Reporter’s Desktop: Writing tools brought together online

By DEBORA RUBI

The Reporter’s Desktop (http://www.reporter.org/desktop/) brings together many of the useful functions of the Internet into one simple home page. The page is a quick, streamlined way of searching for information that may be needed for a story. The page not only provides list of relevant links but in many instances helps skip many of the steps the reporter would have to take within those individual pages before actually getting to the pertinent information. The site is entirely non-commercial, and there are no advertisements found on the page.

The first part of the page combines the major search engines (Yahoo!, Google, Ask Jeeves) etc. You can choose which search engine you want to use, but there is not option to use all of them at once. At the bottom, there are links to other more specialized search engines. It’s strange, though, that Bing is not included in the list, despite the page being last updated in April.

The next part of the page provides a map section where the reporter can choose to use either Mapquest or Google maps. This is really just providing a link to the page so there isn’t really a huge advantage to it beyond just having it be there conveniently with all the other information.

There is a section dedicated to finding people. In this box, there are options to do searches through name, phone number, or email. There is also a way to insert someone’s name and get there email. This is with the usual caveat that the information may be outdated or entirely wrong. The site uses White Pages and Yellow Pages to gather the information.

A list of important links is provided divided into three categories: reference, government, and press. The reference section has links to doctor, lawyer and translation sites. The government list includes links to U.S. and state records as well as lobbying sites. The final press section provides links to The New York Times, Journalism Jobs and CNN. Also, right below the links is a search system to find demographic statistics, free trials to news wires, and medical studies.

The final section is simple writing tools. There is a dictionary and thesaurus were you can  type in a word and get a result. This section is the newest and is not entirely reliable, as sometimes it leads to a dead link.

The entire site is very simplistic and unprofessional in its appearance. As such, the information — as mentioned in the people section — is not always going to be entirely reliable so in using the site be prepared to find multiple sources for information and provide for the possibility of dead links. The creator of the site is also open to people providing links to be included in the site, so that it’s an interactive experience as well.

The What, Who, Why, When links at the bottom of the page provide explanations of the links involved as well as instructional guides. The site was created by journalist Duff Wilson, initially to help his own investigative experience and it has spread to help other reporters as well. Wilson provides his number and email for those that have suggestions for the site.

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