One of my favorite discussions was about topics that seem not to get the coverage they should.
Some things to think about from my abstract on this discussion:
In political coverage of candidates, journalists are likely to focus on the big dogs, ignoring the puppies. In doing this, the story becomes more about who wins than about the issues being addressed by the various candidates.
Journalists want to give readers what they want to read. That’s not our job though. Our job is to find the flowers and the dog turd, and tell the reader about all of it.
It all goes back to the same idea. No matter how uncomfortable you are with a topic, there’s always someone with a story to tell, someone who will explain to you the angles and issues at hand. Yes, with newsrooms cutting employees all over the country, that means more work for the individual reporters. But papers everywhere are trying to win their audiences back from the blogs and personal Web sites that address the issues that mainstream media can’t seem to grasp. If they are going to succeed, they’d better start hiring people back on, cause they need to cover all of those topics and more.
At least once a day I hear a student in the College of Journalism say somethings along the lines of “I’m going to be a journalist because I can’t do math.”
It makes me shudder, especially when I then read an article that required double-checking figures.
Math and I aren’t friends. I can do just about enough math to keep my margins and padding in CSS from going nuts, and manage my budget. But I know people who can do math and I’m never afraid to make a phone call to find out how to work something out.
And I have a slight advantage: I took 4 years of psychology, which included some intense statistics. (Stats ain’t math.) Check through your local newspaper, and you’ll notice that the majority of articles use just that – and often, badly.
So how do we solve the math problem? I made a cheat sheet of oft-forgotten formulas and rules. It currently exists only in hand-written format, so I can’t share it (writing out formulas on a keyboard is obnoxious). But I recommend that every j-student identify what’s necessary and their own weaknesses and make up something similar. Mine is taped to the wall next to my monitor for easy access.