://governing.com/
"The indispensable journal of state and local government." You could also use this site to follow rural policy developments at the state level.

US Government RSS Library
This site provides links to RSS feeds of official government documents. http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/RSS_Library.shtml

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues helps non-metropolitan media define the public agenda in their communities, through strong reporting and commentary on local issues and on broader issues that have local impact. Its initial focus area is Central Appalachia, but as an arm of the University of Kentucky it has a statewide mission, and it has national scope. It has academic collaborators at Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marshall University, Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio University, Southeast Missouri State University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Washington and Lee University, West Virginia University and the Knight Community Journalism Fellows Program at the University of Alabama. It is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Kentucky, with additional financial support from the Ford Foundation. To get notices of Rural Blog postings and other Institute news, click here.

Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, College of Communications & Information Studies
122 Grehan Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042
Phone 859-257-3744 - Fax 859-323-3168

Al Cross, director al.cross@uky.edu