Five Take Aways: Looking at journalism

Take Away

Tuesday, May 7, 2014

By Tara J. Henley


  1. Journalists must be very aware of what they say and post in/ on a public interface. Yes journalists are going to get a lot of good feedback from their published works, but they will also always receive a backlash of negative comments, especially when writing about controversial subjects. Privacy is relevant to whoever is involved, so a journalist must be careful of whom they decide to trust with both distributing and receiving information.
  2. People have adapted a prejudice where they believe that because they do not know the answer they are unintelligent. This is absolutely not true. It is always handy to know a lot of information, especially when regarding a news story you will be covering, but if you do not know what something is or means, ask. Small children constantly pipe “But why?” every two seconds because that is the way humans learn: by asking questions. Robert Washburn said, “Assumptions are the enemy of journalism”, so you may as well make absolute certain that you have all of your facts correct before publishing anything.
  3. There are two types of information: online and offline. This generation generally believes that online information is the best possibly information they can possibly acquire on earth. While online databases are a great way to collect certain information at a fast pace, you must always make sure that the information is accurate and verifiable. That being said, you can always collect information via peer-reviewed books, magazines, newspapers and other forms of offline data that does not involve a computer. One could also separate information in terms of data and human. Data information means you have collected the information using a computer or print or a more traditional method and human information means you have spoken to a bunch of people involved to expand your knowledge on a particular subject.
  4. There is a five-step strategy when it comes to researching for an article you are about to write. The first step involves asking yourself, “What do I need to know?” If the article you’re writing about is for a few members of a church having their annual tea party, you only need to know the basics: who, what, when, where, why, how. If your piece is on an ex-con working as a teacher in a local high school, you should probably gather information about school policies, the overall opinions of the parents of the students and maybe even get a statement from the teacher. Step two is asking yourself, “Where do I find that information I need?” You can either search online or offline for this information, and you can ask the people around you if you need help. Step three is asking where you would then get the information you have found, which often seems simpler than it is. If a book is really expensive on for example then you might not be able to get it even if it has the information you need. Always make sure you are able to acquire all the information you need and in a timely manner. Then you should ask yourself how you would go about checking the accuracy of the information. If you are gathering your information from a peer-reviewed, well-known book, you’re probably safe to use this information. However, if you happen to only use Wikipedia as your source, you will get in a bit of trouble. It’s always a good idea to check multiple sources to make sure the information is accurate and matches what you know. Lastly, ask yourself how you will properly use the information you have collected. Do not use information out of context, and always make sure you have multiple sides to a story to maintain fairness, balance and objectivity.
  5. Walking into interviews, it is very important that you know the significance of who you’re interviewing (who they are or what they are doing). The minimum you should do before walking into that interview is read he last article published about the person you will be interviewing. This ill give you up to date information and you will not ask redundant questions the person has already answered. You can then base your interview off of what has already been said previously. You should also look at some key contacts. These are the people who have previously written about a certain person, or maybe have conducted their own interviews. You can also ask those in the surrounding community their own opinions of any matter you chose to write about. Remember: the more information you collect ahead of time, the more knowledgeable you are.

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