Skip to Main Content

JOUR 2311: Multiplatform Reporting & Writing

Finding information about a local or non-famous person

Start with this idea:

  • Look for a personal or workplace website with a biography. Use the information found (such as education background, birthplace, resume, etc.) as reference points to search for primary sources in other places.  Example: Bio for President Roderick McDavis (see link to his vita at bottom of page)


  • Be prepared to visit the place where the person works to ask for information. Example: start with the HR dept, or the person's assistant / office staff.

The sources on this page are secondary sources that you can use to glean information to use in searching for primary sources elsewhere.  Example: find out if the person belonged to a greek organization in college, then look for the name on a membership list.

Employment Records

Private Companies -- where to look

The HR dept. at a private company is not required, and may not be willing, to divulge information such as a person's salary or employment history. Gaining access to that information may require a FOIA request, but before you do that, check to see if you can get the info you need via a business database. Libraries, corporate offices & large news organizations often subscribe to proprietary information (a Bloomberg terminal, Lexis Nexis database, etc.) that will provide more extensive information than what you can get on the free web as a private citizen.  Looking up a company in one of these sources will yield biographical information, salaries & more for the top executives that you might not get from the company's HR representative.

Public Employers -- where to look

State agencies & governments, public universities and federal agencies are required to disclose information such as the employment records & salaries of their employees upon request. You will usually have to contact them and ask.  Look for the following offices at the organization:

  • Human Resources (HR) -- ask for the person's employment info / job application / resume / salary
  • Legal Affairs -- may have to go through this office first to make a request for employee records (this is the case at OU; Legal Affairs is located in Pilcher House on Union St.)

Archives -- Does the organization have a record archive?  For example, at OU, you can look up a current employee's salary in the "Salary Book" at the 2nd fl desk of Alden Library ; for former employees, older salary books are in the Archives on the 5th fl. The Archives also has many other types of university records, such as meeting minutes and university publications.

Addresses and Phone Numbers

Listed phone numbers

Print phone / address directories

Current print phone books for a particular location will be located at the local public or academic library. Published print phone books are still the best place to find valid current addresses and phone numbers. 

Tip:  The Alden Library 2nd fl desk has some local and regional phone books.

Online phone /address directories

Free online directories such as AnyWho, SuperPages, etc. are derived from print phone book listings. Online directories usually have the option to pay for more detailed information, which you should not need to do.  Online directories can be a bit harder to use, and the information cannot be trusted for accuracy as well as printed sources, but they can give you some information that can be confirmed in a print phone book or employer directory.

Another good option is to use Argali White & Yellow, a free computer download that searches multiple phone listings as well as allowing reverse lookup (when you have only a phone number and want to see who it belongs to), business phone numbers and the names of businesses on a particular street.

Unlisted phone numbers / Cell phone numbers

Unlisted and cell phone numbers will not be in any free telephone listing sources such as the ones above. Your best bet is to try and get the person's resume or look at other places where they may have listed their phone number.

Academic, Trade & Professional Organizations

Scholarly, Professional or Trade Organizations

1.  Look for professional, scholarly or trade organization information on a personal website, employer website, or a professional networking site such as Linked In.

2.  Go to the organization's website or print membership directory and try to find the person listed there

Business Databases

Corporate Profiles

Business databases often have biographical info about CEOs and other key staff

Licensing Boards

Inquire at the professional licensing board related to a person's occupation (see an example for ohio)

Social Media Sources

on't forget to search social media sources for information on a person -- you can glean information from these sources to use in searches elsewhere.

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Google Plus
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Goodreads
  • Spokeo searches for people at social network and email sites
  • Pipl is another good secondary source on the web for people searching
  • LinkedIn is good for finding a person's professional profile


To find out if a person writes a blog, try these techniques:

1.  Find the person's social media profile(s) and see if there is a link to a personal or professional blog / website

2.  If you find a blog, look at the person's blog profile page for links to other blogs the person writes using the same blogging platform


Try some blog search engines:

  • WordPress has a simple search feature (only searches WordPress blogs)
Subjects: Journalism