Journalists who work for national audiences are more likely to use academic research and expert interviews than those who work for local or regional publications, writes John Wihbey of Northeastern University. Wihbey surveyed 1 118 journalists over their employment and their use of scholarly information.
In addition to national audiences, Wihbey also discovered other factors that predict the journalists’ use of research. Having training for statistical analysis increases a journalist’s likelihood of using both research studies and expert interviews. Higher education alone increases the likelihood of interviewing researchers, but not the use of research studies. In other words: without analytical skills, even educated journalists prefer to ask experts rather than consult studies on their own.
The journalists’ field of work also have an impact, the author noted. Journalists working “science-heavy beats”, for example medical news, are prone to using both research studies and researcher interviews. Conversely, political journalists are unlikely to crack open a research report, but they are still likely to interview scholars for sound-bites, Wihbey writes.
Finally, the journalists’ own attitudes make a difference. Thinking that research data has the power to persuade the audience and counter false information will make a journalist more likely to use such information.
The article “Journalists’ Use of Knowledge in an Online World” was published by the journal Journalism Practice. It is available online (abstract free).
Picture: ‘198 Ways’ notes by Dom Pates, licence CC BY 2.0.