Searching for PIN Sources - An Overview

Michael Caputo -

Welcome to this PIN Essential Tutorial… this one focused on how you can best search for sources in your network.

Welcome to the PIN essential tutorial. Now we talk about searching for sources in the network. We'll recommend a way to plan searches... and then talk about search basics in AIR.

Let's return to our PIN work flow for a moment - you search for the sources you want to query... you write questions to ask those sources... you send out the question form and then you read what they tell you - and learn. Behind it all is an overriding question - "what do you want to know."

That overarching question, however, first requires us to answer another one: “Who do you want to know it from?.” You need to envision the people you seek to help craft the questions.

Before searching in the database, AIR, ask yourself who you want to find. Do the sources have a stake in the issue or study the issue or are they affected by it. These are your likely targets. And, by the way, you may not be looking for people – but documents. Ask sources for them. Or you may not have the people you need in PIN. So you'll need to get them in your network. Create a form, ask your questions, then pass it along to people who can connect this form to needed sources.

The tutorial offers an example from KPCC in Southern California. The station wanted to do reporting on the state of the prison system months after a riot happened in one of its jails. Who did they want to hear from? Some of the source types on their list are obvious - inmates, families of inmates. Some are less so. The point? It makes sense to pause and think about the ways sources might connect with a news topic.

Different source types

With some planning complete, we can now go into the database, AIR. Let's go over some basics. First a little bit about source types. This depends on the relationship a source has with your newsroom. Remember dozens of newsrooms use PIN. A source connects to the PIN through one newsroom – but they also have the option to connect with any news organization in PIN.

A source can be connected to one, two, ten or all of the PIN newsrooms. Many of them do. Roughly half of the sources in our entire network are what we call global sources – meaning they field questions from any PIN newsroom. This is good because that means the pool of sources you can query includes folks who may not have come in through your efforts – but have chosen to field questions from you.

With that knowledge – let’s talk about the three types of sources.

Primary sources are those who came into the network through your efforts and have designated your newsroom as their primary newsroom.  Of course, they are yours to query.

Available sources includes those who choose to get queries from your newsroom – and those who are global sources. You can query all of these sources. It’s worth noting that you will see demographic information for all of these sources. BUT you will only see the responses by them from queries YOU have sent.

Finally there is the all sources category. This includes those who Inactive sources – those who no longer want to be a part of PIN. You will seldom use this category – except to find people who have left PIN but you still might want to contact by phone or personal email.

Beginning to search - The basics 

Typing in key words and phrases is just the start. You can also refine the search you do.

The tutorial uses the example of typing in the word economy. And in this example you find more than Sixteen Thousand sources. These are people who have written about the economy in some response or have the word economy in a description about who they are or what they do.

Now you can dig deeper. At the top of the search you’ll see a link "advanced". This is for an advanced search.

Advanced Search

When you click "advanced" up pops a section where you can choose rules to apply to your search. You can join these rules using "and" or "or".

Drop down menus will give you category choices – state, zip code, gender, household income. You can even see choices for people who haven’t heard from the PIN in a certain number of days, or people who have responded to a query in "X" days.

The tutorial gives the example of the advanced search where we chose "political affiliation" and "state" as rules. To the right – in the highlighted area – you’ll see the number of people out of that original Sixteen Thousand who fall under those rules – Three Hundred and Seventy-nine.

Now you hit the "blue search button". And those sources are available to you.

Refining your search

Here’s another way to refine your searches. Let’s say you type in the word “boxing." First, note that the database will display not only the name and contact information of the source, but also a blurb showing you how the source connected with your search. The highlighted words are that connection – and the default way AIR searches allows for variation on words – so "boxing" produced people who used the words "box" or "boxcars" or "boxes".

But say you want only those who used the word "boxing". Go to the top of the search page and click on the exact match box.

Now you will get only those sources who used that term in responses OR who have the sport as part of their profile.

Applying filters to a search

Another method of weeding through sources is applying filters as you search. The difference with this method is that you can easily and freely change the filters so you get a sense of what’s in your network.

In the example in our tutorial, you have nearly 3000 people who were found using the search term "voter".

You can filter for those who are Democrats by going to the “filter by” section on the left. There you can click on "political affiliation", then check the Democrat box. Look at the box at the top in the center – the “drag all” box. That number displays the number of sources within your initial search who identified as Democrats – nearly 3000 found. Change the criteria to Republicans and it changes that number from about 900 to 175.

Other wrinkles in the filter sectionMouse over the upper right corner and find the "apply filters" button complete the search using that filter. Click the box near the "filter criteria" once to find source that fit the criteria. Click the button twice to exclude those sources with that criteria from your search. 

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