Feb 11, 2012

How to find even more stories


"How to find stories" was so successful that I am putting together...Part Deux! Thank you to everyone who contributed even more ideas. As always, if you want to comment or email me more, I will keep adding.

Here's the original list (it will open in a separate window, so you can see both at once). And here's the new list:

Go look at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court listings. I used to muck around in there every day when working for allnovascotia.com. If you go down to the Supreme Court, there's an office on the main level. In the office there's a binder that anyone can look at where the staff put a list of court cases that were freshly filed yesterday. There's a binder for civil cases and a binder for probate cases. You will only see the names of both parties in the case; if you want to look at the actual documents, you have to pay a fee to get the file. It's a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, but if you are good at recognizing names and companies you might be able to find something significant.

CNW Newswire and Marketwire contain press releases. Mostly company product announcements but sometimes other things too.

The Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System or CADORS national report is the federally-run database of incidents involving Canadian aircraft or airspace across the country. You occasionally see things like a runway closed because a plane hit a bald eagle.

Read message boards like Halifax Locals or reddit.com (try searching keywords like Halifax, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia).

This tip via Alison Delorey (@alisondelorey on Twitter): "I'd also suggest that if you write for a lot of trade or b2b publications that you stay on top of industry news and events like regional or national meetings or AGMs. Also think about "honoured" days both obvious (Earth Day) and lesser known (World School Milk Day) and think about connecting story pitches to those events."

From Jon Tattrie (@jontattrie): "I often check sites like Dal News for stories. They do them as the official voice of the organization, of course, but often there is something that can be re-spun into a story or a feature."

For more university news, try Unews.ca and the University of King's College Journalism publications.

A good resource is the environmental assessments filed with the province. You can see all projects, projects under review, and completed reviews. You can also sign up for email updates on new projects and ministerial decisions. See also the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry, a searchable database of environmental assessments that pertain to federal departments or federal legislation. The explanations on the CEAR are very detailed and helpful.

The Canadian Legal Information Institute is great for finding legal decisions. It has a wider scope than the Courts of Nova Scotia website because in addition to the courts decisions, it includes legislation (statutes and regulations), and decisions from boards (labour, privacy, human rights, discipline, and securities) for all provinces and territories. This is useful for labour arbitration decisions, human rights rulings, etc.

SEDAR is the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval. This is the place where you can find a lot of Canadian securities information, such as the financial statements of publicly traded companies. EDGAR is the equivalent American resource. I first learned how to use SEDAR while working at RBC Dominion Securities one summer, and I'm ridiculously pleased it still comes in handy.

The Notice to Mariners is put out every month by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, together with the Coast Guard. It has updated nautical chart corrections and safety announcements. In a coastal province like Nova Scotia this can be important.

Other resources for marine stories include Canada's Vessel Registration System, and MarineTraffic.com, which shows some (but not all) ships in the area.

The RCMP and Halifax Regional Police put news releases on their websites.
There is also the daily police report from the HRP.

Online Property Assessment Information is a database run by the body that assesses property values in Nova Scotia. That value is used by municipalities in calculating taxes. It has maps of the property lines and assessed values dating back ten years.

Property Online is a very useful subscriber-based website from Service Nova Scotia, showing who owns what land in the province. See maps, surveyors descriptions, names and addresses of property owners and the dates the land changed ownership, and even scanned copies of the deed. There is a fee to use the service, and it is not cheap. You must sign a user agreement that takes 10 days to process in order to use at home, but I've been told if you're in a hurry you can go to one of the office locations and pay a per-search fee (not sure if that's still correct, though). In a similar vein, you can pay to use the NS Lien Check on property.

If you're into health and science topics and looking for public meetings, check the Canadian Institute of Health Research's list of "cafes," which are really public panel discussions on various topics.

The Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks is a great place to find out more about any registered business in the province.

Nova Scotia's Vital Signs is a site that wants to show "how communities in Nova Scotia compare to the national average." Statistics are compiled from StatsCan, the OECD, and the Canadian Medical Association. The site is funded by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, which is funded by donors and corporate sponsors listed on its main page.

And here's a link to an excellent web page chock-full of tips on reporting methods from a Carleton University journalism graduate class by CP's Jim Bronskill and CBC's David McKie.

Finally... I ended the last story post with a quote. Here's another one:

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.” - Howard Aiken, an American computer engineer and mathematician (1900-1973)

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