We are tracking all JRN 300 sources to see how well we are covering our communities. Do our sources reflect the diversity of the community in which we’re reporting? Are we leaving any major groups out of our coverage?
To make an effective source tracker, we need to ask our sources about themselves and we need to record this information in a database we can analyze. You must do this for each person you interview.
We don’t want to guess about things like religion and politics or even seemingly visible qualities like race or gender. It is easy to be wrong. This does not mean we must have a Democratic governor tell us she is female and a Democrat to note that down. Ages on many people are easy to look up. After all, we have evidence. But we do not want to assume. The goal is to record as much accurate information as we can.
At the end of the interview, after we have established some credibility and rapport as interviewers, we ask a short battery of questions. Many more are possible, but our sources’ time is limited and we are unsure how this will work, so we will concentrate on a few key areas in the fall of 2019, paying attention to how completely we gather this information.
Here’s a model for how to do it:
“Thank you for the interview. I am doing an article (or photo or video) to be published on the Spartan Newsroom website. I need to be very accurate. To make sure I am and to see how well our news team overall is covering the community, we are asking everyone a few extra questions. Most of this information will not be included my article but it will help us analyze the completeness of our coverage.”
- Just to double check, please spell your name for me.
- What is your occupation? (Student, homemaker, unemployed are all acceptable.)
- How old are you today? (If they don’t want to be specific ask, “Well then, what decade are you in? 20s, 30s …”
- What is a good email for you if I or my professor need to verify any information with you?
- What is a good phone number?
- What is the ZIP Code where you live? (If they don’t know, get the city.)
Those are basic questions journalists customarily ask. Now, we have just three short questions, which can also come up in journalism, but which we want to ask rather than assume.
- How do you identify yourself racially or ethnically? (If multiracial, get details.)
- How do you identify by gender? (We have to ask everyone, just to be accurate.)
- How would you identify yourself politically, from these five choices:
- Strongly conservative
- Lean conservative
- Independent or undecided
- Strongly liberal
- Lean liberal
- Finally, would it be OK with you if a reporter from MSU or elsewhere were to call you back and ask you about politics and the election later in this campaign season?
That’s it! You did it. Thank you so much for your help. We appreciate it.
You will fill out a Google Form each time you interview someone. We might find that some sources are interviewed several times or by different people. That is OK. We want to record each reporter-source contact.