Cherubs navigate the internet

Medill 2017 graduate and cherubs instructor Alex Duner will work at Axios as a web developer starting in mid-August. Photo by Frankie Gaynor

The internet has become integral to journalism, and cherubs instructor Alex Duner introduced students early to several tools to navigate this crucial landscape.

During his lecture, Duner, a 2017 Medill graduate and future web developer at Axios, explored different ways to narrow searches through Google’s Advanced Search options. Researchers can filter their search results by such categories as time period, news source and keyword. By clicking on the “Tools” icon under the search bar, Duner showed how useful and simple advanced searches could be.

Cherubs found this skill helpful when they researched their trend stories.

Emma Edmund of Tampa, Florida, covered how electronic music is changing and was finding only old articles about her topic when she searched it using Google.

“So I set the settings to only go back one year,” Edmund said. “I ended up finding a lot of articles from EDM-focused magazines that don’t pop up on the first couple of pages of a regular Google search.”

Cherub Frankie Gaynor of Coral Springs, Florida, said Duner’s tips have helped her search for more exact results. Gaynor learned to put “site:” followed by a specific news outlet in her search bar when she’s looking for information from a certain source.

Duner also reviewed tools like Google Scholar for academic papers, Google Alerts for information on specific beats and Google News Lab for additional training.

“I tried to focus on a couple of things that I could demonstrate in the lecture to give people some power tools,” Duner said. “Broad tips and abstract frameworks help people find info online, like methodologies, and continue to develop their skills.”

Duner also introduced students to different kinds of public data. He provided examples of data sources, like the U.S. Census or U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and explained how students could access them for free.

“There’s so much potential for story ideas in these public data portals that cities and fellow governments are releasing,” Duner said. “So I wanted to go through some of those and make sure people are aware of them.”

Duner urged students to dig deeper in their research and not assume the first answer Google generates is correct. Verifying facts is essential in journalism, from breaking news to investigative reporting, he said.

Duner’s lecture benefitted the budding high school journalists as well as instructors like Carlin McCarthy, who also learned new reporting skills. McCarthy stressed the importance of using the internet to find reliable statistics, as well as sources to interview.

“It’s great to teach the fundamentals of reporting and have interesting content that audiences want to read,” she said. “So is knowing how to use the internet to your advantage and use it as a platform to reach more people.”