By ABIGAIL L. GARNER
This past summer one of the internships that I had was to help develop an iPhone app for the Birmingham Magazine. What they wanted to do was take their annual CityGuide magazine and make it into an app that could be updated and used interactively with readers. I was in charge of collecting and entering all the data.
During this process I learned a lot about collecting data. One of the most important things I learned was that taking short cuts usually leads to more work. I needed to collect things such as hours and addresses for all the restaurants in the area. I realized that both the Bing and Google search engines often provide this information in their local listings sections. This was more convenient than having to find it from the restaurant’s web page or actually calling the restaurant.
But nothing beats a primary source. Once I began double checking my data, I soon learned that although they are sometimes correct, they are often incorrect.
When looking up information about restaurants, stores, museums, or anything else you might be covering, be sure to get the basic information from the primary source. Sometimes local chains and obscure places that you find yourself reporting on do not have web pages. In instances like this, often times, the Chamber of Commerce web page for the city where the store/restaurant is located is useful. This is also a great place to find out events if you are looking for story ideas. It is also a good place to check out if you are reporting on or in a city that you have never been to before.
When all else fails it is best just to call the place you are reporting on. But I have found that this is important to do, anyway, just to verify your information when the story is done.
So do not get sucked into the trap of the glorious web pages that seem to be complete databases. I even found that Web databases such as the Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Urbanspoon have incorrect information as well. My advice, so that you can be the best reporter possible is to run a test before you use the information in a database and see if the information turns out to be correct.