A lesson in computer assisted reporting

[Keyword: , ]. Here’s a great piece at Poynter which outlines how one blogger used online resources to investigate the truth behind the LonelyGirl15 controversy (a YouTube video that purported to be an online diary but which actually turned out to be a hoax). Here’s the details:

“On Sept. 8 [Mark Glaser] announced a contest to determine the truth behind these videos.

“By Sept. 12, he had a winner: Matt Foremski.

“How did he crack this case? Matt Foremski describes his sleuthing in detail — and
there are some tricks here that any investigative reporter should know how to use:

“I came across a comment that linked to a private MySpace page that was allegedly that of the actress who plays Lonelygirl15. As the profile was set to ‘private,’ there was no real info one could glean from the page. However, when I queried Google for that particular MySpace user name, ‘jeessss426,’ I found a Google cache from the page a few months ago when it was still public.”

“Here’s that cached MySpace page. (Reporting tip: Know how to pull up a Google cached page. And for that matter, know how to use the Internet Archive.)

“From there, Matt Foremski used Google searches intelligently to query on various angles related to Jessica Rose, the New Zealand-born actress who turned out to be playing LonelyGirl15. And others involved in the project turned up more photos and other information.

“This is a pretty good example of a distributed investigation — something I think any journalist can occasionally instigate, join, or build upon. This can be a fruitful exercise, if properly focused.

“More details at Silicon Valley Watcher. MSM coverage at the Los Angeles Times. “

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