Ensuring that your organization reflects your audience
In recent years, newsrooms have started to pay more attention to the gender and racial diversity of their staff and how that compares with the audience. But it’s not enough—these two data points are incomplete without a third piece of information: who the sources are. Ki Sung, Jonathan Blakeley and Vinnee Tong from the Bay Area’s KQED recommend doing a source audit to connect with the audience, improve coverage and avoid reinforcing stereotypes about what an expert looks like (white, male).
It was a long road to the source audit for KQED, with many meetings, research on how other organizations have done the same, working across departments and weathering disruptions like, well, the pandemic. Their final results show that KQED has room for growth when it comes to, for example, including Hispanic/Latinx and Asian American voices and interviewing female sources as experts. The team is now using the source audit data to guide decisions.
Austin’s NPR affiliate KUT has done a source audit too, as has KCUR in Kansas City and Wisconsin Public Radio. And while KQED commissioned an official audit from an outside partner, other organizations are conducting email surveys or asking reporters to fill out source questionnaires. Chalkbeat is now working with the Reynolds Journalism Institute to build a tool that any newsroom can use for doing this type of audit.
Though there are many different ways to conduct such a study, tracking this information is essential. Sung, Blakeley and Tong acknowledge that “it’s intimidating to ask these questions when we may have avoided them in the past.” And asking such questions can feel like—and is—an invasion of privacy. But, they continue, times are different now. “If asked in a respectful way, with context, sources have largely been willing to give this information,” they add. “Sources know we want to do better and they know this data is important.”
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