Even before Donald Trump’s election victory took newsrooms nationwide by surprise, audiences criticized journalists as being disconnected from the communities they cover, especially poor and working-class communities.
The 2016 presidential election surprised many because Donald Trump’s win defied the vast majority of polls. In the aftermath, some are blaming journalists for rushing information out quickly without explaining basic polling caveats. Despite all the lavish attention, polls are only as valid as their design, execution and analysis.
Being a journalist means being resourceful. Presented with a name, you know where to dig. One place to hunt for leads is your state’s vital records office, which keeps certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce. How much these forms tell you depends on state law.
Here at Journalist’s Resource, we love research. Early in our careers, however, we as individual journalists didn’t always appreciate the value of research or interpret it correctly. We did not always use the best study to make a point or fact-check a claim. Learn from our mistakes. Here are some things we wish we knew years ago.
1. Academic research is one of the best reporting tools around.
The intersection of knowledge and narrative, of informed journalism, is the heart of what the Journalist’s Resource project continues to explore. In the short essay below, Nicholas Lemann, a professor and dean emeritus at the Columbia Journalism School and a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, articulates a method for journalism that integrates knowledge while preserving the art of storytelling. We reprint it here with his permission:
Far from being recent acquaintances, mass journalism and high technology have long been inseparable companions. When the London Times installed the first steam-powered presses in 1814, they not only quadrupled the speed of page production, they also vastly increased the paper’s reach and power. Later advances such as cameras, telegraphs and telephones — to say nothing of computers large and small — only deepened the relationship between the press and technology.