Investigative / Backgrounding

FINDING DATA

Google Public Data Explorer

Google Dataset Search
Search for data in this Google search tool.

US Local Data Portals
This Github account lists dozens of portals.

DataPortals.org
A list of more than 400 data portals from around the world.

ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer Database
Free database to research tax-exempt organizations. You can search full text of nonprofit tax forms.

Chrono Download Manager
Makes all elements on a webpage — images, spreadsheets, PDFs and more — downloadable with one click. Helpful when downloading several .PDFs from one government web page.

DataProofer
A tool that checks your datasets for errors.

OTHER INVESTIGATIVE TOOLS AND RESOURCES

The Accountability Project
From the Investigative Reporting Workshop, this site curates, standardizes and indexes public data to give journalists, researchers and others a simple way to search across otherwise siloed records. You can browse datasets by people, organizations and locations.

Google News Initiative Investigative Reporting Course
Free online course on tools to help with investigative reporting. The intensive course will help you take advantage of Internet sources such as court cases, public data and news archives. It is designed to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your in-depth research. Tools used: Google Search, Google Scholar, Google Public Data Explorer, Google Maps, Google Earth Pro.

Bellingcat: A Beginner’s Guide to Flight Tracking

Bellingcat Online Investigation Toolkit

GIJN: Investigative Editing and Managing Tipsheets
Long list of links and tipsheets for managing workflow, etc. from some of the best in the business.

GIJN: 7 Tips for Creating an Investigative Podcast

Koch Docs
Collection of Koch Foundation documents.

Bellingcat: A Beginner’s Guide to Flight Tracking
Collection of Koch Foundation documents.

Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting
News trade organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting.

Tips: Managing the Investigative Project
Tips from Walter Robinson, formerly of the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe.

Global Investigative Journalism Network: Data Journalism Tools
A comprehensive list of data tools.

Journalist’s Resource: Six Tips for Covering Whistleblowers

SPJ: How Whistleblowers Can Share Info with News Media

SecureDrop
From the Tow Center, a guide to the use and significance of SecureDrop, an in-house system for news organizations to securely communicate with anonymous sources and receive documents over the Internet.

Civic: Politico Elections Data Management Tools
A great suite of open source data creation tools for covering the elections.

IJNet: Tips for Editing Investigative Stories

The World Bank
Free and open access to global development data.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

National Transportation Atlas

SPJ Whistleblower Project
SPJ and the Government Accountability Project have teamed up with several other whistleblowing and media organizations to inform journalists on how they can safely work with whistleblowers, and have created a comprehensive case for why those brave workers who risk everything should be praised and better protected.

European Journalism Observatory: Working With Whistleblowers In The Digital Age: New Guidelines
Great tips for investigative journalists on protecting sources.

Sqoop
Gives you one place to search for company information, rather than spending hours each week conducting the same repetitive searches on a variety of public data sites.

Tools and Apps: The Essentials for Covering Silicon Valley
NY Times reporter discusses apps and tools he uses to cover Silicon Valley, including many tools to protect privacy and sources.

GIJN: Data Journalism Resource Center
Tools, primers and other resources galore for investigative journalists using data.

Investigative Journalism Education Consortium

GIJN: My Favorite Tools
A weekly interview with investigative journalists and the tools they use.

Klaxon
Track changes on websites. Good for monitoring public records pages.

Enigma.io
Search for billions of public records. Free search, also has paid plans.

Washington Post Training Videos: How to be a Journalist
Series of videos on basics of reporting, FOIAs and more.

Investigator’s Guide to Info. Sources
GAO site explains types of records kept by local/state governments, links to federal agencies, businesses, directories, investigation databases.

SPJ Open Doors
Tips for accessing public records.

ICFJ Knight Fellows:10 Free Investigative Journalism Tools
This data is compiled by an independent all volunteer group based out of reddit.

Census.Ire.org
A simpler way to access Census data so they can spend less time importing and managing the data and more time exploring and reporting the data.

Bellingcats Digital Forensics Tools
Open source verification and investigative tools.

GIJN YouTube Channel: Talking Investigative Journalism
Top investigative reporters and editors share tips, tools and concepts.

FOIAFest 2018 Resources
Links, handouts, tools and more from the Chicago FOIAFest event.

The FOIA Project
Its goal: provide the public with timely and complete information about every instance in which the federal government grants or withholds records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

LittleSis
A grassroots watchdog network connecting the dots between the world’s most powerful people and organizations.

How to Get Started in Online Open-Source Investigations

Office of Government Information Services FOIA Toolbox
Great resources about the government agencies, how to file a FOIA and where to send it.

Open Corporates
A large database of companies.

Awesome OSINT
A curated list of amazingly awesome open source intelligence tools and resources.

SOS Social Security Number Watch
Match a social security number to a holder and validate. Run through the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard.

Amazon 990 Filings
Machine-readable data from certain electronic 990 forms filed with the IRS from 2011 to present are available for anyone to use via Amazon S3.

Public Records Online
Search state-by-state criminal records, real estate information and more.

Office of Government Information Services FOIA Toolbox
Great resources about the government agencies, how to file a FOIA and where to send it.

Working with Whistleblowers – A Guide for Journalists
Guide created by the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

Dart Center: Maintaining Boundaries with Sources, Colleagues and Supervisors

BRB Public Records online.
A huge sites with links to free and pay public records sites.

ProPublica Recovery Tracker: How Much Stimulus Funding Is Going To Your County?

75 Tools for Investigative Journalism
From Ezra Eeman of Journalism2ls.

A Journalist’s Guide to Web Scraping

IRE 2015 Tipsheets
Tipsheets from the 2015 IRE conference.

R for Journalists
Tips and resources for anyone using R in data reporting

Searchsystems.net
Links to almost 5,000 public records databases. Claims to be the largest free collection of public records databases on the Web. Formerly the PAC-Info. site, just click on a state and you’ll get a list of all free public record collections for that state. Most include incorporation filings.

Open Prism: Data Portal Search
Search data portals from all over the world by typing in one keyword.

Washington Post Training Videos: How to be a Journalist
Series of videos on basics of reporting, FOIAs and more.

THOMAS: Congress to Year Converter
Track what years are associated with a particular government.

CFJ Knight Fellows:10 Free Investigative Journalism Tools
This data is compiled by an independent all volunteer group based out of reddit.

Public-Information.com
This site charges a fee. Search state/local criminal, DMV, prison records and more.

FOIA Machine
Automate your FOIAs.

Sqoop Tipsheet

Journalism Tools: Investigative Resources
A Pinterest page full of investigative tools and resources.

Expose Facts
A whistleblower’s website.

Security Tools for Investigative Journalists
Powerpoint full of resources.

Birth Database
Search birth certificate records for free.

Portico
Find public records databases galore.

BRB Publications
Search public records by state.

Federal FOIA Appeals Guide
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

CensusReporter.org
Filter and sort census information. Super tool.

Data.World
Free, downloadable data sets.

USASpending.gov
Lets you explore the entire federal budget in increasing granularity, illustrating how awards derive from federal accounts. Interactive visualizations provide help building context, and multiple breakdowns clarify the relationships between federal-spending components..

iFOIA.org
From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this is a one-stop management tool for public-records projects and filing FOIA requests.

20 Tools for Investigative Reporting

Download Data Without Scraping
Filter and sort census information. Super tool.

InvestigateIX
A live-system for search empowering investigative journalists to setup an own open-source search engine on an encrypted external device to search in a large amount of documents and files.

InfoScribe
Unlock data trapped inside .PDFs.

BBC’S College of Journalism: Useful Investigative Journalism Tools

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
A non-profit network of investigative journalism centers in Europe and Eurasia.

OCCRP: Investigative Dashboard Research
Search across data and documents from previous investigations, official sources, and scraped databases. From the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, non-profit network of investigative journalism centers in Europe and Eurasia.

Columbia University: National Charities Oversight Project
Mission is to foster a comprehensive approach by state attorneys general to protect charitable assets and ensure their lawful, highest and intended use in the public interest.

Spreadsheet Journalism Blog
Digital journalist Abbott Katz blogs from London. His blog “helps bring you up to speed with some of Excel’s important capabilities, and points you at the story possibilities boxed inside the data.”

Sunlight Academy
Training site for how to use Sunlight Foundation resources for unlocking government data.

Medicare: Nursing Home Inspections
Includes complaints and inspections. Search by state to find homes with problems in your neighborhood.

Investigative Dashboard
A treasure drove of research and public records tools, both U.S. and abroad.

Center for Investigative Journalism: Statistics for Journalists
A 12-page tipsheet.

Bureau Local Collaborative Investigative Journalism Tools

EPA: Toxic Release Inventory Database
Has more than 650 toxic chemicals being released into communities. You can search all the way down to ZIP code level.

Hunch.ly
Hunchly is integrated with Google Chrome and stores full web page captures of every site you visit, and every search you perform. Travel back in time and review web pages or social media accounts that have been suspended or removed.

NICAR 2016 Slides, Links and Tutorials

U.S. Energy Information Administration

FINRA: BrokerCheck
Investigate registered brokers through this site from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Footnoted.com
Morningstar’s guide to what’s hiding in SEC filings.

ComFind Public Records Site
News, laws, initiatives and activities that relate in any way to the keeping and distribution of information and public records.

Google Search Techniques for Journalists
Many tips and tricks.

InvestigateWest
West Coast investigative journalism news site from former Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalists.

FEC: Detailed Files About Candidates, Parties and Other Committees
Information on contributors, including city, state and ZIP.

FTC Charity Checklist

Vanno: The Company Reputation Index
Captures gossip, news, opinion and personal insight about companies and their reputations, and turns it all into numerical scores and rankings.

Statemaster.com

Portico
Similar to The Toolbox: Maps, reverse lookups, public records, etc.

AllAreGreen.us Browser Extension
A free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. Displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation. Puts vital data where it’s most relevant so you can discover the real impact of money on our political system. Oh, and it was built by a 16-year-old coder.

Reynolds National Center for Business: Free Investigative tools

USPS ZIP Code Lookup

The Art of Access Blog
Tips on public records searches.

ThisWeKnow.org

GovPulse.us

Data.gov
A government data mashup that is an initiative of the Obama administration.

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
From the World Security Institute, this site provides in-depth resources on global affairs.

Truthdig.com
An investigative reporting site from former LA Times columnist Robert Sheer.

Los Angeles Times Data Desk
Databases galore, from tropical storm names, charities, entertainment, politics, etc.

ShareSleuth
An independent Web-based reporting aimed at “exposing securities fraud and corporate chicanery.”

Influence Explorer
From the Sunlight Foundation, OpenSecrets.org, and the Project on Government Oversight, this site tracks voting trends of politicians. Great first-stop for tracking conflicts of interest or investigating a politician.

CharityWatch.org

Foundation Center
Tax forms and other documents about several charitable organizations.

Watchdogging Sports Tipsheet
From IRE 2016.

BankTracker
From American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, this site follows trends and issues in the banking industry.

National Attorney Generals Association
This site has links to state attorney general’s offices.

LegiStorm
A database of congressional staff salaries and other valuable public records, such as the most comprehensive database of all privately financed trips taken by members of Congress and congressional staffers.

City of Chicago Data Dictionary
The site “serves as a single, comprehensive database catalog for the City of Chicago and City of Chicago sister agencies. It is a resource for anyone who is interested in understanding what data is held by City agencies and departments, how and if it may be accessed, and in what formats it may be accessed.”

CJR Shield Law and Reporter’s Privilege: What Every Reporter Needs to Know

FOIA Wiki
Launched in October 2016 in Beta, this offers a page of tools, links and resources on using FOIA.

FOIA Wiki: FOIA Basics
A good primer for newbies.

RCFP: FOIA Appeals Guide

Student Press Law Center: FOIA Letter Generator
Just fill in the blanks.

The Innocence Project
A searchable database of states offering projects to free wrongfully accused prisoners through DNA and other evidence. Run by the Cardozo School of Law in NYC.

Terrorism Research Center
Resources and research including comprehensive listing of links to terrorism-related Web pages including profiles of individual terrorist groups compiled by the U.S. Navy’s Dudley Knox Library.

Syracuse University: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)

Google Public Data Explorer
Makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate. As the charts and maps animate over time, the changes in the world become easier to understand.

Criminal-Records.com
Search federal court, divorce court, marriage licenses, military records and more.

World Corruption Site
Site says it is run by “global non-governmental organization devoted to combating corruption. Its mission is to create change toward a world free of corruption.”

Center for Public Integrity
Tips and resources on using public documents, including campaign finance research.

Publicdata.com

Dataquick.com
Real property info. center.

The Smoking Gun
This is a good FOIA site that claims to find documents that can’t be found elsewhere on the Web. Its material is gleaned from government documents, court files, etc.

GovernmentAttic.org
“Interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”

The Art of Access
Charles Davis’s blog that accompanies the book by the same name. Full of tips on how to use FOIAs.

Opensecrets.org
A fantastic site for researching campaign finance statistics.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
FBI now gets authority to wiretap individuals, or under the secret FISA procedures, which is also a secret court proceeding.

ActivistCash.com
A great site. Roots out the funding sources of the most notorious anti-consumer groups. It continually adds profiles on the first of every month.

Medicare Nursing Home Finder
Can be helpful in investigating nursing homes in your area as it includes information on recent inspections, number of beds, etc.

GAO’s Congressional Investigations
Track investigations through the General Accounting Office.

Government Audits
State inspector general’s offices that audit federal programs that the agency oversees.

TRAY.com
A good site for FEC and PAC data.

Securities & Exchange Commission

SNAP: Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

FTC Charity Checklist

S9 Bios of Famous People

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

FOIA Illinois
Blog and resources for filing FOIAs. Twitter handle is @foiaillinois.

Cemetery Records Online
Maintains records from 4,307 cemeteries both nationwide and abroad. The site regularly updates users on which cemeteries have been added to their database.

Sunlight Foundation: Public Markup
Opens legislative bills to online public review.

Sunlight Foundation: Earmark Watch
Resources for citizens to track congressional spending. You have to register for the site, but it helps you investigate earmarks – spending measures inserted by members of Congress into bills that direct taxpayer dollars to their pet projects. The site has more than 3,000 of them.

GlassDoor.com
Ratings, reviews and salaries for more than 11,000 employers. It’s information posted by anonymous employees, so be careful with the information you use. Fact-check everything. It can be helpful as a quick snapshot of a company you’re backgrounding.

Sunlight Foundation: Open Congress
Sunlight and the Participatory Politics Foundation run this site, which tracks bills, votes, senators and representatives. It includes an RSS feed that registers your zip code to track all the actions by your elected officials and what people are saying about them.

Library of Congress: Ask a Librarian
Submit questions to a librarian. Includes a chat feature and links to various collections.

Vital Records Online
An extensive list of adoption resources.

Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2002
A guide for working through the FOIA/open government process. It is published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

iDig Answers
Great for generating FOI-related story ideas.

WikiFOIA

World’s 300 Largest Pension Funds

Wall Street Journal: Markets Data Center
A great quick-reference tool. Access to this does not require a subscription to the WSJ.

ProPublica.org
An independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Submit questions to a librarian. Includes a chat feature and links to various collections.

Sunlight Foundation
Political watchdog group that tracks lobbyists and fundraising.

National FOI Coalition

Society of Professional Journalists: Freedom of Information Resources

ACLU Free Speech Resources

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information

National Security Archive: Freedom of Information Act Resources
From George Washington University.

Federal Citizens’ Information Center: Privacy Resources

Depth Reporting

The Scoop Blog
CAR and investigative reporting.

MAPLight.org: Money and Politics
Database makes connections between legislative votes and campaign donations.

MattWaite.com
Blog, tips and resources from web developer and CAR expert from the St. Petersburg Times.

Center on Executive Compensation
The center is dedicated to developing and promoting principled pay and governance practices and advocating compensation policies that serve the best interests of shareholders and other corporate stakeholders. This site might be helpful in sourcing and finding statistics for stories about overpaid CEOs.

OMBWatch
“Promoting open government, accountability and citizen participation since 1983.” Government records and watchdog site.

Digital Vaults
A curated view of 1,200 of the most impressive holdings in the National Archives.

FIRE: Guide to Free Speech on Campus
Book/ebook from the Foundation of Individual Rights on Campus.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

National Consumer Law Center

Quackwatch

Scam Busters

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Watchdog

National Council on Consumer Interests

Consumer Affairs

Consumer Search Product Reviews

Review Finder

National Fraud Information Center

FDA Food and Drug Import Refusals

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