Searching for PIN Sources - Tips and Tricks

Michael Caputo -

Now we’ll go through some valuable search tips.

Find your new sources

As you begin to build your source network – it makes a whole lot of sense to pay attention to new sources. Here is a way to find them.

First – make sure you are searching for primary sources, but remember, those are sources who claim your news organization as their primary news contact in the PIN system. Then click on the bar with no keywords in it. That gives you all the sources in your network… all your primary sources.

Now, open up the advanced search section (remember, it’s at the top of the search field). Add this rule – “new in the last…". Then go to the next tab. You could look for those who are new in the last seven days, 14 days, up to 28 days.

Even before you make that search final, you’ll get the number of sources who are new to your network.If you are happy with what you've found, click the "blue search" button to make the search final.

A trick: Manipulate the search string 

Here’s a little trick. When you use advanced search, you are using a friendly interface that creates a search string. After you complete your search… that search string will be in the basic search bar.

Eventually you can get comfortable with those search strings and use them on your own. We provide you with a list of search terms – if you really want to get crazy.

But let’s move to our trick, if you want to manipulate the date range for new folks - you can choose any range you like by playing with the string. In this case, the search was done in the last seven days. If you wanted those new in that month, just change the first date in the string so that it starts with, in this case, December 1, 2012.

Finding people who have responded to you before

Now let’s find people who have responded to a prior query. This is useful if you want to, let’s say, send out a query on K-12 spending and you want to find folks who responded to older questions on education funding.

Go to advanced search and find the query field. Type in your newsroom in the project field. That will give you choices of previous queries you have sent out. Choose one. You'll notice two things; first, on the right you'll get the number of people who responded before you make the search final and second, the search string is being created below.

Searching geographically

Geographic searches are important in newsrooms. We have a few ways to do that. One is searching by county. There is a few ways to find sources by county.

Advanced search gives you a "county" rule. In the simple search bar just type "county=” and the name of that county. You can also filter by county. First, you choose the state by checkmarking it under the state filter. Then open up the county filter and choose the county you want.

Another geographic search is by zip code. This is very important for finding neighborhoods. We have a couple of ways to do this. Use the zip code filter by first choosing the state, then heading to the zip code filter. You can open up choices for the zip code by going from the first three numbers of the zip to the full number. And you’ll notice another benefit of the filter – it gives you the number of sources contained in each zip code.

You can also search in the basic search bar. Type in “zip=” then the number. You want all those in a large geographic area? Then the asterisk is a friend. Type in the first three numbers, for example, and add the asterisk and it will give you all the zips starting with those digits.

Use the wild card

That asterisk can be valuable in other searches. Call it the wild card. Type a portion of the word with an asterisk in the basic search bar. The responses you will get include variations of the word.

Search tip: Think of phrases people would use

Perhaps the most useful tip of all is to think about phrases that sources you are looking might use. Let’s say that you were doing a search for those who are unemployed or had been unemployed. What would people in that situation have told you in a previous response about being jobless? What natural phrases would they use? “Out of work can yield relevant sources. The same with ...was laid off. just read over the snippets or blurbs in the search results and you’ll see sources giving some details about their job loss. This is valuable information for a journalist.

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