By ALEX FRUIN
While some people are surprised by the fact that the School of Communication requires its students to complete a second major, most graduates seem quite glad that they had the opportunity to find another passion besides journalism. My decision to declare political science my second major has helped me to stay on top of and understand current events worldwide. Through my political science courses, I have come to rely on the CIA Factbook when researching different regions of the world and quickly realized how helpful this database is when it comes to journalism.
The Central Intelligence Agency website itself is full of a lot of important information regarding the security of the United States. More specifically, the World Factbook is the place to turn to when you are in need of basic data about a certain country or region. Like the World Health Organization website to which I referred to last week, the World Factbook is organized into different sections such as “Regional Maps” and “Flags of the World.” Another feature helps you to easily find the politicians of each nation — not just the Chiefs of State, but also the names of cabinet members and other important law makers and leaders throughout the government.
Yet the part I have found that I use the most, whether preparing for a brief article or an intensive political science term paper, is the drop-down menu allowing the choice of any nation or territory in the world. It is there that you can find maps, photos, and images of the national flags as well as any basic data you may need on an area. Since most journalists are typically not searching for statistics when researching for articles, perhaps the most useful part is the “Introduction” which provides a brief description of the nation’s history, providing you with enough information in order to focus the rest of your research. These brief introductions are very helpful when trying to determine the current state of a nation’s economy or government, especially those that seem to be changing quite often.
While you certainly would not to base all of your research for an article based on the facts from this website, the World Factbook is the perfect place to find background knowledge about a nation before you visited it or interviewed someone involved with the nation. One of my journalistic heroes long before I started college was the late NBC political correspondent Tim Russert, who consistently received praise for his intensive research before speaking with a politician. As I have learned more about journalism over the years — both inside and outside of the classroom —I have come to realize what an important step in the journalistic process research is. The World Factbook is one of the best places to begin your international research as it is not only one of the most trusted government sources, but also one of the most up to date.