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Help for Online Researchers
Online Inc. World Wide Web site: http://www.onlineinc.com
Reviewed by Michael Cretzman
Most journalists don't have time to evaluate the many electronic
resources, products, publications and technologies available to
them, nor the expertise to know which are the best resources and
which are inferior.
Two U.S. magazines, Database and Online, and the
World Wide Web site maintained by the publisher, Online Inc., contain
useful content for journalists looking for effective and inexpensive
electronic research tools.
The reviews and how-to articles in these publications help overcome
time and expertise constraints by providing researchers and journalists
with detailed information about online research techniques and cost
analyses for many database and online services.
Database reviews and tests databases, such as multimedia
encyclopedias and World Wide Web sites, and compares features and
functions, allowing researchers to see which databases are best
for their needs.
The cost of purchasing and using databases is presented in charts
or provided by separate categories of interest, making it easy to
quickly find affordable and useful databases. Database reviews
help users determine the best and most cost-effective services without
the costly trial and error of using each service on their own.
In a typical review of a for-fee news database on the World Wide
Web, Database compared different access costs against the
amount of information received, and suggested the rebate offered
to users who allow their names to be placed on mailing lists may
not be worth the increase in junk mail.
Readers were cautioned about the search function's lack of sophistication
and Database suggested the news database is more useful for
locating particular topics rather than for delivering comprehensive
results. Most Database reviews conclude with a bulleted list
of questions allowing readers to compare cost with ease-of-use,
speed and how well their area of interest is represented.
Online magazine can help journalists and other users improve
their time online with its reviews of online services and its how-to
articles on research techniques. The magazine does not provide specifically
Canadian content, but the online services reviewed frequently contain
information useful for research in Canada.
One recent how-to article in Online, "Which Database?
Which Service? Choosing Your Home System" (Online 20, No.
6, Nov/Dec 1996), demonstrates how Online can help readers
create their own online 'system' to retrieve the most information
from the best sources. Online systems are described as comprising
a 'toolkit' of online services, including professional, general
and Internet services.
According to the article, when looking for financial information
on multinational companies you should use a professional service
like DataStar or the WorldScope database available on the Dow Jones
News/Retrieval service, plus a general service like Microsoft Network
and the inexpensive Internet resource EDGAR, where most publicly-held
financial statements can be retrieved. The article covers other
categories of information of interest to journalists, such as health,
intellectual property, politics, people, science and technology.
Many articles from Database and Online can be found
at Online Inc.'s World Wide Web site (http://www.onlineinc.com),
which includes hypertext links to some of the online services and
databases discussed in the magazines.
The site offers two other magazines as well, EMedia Professional,
covering electronic multimedia with a focus on business, and Online
User, for professionals using online services to improve business
practices. Canadian journalists will find Online User more
valuable since it applies electronic retrieval techniques to such
research tasks as market analysis and investigative research online.
"Online User's Best Business Services on the Web"
(Online User 3, No.2, Mar/Apr 1997) covered thirteen World
Wide Web sites, identifying tools for compiling quick business profiles.
Readers can decide on which information services to use by looking
at a chart displaying the cost of using each World Wide Web site,
a description of businesses covered and lists of the site's features.
Free sites, such as Hoover's Online, supply 10,000 company descriptions
and links to 3,000 company home pages, but inexpensive fee-based
sites, such as ProQuest Direct and the Wall Street Journal Interactive
Edition, provide an arsenal of 4,000 journals, 9,000 company briefing
books and personal clipping services to catch articles missed by
the free services. Online User's attention to improving business
use of online services will also benefit journalists who want to
improve their electronic research on business topics.
Database and Online magazines and the accompanying World Wide Web site are useful to Canadian journalists because they review electronic sources by cost and usefulness and suggest ways of improving online research. They contain little or no specifically Canadian content, but the magazines can improve users' ability to use electronic research tools to obtain this content and, consequently, improve their ability to do their job.
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