Scoping Out Your Beat

Get to know your beat from the inside out.

NYC Essentials | Visualizing the City | Databases | Hit the Books | Elsewhere

NYC Essentials

You won't get very far without relying on the following:

Visualizing the City

The following sites bring data about NYC to life, by mapping it:

    NYC OASIS is the New York City Open Accessible Space Information System Cooperative. The site presents an interactive mapping feature for data such as census demographics, natural resources, and even neighborhood trees. Maps can be created by zip code, neighborhood, or community district.
  • Mapping Poverty in New York City
    This resource from Community Service Society and United Way maps the impact of poverty on NYC communities.
  • Social Explorer
    A database product that helps to visually analyze and understand the demographics of the United States through the use of interactive maps and data reports.  Explore thousands of historical data maps, from the first US Census in 1790 to the present.

Databases (Columbia only)

The following databases contain useful information about New York City neighborhoods, and can be accessed via LibraryWeb. All of these tools are available from off-campus to anyone with a valid Columbia e-mail ID and password.

  • Infoshare Online
    How many people live in your beat neighborhood? How many are on public assistance? How many have asthma? What are the crime statistics for your beat? Immigration trends? Answer these questions and many more using Infoshare Online, a collection of statistics about NYC from a number of sources, including the US Census Bureau and various City and State agencies. The data can be retrieved by community district number or neighborhood name, covers demographic, health, and socio-economic variables, and in many cases is available for multiple years, which lets you chart trends.
  • LexisNexis Academic
    LexisNexis Academic contains the searchable full text of most New York City metropolitan area dailies, with archives extending back to the early 1990s (and the New York Times back to 1980). The exception is Newsday, which is only available for the most recent six months.
  • Ethnic Newswatch
    Databases like LexisNexis are useful, but do not include a large number of articles from ethnic and minority newspapers, which can add dimension to your beat reporting. Ethnic Newswatch includes the full text of newspapers from ethnic, minority and native communities of the United States (including papers based in NYC). You can limit a search to a particular ethnic group's publications, and both English and Spanish language papers are included.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers
    Once you get to know your beat in its present-day incarnation, use this database to pull up articles about it from the New York Times, which is searchable back to 1851 in this unique resource.

Hit the Books

Some useful references on New York City:

  • The Green Book: Official Directory of the City of New York
    Journalism Library reference, and many other libraries on campus, call number JS1222.A3 N4
  • County & City Extra: Annual metro, city, and county data book, 2010
  • Encyclopedia of New York City
    Journalism Library reference, and many other libraries on campus, call number F128.3 .E75 1995
    Answers questions such as: Who was the first mayor of New York City? What is a settlement house?
  • New Immigrants in New York
    Journalism and other libraries, call number F128.9.A1 N48 2001
    A 2001 book which includes chapters on specific immigrant groups as well as general essays on immigrants.
  • Community District Needs
    Journalism Library in reference, one volume per borough; also available online at the Department of City Planning.
    These annual volumes include not only data about community districts but also the Community Boards' own annual assessments of their needs.
  • AIA guide to New York City
    Journalism Library reference and other libraries, call number NA735.N5 A78 2000
    The premier guide to architecturally significant structures in New York City. Includes suggested walking tours.


In addition to Columbia University's libraries (including Avery, which houses the architecture & urban planning collections, and Butler, which houses many books on the history of New York City), you may wish to explore:

Questions?  Please e-mail: