Starting with PIN - An overview

Michael Caputo -


This tutorial is an overview of PIN. You’ll look at the PIN tools and go over the thinking behind the Public Insight Network. 


First we’ll take a second to talk passwords. Most of this is obvious. But there is a point: We promise to have a source-journalist relationship with the people in the network. So we want to make sure we’re protecting the information in this database.

Support Pages

These pages are a guide you can access in two ways. Use the Table of Contents, which unfolds as you get more proficient using PIN. Or search for articles, using the Knowledge Base support bar.

This site also has a ticketing system you can use to let us know about problems or issues. Your question or problem goes to everyone on the PIN team. And the ticketing system sends you emails as progress gets made on your issue.

Intro to AIR

Now a look at the central PIN tool - the database, question form builder and email provider, AIR. We store source profile information and responses here... build question forms and read responses here. We can also take notes on sources and submissions. And we can create and send emails to sources.

To sign in – you use your business email as the login ID. First-time users will need to click “forgot password” and prompt AIR to send an email to create a password. 

AIR's Homepage

Our tour of the front page begins at the upper left and the search bar. Typing in a keyword or phrase there gets you immediately started on a search. To the right of the search bar is a blue button with the outline of a person. The default search in AIR is for people … sources.  Toggle that button to search for queries – and by queries we mean the question forms you send to sources – or by submissions … or projects.

Below the search bar is the first field …  alerts.   An alert is triggered when there is a discrepancy in the source’s profile. This happens so that we can maintain accurate information. For example --- everyone in the database is identified by their email. So if a source responds to a query with the name “Mike” and then to another set of questions with the name “Michael" -That triggers an alert because the names are different. You only need to resolve the conflict. That’s important. If you don’t, the information will not flow into the database. Nor will you be able to read the response the alerted source responded to. 

Below the alert field is the project field, which shows you all your newsroom projects. Typically a newsroom has only one catch-all project. However, as you get more acclimated to the system, you might create individual projects around topics.

Next, we have the queries field. Remember, the query is the question form you create for a certain group of sources. This field displays the most recent queries. Under that field is the link to the support site.

And – at the bottom right – you see a black tab labeled bins. What’s a bin? Say you want to question a group of teachers on education spending. You find those sources in the database, then gather the source emails in a bin. That tab is a drawer where you can create new bins and organize existing bins. More on that, later.

When you are signed in to AIR, you can click your email address (upper right of the screen) to manage your own profile. Under this is the email field, which shows the five most recent emails either sent or in draft form. 

Under the email field is a directory field – that shows you all the newsroom users of PIN. Below that is a field to upload spreadsheets of information.

The six icons at the top of the page are the recent activity icons. These give you a quick way to get back to recent database work. So – from left to right – you can view the five most recent emails, most recent projects, most recent sources, most recent queries and most recent submissions. The far right button opens up useful sections in AIR. You can add new sources here or new submissions or projects or start a new email.. 

But you will also produce material to share with your sources and your audience. One of those is called PINfluence. This is a brief write-up of how PIN activity influenced a story, talk show or project. It's a means of sharing how source insights show up in your newsroom's work. Another vital region to know - the button to create a query. Let's call it Querymaker. This is the way to begin building a question form that you'll send to sources. It's a vital tool. The remaining vital tool is the email tool - a major way to get your query to sources, to welcome the, and to thank them.

Intro to Querymaker

When you begin building the query, a pop-up will appear where you'll put in a title for the question form, a brief description and link it to your newsroom.

That will open up a page where you will begin to build the actual form. We'll guide you through this process in following tutorials. But please know that this is the place where you begin to create a page that you'll share not only with sources but the audience.

Intro to the Email tool

The final tool in the kit is our email tool. Just like Querymaker, a pop-up will appear where you'll put in the internal name for your email, choose what type of email it will be and make sure your organization is correct. Once you click save, you can craft your email. There is a more detailed tutorial on how exactly to do this in a subsequent section. 


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