Stalked by a Herald reporter

No, not Matt Amorello. A local blogger. Christine Koh reports a Herald reporter called her yesterday to ask about that court ruling on maternity leave. By itself, no big deal, since she's pretty well known in local mommy-blogger circles. Except the reporter called her on her home phone number. The one she doesn't give out and which isn't even under her name, since it's under her husband's name, which is different from hers:

Me: "Excuse me? How did you find that information? My husband and I have different surnames and I purposefully list the phone under his name so I'm not easy to find. I prefer to keep my daughter and husband as separate from my public activities as possible."

Reporter: "We have a special sleuthing database that we pay a lot of money to have access to. It’s the same kind of database that background investigators and the police use."

Me: [Envision mouth hanging open] "I find that really, really creepy."

Reporter: "Oh, well don't worry, you were really hard to find. I don't think anyone else will be calling you soon."

Ed. note: Even back in the day, we had "crisscross" directories, where you could look up an address and get the related phone number. But we only ever used them to get comments on things like murder cases (in which 9 times out of 10, the neighbor would say "I'm shocked, he was such a quiet boy"), not to ask people their opinion about court cases in which they played no role.

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'tis the internet...

You can find anything out about anyone in short time... Not stalking, weird technique to get a comment, but I see nothing wrong with it.

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Don't be a mommy blogger

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If she wants her husband and child kept out of her public life, she shouldn't be a mommy blogger! Also, shocked that someone got her home number which is not listed in her name? Be real. And I wouldn't exactly call that stalking.

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Ah, memories ...

I remember when I worked at Harvard and had a friend who worked for a Major City newspaper. I used to hear from him all the time, because it was a fast way to get an office phone number instead of a PR person. I never gave out home information, though.

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Amazing - you criticize

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Amazing - you criticize reporters when they don't do enough and then accuse them of "stalking" when they're just doing actual, good old fashioned reporting.
It doesn't matter how you find a person, so long as it's legal, which this is. That's a reporter's job, to find people.
Perhaps some of you bloggers should try it, rather than reporting rumor and innuendo all the time.
As for mommy blogger complaining, save it. You want privacy, don't be a blogger.
As for the ed. note: so because you got some lame quotes from neighbors for a few old murder cases, reporters shouldn't do their due dilligence? Run that one by a journo prof.

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Due diligence? Please

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Journalistically speaking, this was hardly a groundbreaking piece requiring multiple confirmation of anonymous sources: It was your basic reax piece, not something you're going to put in your portfolio or submit for a Pulitzer. Back in my caveman days, we used to call 'em stool samples, because whichever reporter happened to be in the newsroom first thing in the morning (we were a PM paper) would go down to a local diner and get the reaction of people sitting at the counter.

Christine is hardly hard to contact; that the reporter went to the trouble of finding her husband's name and phone number suggests she doesn't trust e-mail (strike 1 when dealing with a blogger) and doesn't mind creeping out/burning a potential source for future stories (strike 2; I'm doubting Christine is going to want to talk to her again about anything).

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This is not "mommy blogger

This is not "mommy blogger complaining" -- generalizations like that are really short sighted and off target. This is an example of a reporter opting to dig around in a private paid database in a bizarrely circuitous manner instead of going the professional (not to mention stupidly easy) path of least resistance. E-mail me (takes 10 seconds to contact me via my website) or tweet me. Or even leave a message on the Boston Mamas Facebook page. It's not rocket science.

I have heard from other journalists who have said that this behavior was totally backwards -- and that *their* journalism professors always told them that, when possible, contact people in the way they make clear they ought to be contacted. Because when you don't, and you creep people out, you burn your sources.

Case in point. And actually, some other friends who work with media were similarly appalled and plan on blacklisting this reporter from their media list for this kind of behavior. It's not just me being a complain-y mommy blogger.

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It is exactly "mommy blogger

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It is exactly "mommy blogger complaining."
What's so wrong with someone calling you at home? Just because email is easiest for you doesn't mean it is for the reporter. Get rid of your phone if you don't want anyone calling you on it.
No legitimate journalist would consider it odd for a reporter to find someone's phone number and call them. That's what reporters do all day, every day.
And what is this, McCarthyism? A reporter should be "blacklisted" for calling someone who has put herself out there in the public eye with a blog? That's insane.
You should be thanking the reporter for finding you and giving your blog some press, not whining.

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They have access to such

They have access to such databases where my wife works. They are really just collections of various publicly available data sets with good cross referencing software. I am sure that there are multiple public mentions of her affiliation with the husband of the different last name, and from there it's easy. With google and a competent intern, it's findable enough. But with the right database, it's done in a matter of seconds.

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Let's see...

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  1. Christine Koh posted that her husband's name is "Jon" or "Jonathan" in a few places related to her Boston Mom stuff.
  2. Her old Friendster page has a "Jonathan Posiko" who now lives in Somerville MA.
  3. He's listed on Broadway in Somerville and the phone is 617-623-1*** (I found the number, but not posting it here).

I could be wrong.

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You get creepier every day

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Saying that you figured it out is one thing; giving step by step instructions on how to do so is weird even for you.

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Not exactly trade secrets

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I gave instructions on how I did it, because part of the complaint of Koh is that the person went to a private-dick-esque database with lots of cross referencing that all of the Herald reporters evidently have access to.

Well, my point was that the average Joe can do the same by using a few linked Google searches to do the cross referencing. It literally took only seconds and can be done by anyone. If I'd just posted that I found the phone number, then you could have just concluded that I had access to the same resource that the reporter did. My point was that I don't and I didn't need it because Koh is more exposed than she thought she was.

Again, I could still totally be wrong about Posiko being her husband (and thus wrong about the number I found) or the number itself might be an old one that they had when they lived in Somerville, but that they've moved to a different place and took a new number. I'd have to call or contact her to verify my find...but I'm not a creepy stalker.

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blech

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Still kinda creepy. (It doesn't make it less creepy that it only takes a couple minutes and that anyone can do it.)

Worse yet, you are a BAD internet stalker. It only takes a couple of minutes (and anyone can do it!) to read down the friendster page you claim is hers to find that it is in fact not the same Christine Koh, and that the page belongs to a dead girl.

Creepy creepy creepy.

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Hmm.

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I misread the Friendster page (I thought *she* was memorializing her sister). The alignment of the similarities between the two is pretty amazing though. But you are probably right about that being the wrong one. I wasn't happy with the fact that her Jon was in Rochester NY as recently as 2005. That's why I ended by saying I might be wrong. I wasn't trying very hard.

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Kaz's history of cyber stalking

Kaz, you also cyberstalked the bicyclist who was fatally hit in Newton this past spring, and made
some nasty comments about him.

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Google

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Putting someone's name in a Google Search isn't cyberstalking. Cyberstalking requires harassment (not even the reporter calling Koh up for an interview counts as harassment). I didn't say anything defamatory about the Newton bicyclist. I commented on publicly available photos he posted online that demonstrated prior acts of poor judgment when riding his bike.

It may not interest you to know more about what might lead someone to barrel down the road on a bike to their untimely demise. It does to me. It'd be nice if it never had to happen again. I'd also like to learn about a person who isn't going to be with us any longer. It's not like I'll get to meet them now.

With Mrs. Koh, she pretty much laid out a challenge to find her phone number. In general, people aren't aware of how much connected information there is about them out there or just how unique they are given very limited bits of information. It's easy to dismiss internet searching as the acts of a "creepy cyberstalker" but your boss has probably looked you up online and (s)he has access to more info than anyone else outside of your family. Your girlfriend may have looked you up after you met her for the first time to see what she was getting into. My point here was to expose some of how much info you can develop by using one search to start a second one...and in less links than getting to Kevin Bacon, you've learned what you were looking for.

It's only "creepy" if you walk around blindly believing that this info isn't out there or accessible to pretty much everyone. It's only "stalking" if you are doing it to intimidate and/or harass a victim. Inflating the terms doesn't improve the dialogue or inform the discussion.

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Harassment

It's kind of tough to harass someone that's dead, can we all agree on that? The fact that you took time to look up the kid's FB page, and comment on here about how much he regarded his own safety (based on a few FB pics) speaks volumes of your creepiness.

But hey, there's a point in your favor, you're alive to point out how careless Eric the biker was. Oh wait, you also broke via Twatter about the most recent fatality, and you pointed out how you broke the story in
that other thread. So two points for Kaz everyone!

I can only hope to die before Kaz, so that I can read via Ouiji Board Kaz's Monday Morning QBing here on UH.
Or is it Universal Kaz by now?

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My apology

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I apologize for the previous post. I didn't realize at the time that you were neither here to improve the dialogue nor the discussion.

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Oh, snap!

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You led the Beer Guy to believe you were apologizing, but then you zinged him! Nice!

It's good to hear that you're so secure in believing that your opinions improves the quality of the discussion here, as I'm sure you feel they do in your other Web endeavor. Speaking of which, have you ever paid anything to the "Get Your War On" guy for stealing his concept? If not, don't you think you should?

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Speaking of stalking

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No, really, what's getting creepy is that The Beer Guy is following Kaz all over UHub, including into three-month-old threads just to bump them back to the top, to tell him what a horrible person he is. Beer Guy, you might have had some reasonable points in the thread where your comments were somewhat on-topic, but it's freaking me out a little that you're chasing Kaz all over the place and bringing up stuff that's not remotely on topic in this thread. Quit it.

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No, _you_ should quit it

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Kaz is a big boy, and ought to be able to take care of himself. Nobody appointed you hall monitor here.

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The Beer Guy, the long-time

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The Beer Guy, the long-time regulars get away with being rude because they are long-time regulars and they sometimes say useful things.

If you want that job, you gotta work your way up to it.

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Yes, Kaz is Creepy

So, that has exactly what to do with Mommyblogger being naive and now outraged that people can do relational database things on the web to track her to a phone number?

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Because Kaz is doing, and being

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exactly what is creeping out this mommy blogger, and giving other creepazoids instructions on how to do it. See? Simple, isn't it?

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Who needs instructions?

Many of us do similar tasks for our jobs all the time. It is a pretty basic skill for scientific and technical professions.

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"many of us"?

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You're saying "many of us" spend our workdays digging up the home phone numbers of bloggers? No, sweetheart, that's not something "many of us" do, or that's vital to a wide swath of scientific research.

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darling anon

Please lern 2 reed. "similar tasks" deary, similar tasks.

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Give me an example, please

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Edify me. Humor me. What do many of us do in our jobs that is in any way similar to Googling and Facebook searching to come up with, possibly, someone's home phone number? And by the way, I do research too, and none of that, or the work of others that I'm familiar with, is quite that simple, creepy, and weak.

And yah, thanks, I get that "similar" doesn't mean "exactly the same." My point was that your use of "similar" for something that was more in the "not even fucking close" category was lame.

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Must be pretty boring research

Like, totally scripted cut and dried.

Looking up information on the web is a skill. Connecting/merging/sorting databases is a skill, as is writing queries for those databases that extract specific intersecting information. Locating available public information is a skill. I do all of these in my research job.

It isn't exactly rocket science to apply them to getting a phone number, now is it?

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Amazing what you can find if you dig enough

That said, there are still some old friends I can't find.

As a U.S. Census enumerator, we were told to get occupancy information however we could. Tracking down residents via Internet was kind of fun. Satisfying to get a lead from some PDF of a memo on a city website.

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If you know their birthdate

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You can type it in with their first name at several of the cross-checking things on stevemorse.org and find their city and current/former household members for free.

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Anyone who knows anything

Anyone who knows anything about the newspaper business should know that reporters will lie, cheat and steal to get a quote. My father used to have them poking around him at his job. They'd tell them "You can trust me," and then print every word they said - and get the quotes wrong, to top it off. Newspaper reporters are first cousins to used car salesmen and collections agents when it comes to ethics. No news here.

And yeah, if Mommy wants to keep her business private, she needs to walk away from the computer.

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Yeah, those reporters...

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really wade into that ethical gutter every chance they get. Not like here, where commenters are free to speculate at will and tear into people's private lives while hiding behind pseudonyms and what they believe to be their god-given right. Reporters who do it in the light of day are scum... commenters who take pot-shots from the shadows are "hyperlocal citizen journalists."

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Strawman at 11 o'clock!

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Nobody here is calling themselves a "hyperlocal citizen journalist," except maybe me (and I much prefer "reporter" to your half-dollar words).

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This is not a tear down of

This is not a tear down of reporters in general. As I wrote in my post, I have been contacted by a lot of media -- big and small -- in the last four years and in every other instance, I have been contacted via the Media Inquiries email on my contact page and gotten back to them quickly. And the reporters have been lovely.

In this case, the reporter decided to operate in a creepy way that was totally not necessarily. It was almost as if she did it that way just to show that she could.

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Creepy?

In this case, the reporter decided to operate in a creepy way that was totally not necessarily.

Creepy? He called you. What's the big deal about a phone call? If you don't want to talk to him, excuse yourself and hang up.

The guy has a job to do, and even with all these new, cool, trndy ways to communicate, one of the best ways is to pick up the phone and call. Oftentimes, people (especially reporters) don't have the luxury of time to wait for a response.

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Agreed. A phone call is

Agreed. A phone call is still the quickest (and perhaps only) way to ensure that a communication occurs. The reporters job is to gather information for the story in time to get it written and submitted by deadline. It's ridiculous to suggest he should send an e-mail and sit around hoping for a response.

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Give me a break...

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As a working journalist (more than 20 years), maybe I am biased. But for cryin’ out loud…the Herald, as creepy and invasive as it may be on a regular basis, was nothing of the sort here.

Reporters “call” people. A single phone call is not an invasion of privacy, creepy or the act of a stalker. Pick up any newspaper. Almost every story, you know what happened? Someone made a phone call, whether the person on the other end wanted them to or not.

Reporters don’t know, nor can be expected to know, your “preference” and even if they do…MEH…who cares. You make the call, the person on the other end either talks or hangs up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. In the course of a career a reporter will make thousands of unsolicited phone calls. Set yourself up as a public figure – and that’s what creating a blog of this sort does – and you surrender no small bit of privacy and, GASP, THE HORROR, ICK, you may get a phone call from time to time.

Personally, I don’t know why the reporter didn’t just e-mail or contact through the site. Not because of decorum, but because it probably would have been easier and just as quick. The approach they took may have been overkill but, hey, it did work and it was probably faster than waiting on an e-mail while deadline inched closer and closer.

This whole post was a brutal, whiney over-reaction. I’m equally disturbed by the alleged “reporters” who chime in with comments to commiserate about how things should be done. Give it a rest.

Oh yeah, and if one is worried about a “stalker ex-boyfriend” maybe one should, you know, reconsider having a public blog, through which, with minimal effort or hackery, people far more nefarious than an on-deadline reporter can dig into.

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Agreed

Right. Reporters have to talk to people on a regular basis, for scoops, enterprises pieces and everything else. Learning how to find someone's phone number is part of the job. And calling someone once for a comment hardly meets the definition of stalking, which requires a series of unwanted advances. To borrow the Herald's parlance: File this one under overblown, exaggerated and not worth worrying about.

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Agreed again

No need to repeat what Desslok said

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Not hard to find

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Yeah, as Adam said, not necessary to stalk someone who has contact info up on her site, and especially when it's slice-of-life reporting rather than some sort of omgomgomgscoop you're trying to get.

That being said, databases that will find names of other current and former household members are available for free. www.stevemorse.org lists many of these.

Also see this article for how easy it is to stalk people through public records: http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/13011

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Recent stat I heard

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In 1990, you could get a unique match to a person 87% of the time with just their birthday, zip code, and gender. I bet it's far more than 87% these days.

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So we can all, agree, then,

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that Kaz, eeka, and Swirrly all agree with each other? Really, one of you per thread is plenty-- y'all just say the same thing.

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Someone needs to get a login

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At least have the decency to introduce yourself.

And actually, Swirly, Kaz and I are all the same person. Duh. We ride a bike/scooter/blimp. And we work at some lab thing/some higher ed thing/some children and families thing.

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Hearty LOL

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My, don't we take ourselves seriously? Might as well say "come on out and fight like a man!" or something. As if posting your identity for all the world to see is some selfless act of bravery. How do you figure that?

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