After 35 years of investigative reporting, I’ve picked up a few things when it comes to finding people.
And one my favorite ways of doing that is the Contact References database in LexisNexis.
If you don’t know about it, well, you absolutely should. Many in our field have never even heard of this invaluable service. That’s shocking to me, given how helpful it’s been to my work.
Contact References is a collection of hundreds of millions of people, scraped from LinkedIn, company and government agency websites, and numerous other sources, all based on uploaded professional profiles.
You get names, jobs, employers, work histories, articles — and how to reach these people by work email or phone.
There’s also the option of searching if you don’t have a name: You use the company or agency you’re interested in, which typically provides hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. You can also look for sources from an email address (FBI agents all use ic.fbi.gov) or area of expertise.
There’s nothing else quite like it for reporters.
LinkedIn, for example, has 810 million profiles, but it blocks you from seeing email addresses or phone numbers. To reach someone via their website, you must send the person an InMail message. Sometimes that works. But what if the person doesn’t answer unsolicited inqueries via LinkedIn? Wouldn’t you rather have a direct way of contacting them?
I recently proposed a “Lightning Talk” on Contact References for the 2022 conference of the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR), an offshoot of the Investigative Reporters and Editors group, which was held in Atlanta in March.
Mine was chosen by members to be among 10 that aired during the conference.
Let me know what you think…