How can writers find actual facts in research?

This morning I looked at a news item as a possible source for a paid article on computer tech. The story is on proposed energy reduction regulations for computers in California. It took me a minute to notice how short it is on information.

It starts off: “California regulators moved a step closer on Friday to the first mandatory U.S. energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors…” That’s useful to know, but what will these standards be? The article doesn’t tell us anywhere. It tells us how much consumers will supposedly save, how much greenhouse gas emissions may decrease, how much power computers consume in California — but not what the regulations would mandate. Without knowing that, there’s no way to judge whether the regulations will achieve their aims and what other consequences they might have.

This is typical of a lot of the news on the Internet. The writer either thought the actual content of the regulations would be too dry and boring or just didn’t understand concepts like kilowatt hours well enough to write about them. Probably both.

When doing research for writing, it’s necessary to drill down to the actual facts and separate them from people’s conclusions about them. With some digging, I was able to find the California Energy Commission’s Staff Report, which has considerable detail on just how the regulations would work. It’s not easy reading, but it has the information. It would take work to boil it down to a readable news article, which is doubtless why the article I read focused on the claimed results instead. Dollar figures are easy to understand. But now I have an opportunity to write an article with more depth than the typical news story.

The main trick is knowing how to use the search engines, which seem determined to serve up popular press and opinion pieces and nothing else. I used “california energy commission computer regulation” for my search string, and that turned up a better news item. It linked to a press release by the CEC Commissioner that was also mostly promises, but that linked to the actual report.

It takes some digging to find real information on the Internet, but it’s often there. Finding it is part of the writer’s skill set.

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