[Editor's note: behind every great news story, there's the tale of how the facts were collected. Here Joe Shea tells the "story behind the story" of researching the River Disaster in Guyana.]
The Guyana Ambassador to Washington promptly replied via e-mail
a small corporation is a tedious task when you have
to do it in a library. It involves searching the various business
directories, like Moody's Industrials, the million-dollar company index,
and many other sources -- sometimes fruitlessly. Tracking down the
ownership of the Omai Gold Mines Ltd., though, was made much easier by the
availability of information from the World Wide Web.
Via the Web, a I found a source page for Guyana, which brought up a series of reports on other mishaps at the mine in a monthly news page the embassy prepares. In each of, too, there was the e-mail address of the person who prepared the homepage. I wasn't prepared to learn the author was the Guyana Ambassador to Washington, Dr. Odeen Ishmael. I sent e-mail to him asking about the owners, and he promptly replied.
The next step involved search engines, those powerful tools that seek out the key words in homepage titles and descriptions, and sometimes in contents, too. I tried a host of them before I found a mention of the company in a page of stock investments by a huge mutual fund. The same hit also brought up another surprise -- Omai got a big chunk of its investment from Invesco Ltd. and other similarly-named companies that are part of a $9 billion mutual fund invested in the stocks of "developing nation" corporations.
Once I got to the second page, I was able to gather enough to then make a search of the huge EDGAR database at the SEC, which yielded a number of corporate filings that listed officers and directors of Invesco, the parent of Golden Star Resources (one parent of Omai Gold Mines Ltd.). It came as yet another revelation that on of the director is the man in charge of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
It had all taken about two hours, and the copies didn't cost anything -- you just mail the pages that interest you back to yourself with the P (Print) command from lynx. Under deadline pressure, I think a lot of reporters will soon find themselves saying, "Thank God for the Web!"
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, based in Hollywood.
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