In my early days of doing business research, I thought computer searches could solve all of the world’s research problems. One of my first assignments was for a large investment bank that only bought blue chip stocks. I would pull up a company’s stock ticker symbol and see all of its important financial data and news, then create a comprehensive research report. As I started to cross-reference this “tickered” news with additional keyword searches, I immediately saw the problem. Writers would often not include the ticker in a story – or they would include the wrong ticker.
When I first started out as a business researcher the internet was in its infancy. Online research tools were basically paper directories that were scanned or typed into a digital format. The tactile feel of a thick paper directory was replaced by the blinking green cursor on a monochrome computer monitors. One of my first tasks was to pull up stories about Mergers in the Fertilizer industry. Sounds like an easy job, right? Well once I started tooling for the “Fertilizer” code my job got very difficult. There was no search function and I was forced to browse through the various branches in the tree. This is taxonomy speak for categories (sometimes called parents) and subcategories (sometimes called children) that resemble branches of a tree.
There are as many ways to organize information as there are people seeking to organize information – and news is no different. News can be difficult to organize, though, because somebody is writing about something happening related to any and every topic you can think of from basketball to gold futures.