You can thank the man in the bow tie, Nelson Poynter, for inspiring this search engine for journalists. He believed in using technology to positive effect, and in improving journalism in the process. So we've created a search engine sophisticated enough for precise searching and simple enough for easy use.
Instead of searching every site on the Internet and coming up with hundreds of thousands of results that may have no relevance to your inquiry, this engine is designed to tailor searches to those sites that are most likely to be useful to journalists. We've begun it with the expectation that, like any powerful new tool, it will be most valuable if it performs what you need. We'll welcome your feedback.
Nelson searches any or all of four databases:
- All Poynter: The entire Poynter.org site. (For the next week or so, until we fully retire our old site, searching All Poynter will not include the pages of our new site.)
- Current News: A selection of more than 200 sites around the nation and world -- print, broadcast, and online -- that produce news in English. Don't be offended if your site is not included. We had to make some arbitrary choices in providing geographic spread. Please make your case for additions and/or deletions.
- Journalism Organizations: A selection of 155 journalism-related organizations, membership associations, publications, and schools. Journalism educators will notice that we've just begun accumulating links to schools. Suggestions welcome.
- Newsroom Beats: A selection of 174 sites relevant to particular beats in the newsroom. We'll add more beats, and more sites, as you tell us what you need.
- Start by entering a word or phrase in the search box that gives Nelson some idea what you're looking for. Leaving all the boxes unchecked on the page means you will search all four of the databases described above.
- You can limit your search by clicking one or more of the boxes to the left of each of the site collections. The simplest way to remove checks and craft a new search is to refresh or reload the page in your browser.
- The date selection enables you to narrow your choice somewhat, but the selection refers to the day the material was found by Nelson as opposed to the day it was originally published or broadcast.
You can sharpen your search further, on the results page, by checking boxes next to stories that appear relevant. Then click on the box at the bottom marked "More stories like the ones I've checked."
If you're a reporter and want to see how colleagues around the country are handling a similar story, try searching Nelson's Current News database. The more specific your request, the better. Instead of "violence," try "shootings and violence in schools." To limit your search to news publications (print, online, or broadcast), click All News Sites. You can limit or expand the sites searched simply by checking or unchecking boxes. Looking to get some training in Photoshop? Nelson searches the sites of organizations most likely to help. You might start by checking the box next to All Journalism Groups. Unlike many search engines, Nelson finds documents stored in databases and other formats. My Photoshop search even turned up a newspaper's Photoshop manual, posted to the web as a PDF document.
How Nelson Works
Every night at 10 p.m. EST, software running on three computers in downtown St. Petersburg begins collecting information from sites around the web. (We try to do most newspaper sites after midnight to capture the next day's content.) Any page that has changed since the night before is copied, its essential words deposited in Nelson's database. First thing in the morning, the words from those sites are sent to the engine that enables you to communicate with Nelson. You type in words describing what you're looking for. Nelson searches its database and provides a list of links containing its best assessment of what you're seeking.
Poynter and Current News sites are "spidered" seven nights a week, Newsroom Beats three nights a week and, Journalism Organizations once a week.
Nelson Poynter was the owner of the St. Petersburg Times who gave his company to a school for journalists. When he set up what was known as the Modern Media Institute in 1975, he directed that the school (named for Poynter after his death in 1978) do everything it could to help journalists and media leaders get better at their jobs. As custodians of one of democracy's essential freedoms, we are guilty of technological backwardness," Poynter said in a 1946 speech. "We have been remiss in discovering new tools to implement that freedom . ... As an industry we must improve and expand -- or we will dwindle and die." Those ideas continue to guide The Poynter Institute today. That's why we find ourselves building a specialized journalism search engine. It 's a tool journalists need, and it's not available elsewhere.
Who Did What?
Autonomy Corp. sold us the software. Dan Buan, from Buan Consulting, has provided steady help along the way. Poynter's Larry Larsen, Lanette Miller, and Jeff Saffan play important technical roles. News Editor Rochelle Lewis Lavin picked the name. Poynter's Nora Paul, the author of two recent books on web searching, selected most of the sites to be spidered, assisted by Poynter researcher David Shedden. Nora continues to help guide Nelson's development. We're also relying on you to help us shape Nelson into a tool that really does the job.