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Basic references for reporting
Stored sources are an important part of a reporter's base of knowledge. Knowing where to find information -- and where to start -- is a vital asset for a reporter. Below is a list of basic references any reporter should be familiar with.
On the bookshelf:
Current Biography. This monthly publication contains excellent biographical pieces on notable personalities.. Another source, called Biography Index, is also useful for finding magazine profiles of individuals.
Encyclopedia of Associations. This publication contains entries for thousands of social, political, medical, religious, labor, legal, cultural, scientific, educational associations, and groups. It also includes fan clubs and hobbyist groups. The companion volumes, Research Centers Directory, Government Research Directory and International Organizations are also useful.
Facts on File. An indispensable source of news information, Facts on File is a weekly publication containing detailed summaries of the past week's stories. There are weekly, annual and five-year indexes.
Official Congressional Directory. This is the official source for basic information on Congress. It includes biographical sketches of members with descriptions of their congressional districts, committee assignments and committee staff, and maps of congressional districts. The name, address, and phone number of foreign ambassadors and consular offices in the United States as well as a list of U.S. ambassadors abroad are also here.
Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. This is an index to general interest magazines such as Time, Life, Newsweek, Business Week, Fortune, and Forbes, and it is a good place to start research on any subject. Another index, called Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS) is an index to more specialized sources of information primarily concerning public policy issues.
Statistical Abstract of the United States. The standard summary of U.S. government statistics, the Statistical Abstract, has been published annually for more than 100 years. Use it to find data on population, birth, marriage, divorce and death rates, educational statistics such as enrollment figures and graduation rates, crime rates, unemployment rates, GNP, poverty rates, consumer price indexes, interest rates, housing, business, agriculture, and selected comparative international statistics.
The United States Government Manual. This is the official handbook of the federal government and provides comprehensive information on judicial, legislative, and executive branch agencies. Use this book to find a particular agency's official name, its mission, when it was founded, how it is organized, and who its key officials are.
Who's Who. Just because someone is not in the current edition of Who's Who in America does not mean they aren't in another edition. There are multiple Who's Whos (Who's Who of the South, Who's Who of the East, etc.)
The World Almanac and Book of Facts. This book contains useful features that include a chronology of the year's major news stories; population; sports; weather; economic statistics; presidential biographies, maps; basic information on cities, states, and nations; U.S. and world history, weights and measurements conversion tables; a perpetual calendar; lists of prize winners; colleges and universities; and a list of noted personalities with their places of birth and birth dates. It also has the text of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address.
On the web:
The World Wide Web contains many good general reference sources in addition to those listed above. Among them are:
Columbia Encyclopedia, http://www.bartleby.com/65/