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Vol. 20, No.1/Fall 1997

Table of Contents
Regular Features

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SLA News Division Home

By Marilyn Bromley

I. The Problem

Why is discussion of copyright in the digital age so difficult and contentious? One reason is that just defining terms which we understand perfectly well in the print world is a struggle in the digital world. What is a copyrighted work? What is publishing? Does browsing or fair use exist? There are no simple or easy answers. Another reason is that protecting one's intellectual property is harder (because copying information is so easy), and consequently the economic consequences for the author/creator/publisher are greater.

II. Philosophy

Much of the heated debate over where we and the digital world are headed revolves around the philosophical underpinnings of U.S. copyright law. The Constitution gives Congress the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts through copyright laws, which grant "for limited times" exclusive rights to authors and inventors. These laws ensure compensation for authors, and thereby encourage them to create. But the purpose of the U.S. copyright law is not solely to enrich authors, but also to balance this limited monopoly with the needs of the public to educate themselves, and with the goal of promoting an open society. This balance between authors and readers, creators and users, is particularly delicate in the digital world. Many groups fear that amending copyright legislation will destroy this balance by overly favoring copyright owners.

III. Two approaches for protecting digital material: legislation and digital rights management


Amending the copyright law is certainly one method of protecting digital works. Some proposed legislation would make it a criminal offense to willfully infringe a copyright by reproducing or distributing copies with a retail value of $5000 or more. Anti-circumvention legislation would make it an offense to create, import or use any device designed to deactivate the encryption protection of a digital work. The liability of online/Internet service providers is a highly debated legislative issue. Another is the copyrightability of facts: it is generally held in the U.S. that "the original expression of factual matters is protected, but ... the facts themselves, once published, can be used by anybody" in their research. The EU has issued a directive on databases which protects facts.

Digital Rights Management

Digital rights management is another method of protecting copyright by creating mechanisms to ensure permanent proof of ownership, provide copy protection and alteration detection, track the movement of content, and meter content. DRM works with micropayment software and enables the user to pay for material as they use it. Since DRM can track individual usage, it would be possible to determine what users are reading and doing on the Internet. In the non-digital world, a subpoena is necessary before your public library will release your circulation records to legal authorities.

IV. Electronic Commerce issues

Works-made-for-hire and independent contractors

When companies hire outside contractors to develop their web site for them, problems can develop over questions of who owns the site, who owns the site design, etc. Because copyright resides with the author, companies should be sure to protect what they have paid for - either by including notice in the company handbook that products created at work are the property of the company and are "works made for hire;" or, when independent contractors are used, by including a copyright assignment clause as well as a work-made-for-hire clause in the contract.

Interactivity on the Internet

When companies offer what has been called "a community of interest" or a "community site" on their web site they create a place where their customers and subscribers can find links to other web sites in the same content area. The danger here is that web owners are providing links to content which is not generated by them nor controlled by them. Some sites also offer a listserv facility, either moderated or unmoderated. This raises concerns about liability for what is posted - Is it someone else's (not the posters) intellectual property? Could it lead to allegations of harassment, obscenity, racism? Are you obligated to review everything that is posted? Who decides if the message is on-point or not? Is the information false or misleading? How can you protect your website from spamming? What do you do about flaming? A well-written terms and conditions document is vital.


Shrink-wrap licenses for software, and click-on, web-wrap or click-wrap licenses for Internet sites and products - in the past year, courts have ruled that these are enforceable. It's important to create well-thought-out terms and conditions, make them understandable, place them in a conspicuous spot at the top of your home page, and require the user to click on "Accept or Agree" before he/she can use your website. Make disclaimers about the content of your web site, create a license for your content spelling out restrictions on copying and redistribution, and explain standards of behavior. Also, obtain a license from users with regard to the content they post, and reserve the right to change the terms and/or terminate the agreement. There should be a link to the license terms at the top of every page.

More and more, publishers are licensing their intellectual product rather than selling it. When the product is digital and networked, access becomes possible for all employees, students, or other groups. As an example, Yale University Library is currently spending 6-7% of its budget on electronic licensing agreements, and they see no end in sight. They have created a liblicense website, with samples of licensing agreements and commentary on the language used ( In addition, they have a listserv and plan to develop software to help libraries create their own license agreements.

Under the "first sale" doctrine, when I buy a book I can loan it, give it away, do whatever I want with it. When I license a book, it's not a sale. I don't own it, so I have no first sale rights. This creates problems for libraries, since the legal basis for all circulation of material and interlibrary loan is first sale rights.

One problem is that when a library licenses a journal. What happens to the back years, the archive, when the library no longer subscribes? With a print subscription, the library has paid for that archive and is entitled to keep it. Also, under a license agreement, each use by each person must be paid for, leading to questions about access. Who's included in the license group? Since the copyright law says libraries can loan a magazine issue under first sale rights, but not make a copy and keep the original, what is the law when the issue resides on a network? As I noted at the beginning of this article, in the electronic world, age-old definitions and procedures that have worked for decades or even centuries have to be re-thought.

Web links and liability for links

In a lawsuit filed this past April, Ticketmaster alleged that Microsoft's Seattle city guide site violates federal trademark law because the site contains unauthorized hyperlinks to Ticketmaster's web site. In one Microsoft link, the user bypasses Ticketmaster's front page (which contains advertising) and goes directly to Ticketmaster's propritary content. Trademark dilution, electronic piracy and unfair competition claims are also being made. Another similar case is The Washington Post v. Total News, where a group of media companies (the Post, the LA Times, CNN and a few others) is suing Total News, a news web site with links to their web stories. Issues in this case involve misappropriation, copyright infringement, trademark dilution, deceptive trade practices, and (my personal favorite) tortious interference with advertising contracts.

One attorney I've heard speak on this matter recommends getting permission for every outside link your web page contains. He also thinks that if you link to a site that violates a law, you could be sued. And if it's proved you knew about the violation, you could be liable.


In a U.S. District court case in New York, decided this past August, the court ruled that publishers can use freelance material in electronic products (specifically online databases and CD-ROMs) without having to pay the freelance author additional compensation. The case's arguments revolved around the issue of "collective work" as defined in section 201(c) of the Copyright Act, and whether the electronic use was a new publication or a revision. This case, Tasini v. The New York Times Co., was filed in 1993, before the explosion of the Web. So it remains to be seen how the issues involved might apply to Internet publishing activities.

V. Conclusion

So, where does this leave us? Are you ready to throw up your hands? Samuel Clemens once said "There is one thing that is impossible for God, and that is to make sense out of any copyright law in existence." We may not have the answers, but at least we have a better idea of what questions to ask. And since this is the Information Age, the answers will come.

Marilyn Bromley is Library Director BNA Library. Her e-mail is


By Catherine Kitchell

Calling all reporter wannabes... News Library News is looking for a new "People" column editor. It's got to be a great job because I had it before I got this job and it's how I started volunteering for the News Division! The first column was a pain because I thought everyone would send me lots of news and, lo and behold, the week before the first deadline, I had nothing. I mention this because, if you volunteer, you should be able to call members and ask them what is new. It's really not hard, everyone is nice and you learn lots about what reporters go through when they have to talk to people That is a useful skill to have if you want to work with reporters - I think they appreciate it. The job is also easier if you subscribe to the Newslib listserv.

Attention News members who do not volunteer. Until we get a new columnist, send me your news. And don't forget to send it in. If you manage a library, your staff members like to be recognized in print. If you don't manage a library, the rest of us want to know what neat things you are doing. Really, we do.

Thanks go to Theresa Kiely at Newsday for doing it for the last year!

The latest "People" news I have is that Chris Hardesty at the News & Observer in Raleigh, NC was chosen for a Freedom Forum fellowship. As this is going to press, he is scheduled to spend two weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia, in November. Congratulations, Chris!

Next issue, look for my summary of how news librarians keep statistics on library use. It's more exciting than you might imagine. Stay tuned.


By Tom Lutgen

Elsewhere in News Library News you'll find a survey which aims to determine how many of our members have access to Internet e-mail or browsers. There is a not so hidden agenda here. Just as many of our employers are finding, publishing in hardcopy is more expensive than publishing electronically. For the News Division the costs of NLN include the costs for the paper, ink, and composing the newsletter and also mailing costs - not to mention the overhead of selling ads and various bookkeeping and other administrative costs.

The topic of publishing News Division documents electronically surfaced at the Seattle conference. Pete Basofin as publications chair raised the issue. Not too surprisingly we heard arguments for retaining hardcopy publishing. Hardcopy is still more convenient than electronic - you can take a printed newsletter or directory wherever you go. And if you are only referring to the publication for a phone number or other simple fact, reaching for the printed product is faster than signing on to the Internet. All that makes sense to me.

What I did and still do find surprising is the number of our members who do not have ready access to the Internet at their workstation. How can this be at this point in time in media libraries? For those deprived of easy Internet access, I urge you to lobby and inform your management of the critical importance of global e-mail and the burgeoning informational resources of the Internet. Even if the News Division never moves the newsletter and other publications to the Net, there are more than sufficient reasons to provide every new library professional with an e-mail address, shared or individual.

The biggest selling point is the "newslib" listserv managed by our own Barbara Semonche at the University of North Carolina journalism school. Newslib is an active, up-to-the-minute subscription group which is essential daily reading for hundreds of your colleagues. Topics come and go but almost always strike a chord. Recent discussions have covered: pricing models for news content on the Internet; the role of news librarians as members of news editing desks; image database systems; the effect of the Internet on royalty agreements with information service marketers, and on and on. Newlib allows you to tap the expertise of your colleagues quickly and effortlessly and without the costs of long distance phone calls. Information is available to you that would have been difficult to access previously.

Obviously e-mail allows you to go directly to experts and trusted colleagues without the hassle of phone messages. It's a true time-saver. Imagine being able to get the Poynter Institute's Nora Paul's opinion on the direction of news research, or tapping Lany MacDonald's expertise at Time Inc., or asking for advice from Rob Robinson at NPR on archiving sound segments.

Perhaps a clearer argument from management's perspective for wider access to the Internet is the promise of virtually free entree to thousands of information resources. News librarians in all media use the Internet's vast array of lists, source documents, statistics and visual and sound resources to answer queries which would have been impossible or very expensive to answer 5 years ago. Why not use the budgeting season as a way to plan for broader access to the Internet? Even if the News Division's publications remain in hardcopy, without e-mail and the Internet you are missing invaluable information and are isolated from increasingly critical professional contacts.

Tom Lutgen is Los Angeles Times Editorial Library Director. His e-mail is tomlutgen@latimescom.



Lois Doncevic at The Morning Can in Allentown, PA put a call out on NewsLib to find out what other news libraries are calling themselves. She still has not decided to change the name of her operation but came up with the following list. Please note "Morgue" is not on the list!

  • Archive and Research Center
  • Broadcast Materials
  • Editorial Research
  • Editorial Information Center
  • Editorial Research Center
  • Information Center
  • Information Services
  • Library and Information Center
  • Library and Information Services
  • News Research Center
  • News Research Department
  • Research Center
  • Research Hub



Currently there are three main communications channels News Division members can use to keep in touch with each other. The first, and most traditional means, is News Library News. The News Division is proud of its reputation for producing a quality newsletter with timely, relevant articles. Many members of the News Division have been supplementing that by subscribing to the NewsLib listserv run by Barbara Semonche, and the website, maintained by Carolyn Edds, for their information. Each of these communication channels has advantages and disadvantages. The main limitation of the listserv and the home page is that not everyone has access to the Internet. The main disadvantage of News Library News is that it is very expensive for the Division to maintain. Production costs are about $12,000 a year for layout, printing and mailing.

A proposal was made to the membership in Seattle to consider publishing News Library News exclusively on the Internet. It was voted down, but there is still an undercurrent in the membership that feels we should have a better understanding of how members are using different communication channels. The following survey is designed to get a better grasp of what the membership thinks.

Please take a few moments to complete the following survey and send it to: Catherine Kitchell, Senior Reference Librarian, Bureau of National Affairs, 1231 25th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037.

1) Name (optional).

2) Type of Library

a) Newspaper

b) Broadcasting/Radio

c) Corporate

d) Other

If a) Newspaper, what is the circulation of the paper?

3) Do you currently have access to the Internet?

a) If so, how? (your own account. shared in the newsroom, etc)

b) If not, are you expecting to soon?

4) Do you currently subscribe to the NewsLib listserv?

a) If no, why not?

b) If yes, what do you like about it?

4) Do you refer to the News Division homepage?

a) If no, why not?

b) If yes, how often a year? Is it bookmarked?

5) Do you think News Library News could/should be published on the Internet? What are the most important concerns that need to be addressed before it can be attempted?

6) The Division also produces a directory of members. Corporate sponsorship of that publication is no longer available and there has been a discussion of producing it on the Internet. What are the most important concerns that need to be addressed before that can be attempted?


By Michael Jesse

The World Wide Web got a whole lot bigger this year as the big boys of the major commercial online services finally arrived, a bit tardy, but bringing with them huge archives many times larger than everything else on the Internet combined.

You know them well - Nexis, Dow Jones, Dialog and DataTimes. For a long time they were virtually the only sources for online news research. But the advent of the web changed all that and the commercial services have had to scramble to reinvent themselves. But don't write any obituaries just yet. Although news researchers often find just what they need on free websites, we don't want to rely on that alone for our research. The popular notion that the Internet will eliminate the commercial online services is about as valid as the related assumption that librarians will become extinct. Here's a look at the Big Four on the Web.


Lexis-Nexis made a pretty good start with ReQUESTer (log in at or get info at

ReQUESTer doesn't have all the functionality of regular Nexis, but it wasn't designed for us but rather for end users. Still its a pretty handy tool for professional news researchers as well. An early limitation - the need to include an HLEAD component in your search strategy - has recently been eliminated.

Pricing for ReQUESTer is based on a flat $169/month with no usage charges. This makes it ideal for small news libraries with tight online budgets. And larger organizations might consider making it directly available to newsroom end users. But don't expect to do that for $169 a month. Strictly speaking, that price is for a single user and if you hand it out to everyone, you're violating your agreement. If you want multiple user access call your Nexis rep and negotiate a deal.

DialogWeb and Dialog Select

These are separate products but have blended together somewhat. DialogWeb ( is intended for the professional user while DialogSelect ( is for end users. If you already have a username for regular Dialog you can log on to either of these. DialogWeb, which came out in March of this year, retains Dialog's rather inelegant search syntax. However, it does provide a nice checkbox method for selecting results so you can download a whole group of documents in one file instead of one at a time as with ReQUESTer.

Be warned this is a framed site and by default the command frame is always active. This means you need to remember to click on the story frame before printing or downloading. Otherwise you'll have ten printouts of the command box and no stories.

For those who hate Dialog search syntax, DialogWeb offers a guided search option which gives you the easier DialogSelect interface.

Pricing for both DialogWeb and DialogSelect is on a per-record basis

Dow Jones News Retrieval

Dow Jones ( launched its web service on Sept 15. It includes all of the publication archives from the regular service, but not all of the company files. (Those are to come later.) The basic search screen is a bit awkward, but librarians still like the advanced search interface. It is nicely designed, allowing you to select sources, date range and fields to be searched from pulldown menus.

Pricing is the same as the dial-up version, on a per-article basis (with different rates for citations or full text).

ProQuest Direct (DataTimes)

UMI set up its ProQuest Direct website ( in October 1996 and has been adding databases from DataTimes EyeQ since those companies merged. One attractive feature in ProQuest is the option to display an image of the original page in PDF format, thereby providing the user with images, graphics and tabular material which is often sacrificed in text only systems.

Pricing options arc quite flexible. You can go with a flat rate or transactional, and you can negotiate the number of allowable users.

Beyond the Big Four

Although I'm glad to see them all finally on the Web, I'd say the Big Four are in for a rough couple of years as they battle not only each other but a bunch of upstarts going for the end user market. Those of us who are intermediaries and/or agents for newsroom end users can expect to benefit from that competition.

IAC InSite

Information Access Company (www. has been on Dialog for years, and was one of the first commercial online services to put up a credible website. But it didn't just transfer its dial-up service to the Web - it added value to its service, taking advantage of the hypertext functionality on which the Web is based.

An example of this is IAC's integration of a third-party company directory database into its existing business article database. So when you retrieve an article about a company, you can click on a "directory information" link to get the company's officers, number of employees, annual sales, etc.

The directory link is displayed in a left-hand column which also contains a link to the "topic" subject term applied to the article. This is a nice integration of subject terming into the user interface. As anyone who has worked with keywords knows, the weak spot is getting end-users to take advantage of them. By displaying a link to the hierarchical topic concept, IAC both informs the user and invites a hypertext click to launch a search on the topic group.

Originally this left-hand rail had a major drawback - its text merged with the story text when you downloaded. Now there is an option to hide those links before downloading.

IAC has several pricing options. You can decide how many concurrent users you want to pay for, and whether the product is to be used by professional staff, end users or both.

Congressional Quarterly

CQ ( has been a known quantity to news researchers for many years. Now it is offering its Weekly Reports and CQ Researcher content on the Web. This site came up only recently and in beta for academic users. Pricing had not yet been set for corporate media users, but a CQ rep said it would probably be linked to circulation size and whether you subscribe to CQ print products.


GaleNet ( provides web access to many of Gale's reference books, like the Encyclopedia of Associations, Brands and Their Companies, etc.

Unfortunately, just as Gale wants top dollar for its books it also wants a high price for subscribing to the web versions. However, a GaleNet spokesman said the company is trying to develop a transactional pricing system to make it more accessible to those who only need occasional access.

And more?

If you use a web-based information service not mentioned here and would like to recommend it to other news libraries, please send me e-mail at

Michael Jesse is Library Director at the Dayton Daily News.



At of the end of August 1997 the News Division had 778 members. The newest members are listed below. In addition, we are listing the correct information for two established members who were inadvertently dropped from the current directory. Please add the list to your directory.

Sammy Alzofon is Membership Director for the News Division. You may contact her at

James S. Scofield
6100 Sixth Avenue S.
St Petersburg, FL 33707
Phone 813/345-9452

Virginia Davis
Chicago Sun-Times
Editorial Library
401 N Wabash Chicago, IL 60611
Phone 312/321-2594


Peggy A. Anderson
The Journal Times
212 Fourth St
Racine, WI 53408

Jan Bradley
Far Eastern Economic Review
25/Fl Citcorp Ctr Causeway Bay
Hong Kong

Pamela D. Brill
C. Berger & Co
Personnel Svcs Dept
327 E Gundersen Dr
Carol Stream, IL 60188

Sheri L. Engelkes
Sprint Corp Res Ctr
2330 Shawnee Mission Pkwy
WestWood, KS 66205

Jeffrey D. Graveline
The Tuscaloosa News
POB 20587
Tuscaloosa, AL 35402

Michelle C. Harmon
Post & Courier Library
134 Columbus St
Charleston, SC 29403

Madonna Lebling
The Washington Post
News Research Center
1150 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20071

Howard McQueen
McQueen Consulting
4404 Keswick Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21210

Jennifer L. Miller
Catholic Univ. of America
Law Library
3600 John McCormack Rd. NE
Washington, DC 20064

Diana M. Nixon
633 W 5th St. 23rd Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Mary Philbin
21 Norwood Rd
Northport, NY 11768

Faymarie Pluskota
Journal Sentinel Inc
News Information Ctr.
333 W State St.
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Neal F. Pomea
408 E Shaw Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20904

Jacqueline Riley
PO Box 684
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Sheryl K. Rosenthal
The Washington Post
News Research Center
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, DC 20071

Susann E. Rudedge
12 112 Handy St #1
New Brunwick, NJ 08901

Caitlin Stark
400 Boylston Ave E #110
Seattle, WA 98102

Judith Theodori
22-23 47th St
Astoria, NY 11105

Margaret F. Thomas
3261 Nowell Ave.
Juneau, AK 9801

Nick R. Tucker
439 W. 49th St #4E
New York, NY 10036

John C. Tyrell
Los Angeles Times Editorial Library
Times Mirror Sq
Los Angeles, CA 90053

Keith J. Vena
Kroll Associate Corp
900 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10022-4751

Lisa A. Wehrmann
812 Orange Grove Ave #8
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Catina L. Whited
4104 Kings Row
Muncie, IN 47304

Stephanie W. Willen
Springfield Union News
1860 Main St
Springfield, MA 01103

Breena L Wysong
Muncie Star Press Library
125 S High St
Box 2408
Muncie, IN 47304


By Victor Greto

The initials I.S. often send shivers up the spines of researchers and librarians.

There is a good reason for this. During the late 80s and early 90s, many librarians and researchers created a new role for themselves in the newsroom that often took the place of the official (and slow to respond) Information Systems (I.S) department of the newspaper. As we gained more technical proficiency with databases, which required faster and more sophisticated computers, we learned (the hard way) how to keep the new equipment running.

At The Gazette, this was no different. It was the Research Center that initially developed the paper's current website (which has now spun itself into a new department called "New Media"). It was the Center that helped reporters and clerks understand the delicacy of floppy disks, how to write at home and dial the story into the lumbering front-end system. It was the Center that became the mecca of computer-assisted reporting and Internet access.

Most librarians and researchers took to this role with gusto. Yet, as we ran into problems that newly acquired knowledge couldn't answer, we turned back to the I.S. department, which in its comical Dilbert-like way, responded as slowly as ever. As the newsroom became more dependent upon technology, however, this slowness became more pronounced, and a strained relationship developed between the Research Center (and newsroom) and the I.S. department.

How to fix the growing chasm between the I.S. department and the Research Center?

Admittedly, expert diplomacy must be involved. You might want to read "sucking up" into that phrase, but any thoughtfully apportioned respect given to those in the I.S. department who know what they're doing helps a great deal.

Talk to them. Ask knowledgeable questions. Create a continuing dialog between what you know about computers and the system you're running in the newsroom and their own more extensive knowledge. If you like a couple of people there more than others, cultivate them. Know them.

At The Gazette, we have just purchased a new pagination system developed by Unisys called Hermes. With it has come over 100 PCs into the newsroom - and all the complications that arise from them. In contrast to our former CSI system, where each terminal was a "dummy," more things can go wrong with individual PCs. Not only that, but because the Hermes system is so flexible, we realized that we needed some newsroom "systems" people that could create and delete levels, users, passwords, styles, templates and, in general, monitor the system. All preventive medicine before we had to call in the I.S. department.

Because the Research Center had always been involved with training, I volunteered myself as a trainer on the new system. After a long, hot summer of training, I volunteered myself as a systems person in the newsroom, to monitor, train, and take care of things as part of my regular job.

For one week, I trained at Unisys headquarters at Blue Bell, Penn, a few miles north of Philadelphia.

It was a very enlightening experience. I learned elementary UNIX commands, understood the structure of the publishing system, how pagination works, what to do when printers go down and lose their fonts, and then, when portions of the database get filled up too quickly, to alert I.S. as soon as I can. I can now solve reporters' problems rather quickly, while being a database watchdog with the I.S. department.

There are some problems and words of caution, of course. Don't step on toes. Just as you wouldn't want people in I.S. telling you how to do research or archiving, don't expect them to listen to a demand from yourself in the same way. Volunteer to "take care" of certain duties. The idea is that you're helping them do the job they may be too busy or understaffed to do. After all, they have an entire newspaper to take care of, not just the newsroom.

You can be their primary liaison to the newsroom, if not in title, then in fact. More importantly and to the point, you can help the newspaper run better and the newsroom function consistently and far from the precipice of technological disaster.

Your boss knows how important that is.

Victor Greto is in charge of the Research Center at The Gazette in Colorado Springs, CO. Contact him at



Lois Doncevic is the new head of the Division's Nominations Committee and is accepting names of potential candidates for the following three positions: Chair-elect, Secretary, and Director of Publications.

This notice should have gone in the last issue of NLN so the deadline for nominations is fast approaching. Send names to Lois as soon as possible.

Lois A. Doncevic
Director of Library Services
The Morning Can Newspaper
P.O. Box 1260
Allentown, PA 18105
610/820-6672 (fax)


By Jennifer Small

It was my first day on the job. I had been successfully fielding reference questions until I saw her. The business reporter I had met that morning. She was approaching quickly. It must be something important. "I need the most recent proxy on Valero Energy." She turned to leave. Sensing my hesitation, she shouted back, "You can find it EDGAR." I could find the EDGAR site without a problem. For Valero, the SEC listed 8-K's, SC 13D's, DEF 14-A's and many other forms, but no proxy. Over an hour later I learned that the proxy statement is the DEF 14-A.

Lesson number one. Take the time to learn the vocabulary of the business desk. This knowledge will make you more effective and more efficient when dealing with business reporters. Searching for company information is not difficult if you understand what you are looking for and you know where to look.

When backgrounding a company, researchers must first determine if a company is public or private. Researching a public company is much easier because of the number of public records available. All companies that are publicly traded must send certain documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As a result, researchers can easily access juicy documentation on publicly held companies at the SEC's EDGAR site ( Remember some basic points about EDGAR. First the database contains records up to two years old. Records current available range from 1995 to 1997. Second, when you are searching, EDGAR, you are searching document headers only. Use connectors, i.e. Valero ADJ Energy, for better results. Online search assistance is available. Finally, SEC documents are supposed to be posted 24 hours after the date of filing. Other sites, such as Stern Business School at New York University (, offer greater flexibility in searching SEC filings. At the NYU site, the full-text of SEC documents is searchable. In addition, returned hits will indicate annual report rather than 10-K, proxy rather than DEF-14A. Commercial online services like Lexis-Nexis, Dialog and Dow Jones provide greater search flexibility as well.

Whether one chooses the Internet or commercial online sources, accessing SEC information is easy. S-1's, 10-K's, 10-Q's, 13-D's and more - all available at the click of a mouse. But what do all of these numbers and letters mcan? The SEC site provides documentation defining all forms. Researchers should become familiar with six documents in particular:

1) Form S-1 or Registration Statement. Companies fill these out to register public offerings of stock. The S-1 can also contain information on directors and officers as well as extensive financial information. These forms are often accompanied by a prospectus.

2) 10-K or Annual Report. The 10-K is similar to the glossy picture-filled Annual Report to shareholders (ARS). The 10-K is the principal document that public companies file with the SEC. Each 10-K follows a particular format. Item I, for example, describes the business activities of the company. Familiarize yourself with the format. The 10-K will also list all subsidiaries and major properties and delineate the legal problems of a company. Don't be intimidated by the length of the 10-K. If you are trying to background in a hurry look for particular areas in the report: Litigation, Certain Transactions, Related Party Transactions, and Management Discussion and Analysis. Don't forget to read the footnotes as well!

3) 10-Q. This is a quarterly report that updates the 10-K. The 10-Q often contains unaudited financial statements.

4) Proxy or DEF-14A. Proxies are the official notices sent to stock holders before meetings. As a result, proxies delineate the issues that will be discussed at the meeting. Most importantly, proxies are an excellent source for determining the ownership and management of a company. Biographical information on directors, including age and salary, is available. Information on recent activities like mergers may also appear.

5) Form 13-D. Anyone who buys %5 or more of a public company's stock must complete this form. Through a 13-D researchers can determine an important investor's social security number or the date and price of stock transactions.

6) Form 8-K. These forms are filed to update shareholders on major developments in the company. 8-K's are filed to announce mergers, a change in management, or a lawsuit. 8-K information is often more current than the information found in 10-Ks or 10-Qs.

Backgrounding a private company is a more difficult task because private companies are not required to disclose financial information. The same is true for subsidiaries of some publicly held firms. Despite the difficulties, however, information can be acquired. Like individuals, businesses establish credit ratings. Although the financial information in a credit rating is usually not audited like the information in the 10-K, ratings can be helpful. Dun & Bradstreet is the primary supplier of credit information. The basic D&B Information Report reviews a company's credit rating and can contain details of a company's history, its operations and activities and short biographies on its executives. Some information on private companies may also be available from the SEC. If a private company has issued publicly traded bonds it may be required to file a 10-K. If a private company is going public, it must complete a Form S-1. This document will contain a wealth of financial information.

Both public and private companies can also be researched by tracing the variety of reports and forms that both are required to file with agencies at all levels of government. At the local level information can be obtained from property tax records, deeds and mortgages. Find out what property a company owns, uncover any liens, look for unpaid taxes or bankruptcy filings, or call the Better Business Bureau. At the state level, cheek the records of the corporate department in the Secretary of State's office. All corporations must file an annual report in their state of incorporation. These reports, easily accessible for many states via Lexis-Nexis, are not extensive but do contain such information as the date of incorporation, mergers and acquisitions, principals or key executives and previous company names.

In addition to locating primary documentation, researchers can glean large amounts of information from secondary sources. Newspaper reports from a company's hometown are particularly useful. Make sure to cheek for local business journals online too.

A wide variety of business news is also available on the Internet. One trustworthy source is the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (WSJIE) ( Two weeks of archived articles are available at the WSJIE site. To access the complete archive of the Wall Street Journal, link to the Dow Jones Publications Library. Registration is required. In addition to the archive, the Briefing Books at the WSJIE site are an excellent resource. The Books are accessible from the front page and are also linked through the stories themselves. There are several thousand publicly traded companies with Briefing Books on WSJIE. The books include an archive of recently published stories, press releases and stock analyses. Newswire information is also very useful for company research. The company press releases available at PR Newswire (http://www.prnewswire.eom) provide insight into recent activities by a public or private company. The site archives all press releases for a 72-hour period. For some companies, a one year archived database of PR Newswire stories is accessible.

In addition to newspaper and newswire accounts, researchers can access a variety of business sites on the web. A great deal of information is free, but you will find that more substantial information requires payment. The Hoover's Company Capsules (http://hoovweb.hoovers.eom/ed-home.html) site provides an impressive amount of information at no cost. The site contains information on more than 11,000 public and private companies. Capsules include the number of employees, the names of directors, sales and employment figures and a link to the company web site. From this site you can subscribe to the more substantial and more costly Hoover's Company Profiles. IPO (Initial Public Offering) Central (http://www.ipoeentral.eom) is a great place to search for U.S. companies that have either gone public or recently filed to go public. Search by industry, state and even metro area. Wall Street Research Net (http://www.wsrn.eom) collects SEE filings, stock quotes, news, graphs and charts, and industry comparisons for public companies. One-stop shopping at its best!

News researchers can also turn to the Web for directory information. Companies Online (http://www.CompaniesOnline.eom) provides a quick and easy way to search for public and private company directory information. For information on public and private technical companies, try CorpTech (http://www.corptech.eom). Searches yield addresses and phone numbers as well as sales figures. More extensive profiles are available for only two dollars.

As with all Internet information, each site you choose should be checked for reliability and utility. Researching company information does get easier. Learn to speak the language of the business desk. Take the time to familiarize yourself with useful resources. Your skills and confidence will increase tenfold.

Jennifer Small is Assistant Editor Information Services, San Antonio Express-News. Send her mail at


Annual Financial Statement
Current Operating Fund

January 1997- June 1997

1. Operating balance January l, 1997 $7,662.94


2. Allotment from Association $7,232.60

3. Bulletin Subscription

4. Bulletin Advertising Income 320.00

5. Income from Meetings

6. Interest Income 53.67

7. Contribution/Sponsorships:

  • UMI - Student Stipend '97- $1000
  • Freedom Forum - $500
  • Knight-Ridder Info. - $2000
  • UMI - (Program sponsor) - $2000
  • Dow Jones - $2000
  • Knight-Ridder- $500
  • Ebsco - $250
  • News Bank - $2000

SUBTOTAL: $10,250.00

8. Transfers from fund

9. Other Income

  • Sponsor - News Division Directory
  • Mailing:
  • NY Times - $100
  • Chicago Tribune - $100

SUBTOTAL: 200.00

10. TOTAL INCOME (lines 2-9) $18,056.27


(line 1 plus line 10) $25,719.21


12. Bulletin Costs (Non-Advertising) 5,365.00

13. Bulletin Advertising Costs

14. Meeting Costs:

  • Student Stipend -
  • '97 Conference - $1,500.00
  • Awards Banquet '97 -
  • Deposit - $500.00
  • Guest Speaker - Seattle
  • D. Scott Brandt - $885.56
  • Kwapil Award -
  • Barbara Newcombe - $500.00

Subtotal meeting costs: $3,395.56

15. Bank Charges

16. Contributions

17. Transfers to Fund

18. Other Costs



(line 11 minus line 19) $16,968.65


A continuing education course for news librarians

Crystal Gateway Marriott
Arlington, VA
Saturday,January 24, 1998
9 a.m. to 5p.m.

For the first time ever, the News Division will sponsor a continuing education course for news librarians at SLA's Winter Education Conference The course will focus on developing an IntraNet in a news library and/or research center.

Specific emphasis will be on:

  • How to make a database of structured information (e.g. a public record file) web-accessible and searchable;
  • Options for creating a full-text searchable archive (with image support) from Quark Express documents;
  • Brainstorming about a web-based reference request fulfillment system that could be automatically archived into a searchable knowledgebase.

Other topics will include document publishing and conversion, document management systems, web-enabling CD-ROMs and other proprietary databases, internal group collaboration - all with an emphasis on knowledge management. Portions of the course will be technical.

Our instructors, Howard McQueen and Jean E. DeMatteo, are frequent and popular speakers at SLA events. As CEO of McQueen Consulting, Mr. McQueen has consulted with newspapers and magazines and has developed practical expertise in designing and implementing IntraNet and knowledge-based systems.

This full-day course, including lunch, is only $125.00. Attendance is limited to 50 people, so don't hesitate - register now! Registration is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note that you will not be able to register for this course through SLA and you must register for SLA's Winter Education Conference separately.

Here's how to register for the News Division's Winter CE Course.

1. Fill out this form.

Company Name:
Phone Number:
Fax Number:
Email Address:

2. Write a check for $125.00 to SLA News Division.

3. Mail the completed registration form and the check to:

Sperry Krueger
News Division Winter CE
The News & Observer
215 S. McDowell St.
Raleigh, NC 27601

4. Your registration must be postmarked by January 1, 1998. Remember, registration is limited, so don't delay.

5. Upon registration, you will receive confirmation and other information pertaining to the class.

If you have any questions about this course, please contact Sperry Krueger, SLA News Division Director of Education, at 919-829-4886 or You may also find more information on the Internet at


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