ACRL EBSS Communication Studies Committee Education and Behavioral Sciences Section

Journalist Stuck Places Question

  • 1.  Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Jan 15, 2015 03:39 PM

    For those of you are journalists, or teach or work with journalism students, what would you say are the places that students and practitioners often get "stuck" when doing their research? (i.e. In what ways do they typically have trouble finding, evaluating, and using information?) The reason I am asking is that librarians are starting to rethink how we teach and a big focus is on teaching to these stuck places. I have some ideas, but I'd love to know what you think.

  • 2.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Jan 16, 2015 12:59 PM

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  • 3.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Feb 19, 2015 11:30 AM

    I have two things from faculty to share:

    One stuck place is how to put the information together and make sense of it. Students often find some information on a topic, but not necessarily on target. Even if they find relevant information, they have problems writing a lit review.

    Another stuck place is to use very specific resources. One example is SRDS, which they will use in the workplace later. Most students are not aware of them. So find out what's available in the workplace and teach them now will be useful.

  • 4.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Jun 18, 2015 10:51 AM

    I have two stuck places that I have encountered:

    1. The need for and use of context in stories. I have heard students say that they are just covering what happened in a particular event so there is no need to research what happened previously or how that same event may have been covered previously or elsewhere.
    2. Prioritizing timeliness over verification of the facts/accuracy. There is such a rush to publish in the digital age that facts aren't checked before publication. Aggregation complicates it too because it easy for reporters to assume that since something has been published elsewhere that it has been checked when in reality it has not been.


  • 5.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Dec 01, 2015 10:56 AM

    From a journalism instructor in the Penn State College of Communications:

    "One of the biggest problems we face [in a sophomore level journalism class] is that we start the semester telling the students they can only write from the AP wire service that the college pays for, but as the semester progresses there are some ‘official’ websites that the students may use to cite a source (ex: a US Sentator’s page). But they can’t seem to understand the difference between an ‘official/respectable’ site and the junk sites they find in a google search.

    They also don’t seem to understand the basic concept of plagiarism.

    None of this is on traditional academic research so I don’t know if it helps - but it is a problem we are running into in the ‘practical’ classes/labs."

  • 6.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 10, 2016 03:29 PM

    I have gotten requests from students on how to access public records for a locality. Although I'm fairly competent in using and teaching legal resources, this is something I have no experience with. By "public records" I mean the kind of records that you can get from city hall to answer questions like "who owns the property at the corner of 6th and Main?" and things like that. As a librarian, I want to know this-- and I'm going to try to rectify this soon!

  • 7.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 30, 2016 07:01 AM
    [Cathy posting for Prof. Gray]
    My students frequently get stuck when they are trying to find data to give context to a story (one example today was the number of food pantries and soup kitchens in a neighborhood, and has the number increased over the past 10 years?). They think that every issue has data that some government agency or the Census compiles and makes available. I teach them that they should always use a cocktail of sources:  google and Google news, NYC Data (one of those Gov’t Data sites that Socrata powers), LexisNexis, scholarly sources (Google Scholar or science direct) and look for stakeholders interested in the same thing as you (search using Google’s site:org command), who may have original data, or may have crunched original data using Census raw data. Students should also always learn the jargon used by agencies or scholars for the thing that they are searching for, and then search using that jargon.
    Regarding Jeff’s public records comment: BRB is a good place to start looking for online public records: 
    The CUNY J-School has Research Guides that you can use or share with your students. Our Backgrounding People and Businesses Checklist will help folks cover the bases regarding public records or publicly available information. It is NY-centric, but you can search for your local equivalents. 
    Barbara Gray
    Associate Professor
    and Chief Librarian
    CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

  • 8.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 30, 2016 07:02 AM

    [Cathy posting for Dr. Jim Eggensperger]

    Fundamentally, I think that journalists get stuck when getting "live" information -- getting sources to give up information that they don't want to give up.

    Librarians and journalists can work together for background stuff and in that sense, students need to know the artful terms that are used by specialists, from real estate to hard science. For that kind of knowledge, short, Wikipedian introductions to esoteric stuff can be valuable. And for that matter, I don't think I have ever seen an explanation of how to access property records or even voting records.

    Dr. Jim Eggensperger
    Associate Professor
    Iona College
    715 North Ave. 

  • 9.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 30, 2016 07:02 AM

    [Cathy posting for John McClelland]

    Students and others exhibit undue reliance on Web resources generally, and especially not distinguishing the credible from billybobsblog. Along with this is failure to capture a usable real URL (not, or in addition to, the gibberish of a search string) and real source identity. Whether in term-paper references or the less formal source notes some of us demand with all but the most rudimentary journalistic work, students need to be systematic about naming names and having adequate info to cite, or find again, or help their bosses and attorneys find when challenged....

    Similarly, lack of sound habits makes students unduly vulnerable to accidental plagiarism because it is so easy to copy-paste from a site into notes and thus into the work. Accidental or not, it's still a flunking-firing offense.

    More and more journalism and research is kept behind paywalls, especially on the publishers' own sites. These now are heavily laden with Search Engine Optimization for hits on Google and its ilk, putting up teaser leads or SEO abstracts that demand log-in to see the rest of the article. At one point, only one of the three leading daily newspapers here was readily searchable in the ever-changing labyrinth of the academic version of Lexis-Nexis. Students need to know how to find their way around such barriers, such as via library links to other subsidized services they are likely to overlook. Suburban public libraries can be surprisingly helpful with some of this.

    John McClelland
    associate professor of journalism,
    emeritus (retired, active part-time)
    Roosevelt University, Chicago

  • 10.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 30, 2016 07:03 AM

    [Cathy posting for James A. Rada, Ph.D.]

    I find the students often get stuck at various stages of the process.  But I would say that the two biggest problems they have are finding sources, and understanding/determining what makes for a valid source.

    I am amazed at how many of them rely on Wikipedia, or someone’s personal blog, or some other source that really has very little behind it.

    James A. Rada, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor
    The Roy H. Park School of Communication
    Ithaca College
    953 Danby Rd
    Ithaca NY 14850

  • 11.  RE: Journalist Stuck Places Question

    Posted Mar 30, 2016 07:23 AM

    I love the Backgrounding People and Business Checklist.  Thanks for sharing it! -- Cathy