Research - Journalism Interactive

Embargoed for Release
Thursday, July 26, 2001, 1 p.m.

Journalism Interactive

New Attitudes, Tools and Techniques
Change Journalism's Landscape

A Study Conducted for:
Associated Press Managing Editors
Pew Center for Civic Journalism
National Conference of Editorial Writers

Conducted by:
Campaign Study Group
Springfield, Virginia

Detailed Findings Part Two

The Reporting Process

While technology has revolutionized many aspects of journalism, the editors painted a relatively low-tech and office-bound picture of how their reporters do their jobs. When asked what percent of the average reporter's news gathering was done in the field, estimates ranged from zero to 90 percent. Seventy-nine percent of all editors placed the percentage of time spent by reporters in the field between 20 percent and 59 percent. The average was 40 percent.

Nearly half of those surveyed indicated that their reporters spend between 40 percent and 59 percent of their reporting time on the telephone. Another 32 percent of the editors estimated the percentage somewhere between 20 and 39. Overall, editors estimated that their reporters spend 43 percent of their news gathering time on the telephone.

Nine out of 10 editors expressed the view that the reporters they work with spend less than 20 percent of their time gathering news via e-mail. That varied only slightly across the circulation range. The average was 8 percent.

Lexis-Nexis remains largely the domain of research librarians. Forty-nine percent of all editors said their reporters spend absolutely none of their reporting time doing Lexis-Nexis searches, and another 49 percent indicated that their reporters spend 19 percent of their time or less on such activities. Estimates of the percentage of time spent by reporters on this type of news gathering averaged 3 percent.

However, use of Lexis-Nexis varies considerably across the circulation spectrum. Eighty-one percent of the editors representing the smallest newspapers said that their reporters make no use of this tool. Just 5 percent of the editors representing the largest newspapers indicated that their reporters make no use of the tool, while 92 percent said their typical reporter spends between 1 percent and 19 percent of his or her time doing such searches.

Overall, the editors estimated that their typical reporter currently spends roughly 10 percent of his or her time gathering information over the Internet. This estimate remained stable for both editors representing the smallest newspapers, as well as those representing the largest. Thirteen percent of the editors responding to the question said their reporters spend between 20 percent and 39 percent of their time on the Web.

Thirty-five percent of the editors surveyed indicate that at least some of their reporters post queries to the Internet as part of their reporting efforts. Forty-nine percent of the editors representing the largest newspapers said their reporters use the Internet in this way. The practice is considerably more common at newspapers where editors say they practice civic journalism (44%) than at papers whose editors say they do not (26%).

Eighty percent of the editors said their newspapers permit "roaming" or "beat development" days during which at least some of their reporters can develop sources and learn about their community without the pressure of having to file a story. While the practice is most prevalent at the largest papers-93 percent claim to allow such activities-three-quarters of the smallest newspapers also say they permit such time to their reporters' schedules. The practice is also slightly more common among adherents to civic journalism (84%) than among non-adherents (74%).

News Collaborations

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the newsrooms represented in this study have partnered with another local organization during the development of stories. In many cases editors report having collaborated with multiple organizations on different stories.

Among the newspapers that have developed cooperative arrangements outside their newsrooms, local commercial and cable television outlets are the most popular partners. Nearly seven out of 10 newspapers who pursue these arrangements report having done so with a mainstream television partner. Twenty-one percent have partnered with their local public television affiliate and 12 percent have done so with a local access television station. Roughly one-third say they have established reporting relationships with local radio stations and nearly one-third have enlisted the help of a local university.


Note: Percentages do not add to 100% due to multiple responses.

Such relationships are more common among the largest newspapers, with 79 percent of those with circulations in excess of 100,000 having established an outside partnership. Fifty-seven percent of the editors representing newspapers with circulations of between 20,000 and 49,999 said that their organizations had undertaken similar collaborations.

Among those newspapers that have participated in partnerships, the largest (88%) were also more likely than their smallest counterparts (60%) to have worked with a local commercial or cable television station. The largest papers (35%) were also far more likely than the smallest papers (15%) to have established a relationship with a public television station. The smallest papers (35%) were more likely than the largest (22%) to have linked up with a local university or college. Twenty-eight percent of those with the smallest circulations had established working relationships with local community organizations, while 16 percent of those with the largest circulations had done so.

Self-professed civic journalists are also more likely than others to have established news gathering relationships outside their newsrooms. Among civic journalists, 77 percent report having done so. The comparable figure among those who say they do not practice civic journalism is 53 percent.

When asked which of these partnership arrangements had been the most successful, 41 percent gave a thumbs up to their local commercial and cable television outlets. Thirteen percent cited college and university relationships. However, 13 percent said that either none of their attempts had been successful or that it was too early to make an assessment.

Storytelling

Slightly more than half of the editors surveyed indicated that their newspapers have made a conscious effort to move away from framing their stories around conflict. This general trend was noted by roughly the same proportion of editors in all three circulation tiers. Civic journalists were no more likely than professed non-adherents to say their papers have made this move.

When asked what alternative frames they had begun to use, editors offered the following:

Other Useful Story Frames

Percent

Impact on People/Stakeholders/Community

33%

Important Issues

22%

Problem Identification and Solutions

16%

Community Needs/Concerns

11%

Conflict is a Good Frame

8%

Explanatory/Historical

7%

Outstanding Individuals

7%

Trends/Change

7%

Other

7%

Storytelling/Narrative Approach

6%

Connection to Broader Issues

3%

Forty-six percent of those queried said they always make a conscious effort to ensure that all potential stakeholders in a story are represented. Another 43 percent said they make the effort "most times."

Among those who always make the effort to include all potential stakeholders in a story, 85 percent indicated that it was accomplished in part through reporter-editor brainstorming. Among those who always make the effort, 63 percent said they push reporters to solicit actively more than the obvious players. Thirty-eight percent said that reader feedback plays a role in the process, and 31 percent indicated that input from all members of the reporting team helped.


Note: Percentages add to more than 100% due to the acceptance of multiple responses.

Having said that, only 58 percent of the editors indicated that their newspapers were diversifying sources or "voices" in their stories. Among 207 editors who noted some movement in that direction, 78 percent said they were doing so by developing new source lists. Fifteen percent said that the effort included "civic mapping," and 14 percent noted the use of citizen reporters.


Note: Based on 207 editors who said their newspapers were consciously diversifying sources or voices in the paper.

Several editors indicated that the drive to diversify sources had prompted annual audits of news content. One editor noted that "we have constant newsroom discussion of the issue, and we post the daily news budgets so that everyone can read them and suggest alternative sources." Others suggested that greater diversity in the reporting staff had made a major contribution to finding those new voices.

Asked whether they make a deliberate effort to report on choices their community might need to make to address a problem, 20 percent of those responding said they always make the effort, 37 percent said they do so most of the time, 38 percent said they do so occasionally, and just 5 percent said they never allow such discussions in their stories.

Civic journalists (16%) were slightly less likely than professed non-practitioners (22%) to say they always include discussions of trade-offs in their stories, although they were also less likely to say they never do so. Eighty-two percent of civic journalists fell into either the "most times" or "sometimes" categories. The comparable figure among non-adherents was 69 percent.

There is less appetite among editors for stories that offer solutions to community problems, although 81 percent of those responding said they publish stories with possible solutions at least some of the time. When asked whether they require their reporters and junior editors to include possible solutions where warranted, 9 percent of survey respondents said they always do so, 23 percent said they do most of the time, 49 percent said they sometimes do so, and 19 percent indicated that they never look to offer solutions in news stories.

Civic journalists were significantly more likely than non-adherents to include solutions. While 40 percent of civic journalists said they seek to offer solutions where appropriate at least most of the time, only 23 percent of non-practitioners indicated that they do so that frequently.

Report continued in Detailed Findings Part Three...

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