The exercises in the textbook ask students to,
Evaluate source selection in several scenarios
Examine the sources professional journalists include in a story, or not
Use archives and social media to identify potential sources in several scenarios
Articulate how they would proceed if sources for a story insist on anonymity
One exercise in the Interactive Workbook asks students to practice sourcing a story using a non-profit organization’s website as a starting point. Another asks students to prioritize among sources for a breaking news story. The third exercise asks students to think critically about the reasons to use, and not to use, anonymous sources.
1. Professional organizations for sourcing (Exercise W8-1 in the Interactive Workbook is a corresponding assignment. You can link this activity to Chapter 6 Activity 1-b.)
Professional organizations associated with a career or discipline can offer the enterprising student some options for sourcing—or at least tips to begin the search for credible and informative sources.
For this activity, ask students to seek out sources for background information and a possible interview for a story on vaccinations, which many colleges and universities require for admission.
Here is the prompt from Exercise W8-1 in the Interactive Workbook:
You want to localize a story on colleges and universities requiring students to be vaccinated before they can start classes. Can you find two leads for a human source at the American Academy of Pediatrics website? Do any of the organization’s posts provide you with credible background information? What concerns arise, if any, about using this information?
For tips to background the story, students can link to the AAP’s page on vaccinations, but they’ll want to apply their website credibility skills from Chapter 6 to determine how to handle the information AAP provides. To start the process of finding local professionals to interview for background or for a story, students can look up sources within AAP publications, and they can identify their region’s director.
2. Balancing expert sources and people affected by an issue
This activity asks students to think critically about how they would source a story about an enduring topic on campuses: food quality. How many administrators, or corporate sources, should they interview? How many students? Is there anyone else whose knowledge could inform the story?
Ask students to create a list of four or five human sources to interview for the following scenario:
Your school’s food service is provided by Sodexo, a multinational corporation. The company’s contract with your school is about to expire. You want to do a story on the process for gaining (or renewing) a contract, how much money is at stake, and what input students and other campus citizens have in the decision. You also want to inform students about who is providing their food services.
Sodexo’s website has an Education page under the Services tab on the home page.
The Virginia Informer, the student news organization at the College of William and Mary, posted this story in March 2014, covering a similar issue. Your students could use this story for ideas about whom to contact on their own campus.
Aramark is a major competitor of Sodexo’s. Students can compare its website with Sodexo’s to glean industry jargon, for example. From the home page, select Services & Industries tab to reach the Colleges and Universities page.
3. Diverse sources
Use the struggle over the name of the Washington D. C. football team’s name to think about sourcing. Who would students seek out for a story on the topic? Can sourcing help nuance the story so it is more than a two-sided, pro-con story? How would they select sources to represent the protestors? The fans who agree with them? The fans who do not? The team?
Here are some materials to provide background, including a Washington Post editorial, a news story reporting the editorial staff’s decision, and typical sports story. ESPN’s Peter Keating posted this commentary.
The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight have both tackled the topic, if you want to use their commentary, in addition to more traditional news forums, to jumpstart a discussion. The segment from The Daily Show generated some heat itself because of decisions the producers made about how to treat sources, when to use permission forms—and what to do when people who have agreed later revoke consent.
WHO GETS THE SPOTLIGHT?
Test questions & PDF
Chapter 8 introduces best practices of finding and selecting human sources, including how to provide a diversity of voices, and how to deal with requests for anonymity. It introduces Shield Laws.