Records are not always available online; most still come on paper or electronic files that you must request from a human being. But it's usually possible to go online and at least find out where records live, if not get the record itself. Here are a collection of sites that do both.
IRE's Beat Source Guide: A beat-by-beat, searchable resource collection assembled by Investigative Reporters & Editors.
NICAR `Net Tour: A tutorial and guide to using the Internet and downloading files.
Power Reporting: Boston Globe correspondent Bill Dedman's wide-ranging and well-organized collection of journalism resources.
The Reporter's Desktop: A utilitarian collection of sources compiled by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Duff Wilson of the New York Times. Built for speed.
Search Systems: Among the most comprehensive collections of public records links on the planet. Free, but recently slowed down to encourage users to subscribe.
Pretrieve: Well organized and still free.
Portico: A collection of web sites, containing publicly available information, compiled primarily for the use of folks who research potential donors to non-profit organizations. Also very useful for journalists.
NICAR Database Library: The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting acquires all manner of electronic records and makes them available to journalists.
Florida-Specific Record Sites
My Florida: myflorida.com, the gateway to official online Florida.
My Florida Counties: myflorida.com's portal to county information.
Sunbiz: sunbiz.org, Florida corporate records.
My Florida Licenses: A portal to Florida professional license and inspection records. Doesn't include health professionals, which are found here.
Professional Liability Closed Claim Settlements
The Office of Insurance Regulation keeps records of closed professional liability claims for lawyers, doctors, officers and directors.
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
A-Z information on permits and licenses
Firstgov.gov: The primary portal to federal information.
Fedstats.gov: A specialized portal for federal statistics.