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Four Thought-Provoking Links on Race, Sizing up Sources, Covering the “Other” of Ebola, and Understanding Gender and Identity

The following links to four recent news stories may get you angry, irritated, interested or intrigued about the way you think and how that comes through in the journalism you commit. You can take a quick dip or a long soak in any of these pieces. Jump in.

1.  Excellent journalism often comes down to a combination of education, context and perspective (see Chapter 5, “Understanding Culture, Understanding Sources” of Overcoming Bias). This discussion on the PBS News Hour, with Gwen Ifill, is interesting in the way it highlights issues of the U.S. judicial system and its workings (knowledge) and public response (perspectives) to the event of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri (context).  Here’s what PBS had to say about the piece: “How does race affect justice and how it’s applied in America? The death of Michael Brown has prompted fresh debate on that question. Gwen Ifill speaks with Carroll Doherty of Pew Research Center, Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project and journalist Isabel Wilkerson about the way young protesters have mobilized after Ferguson and what that says about the future.”

2.  Chapters 3 and 4 of Overcoming Bias emphasize the formation of schemas and stereotypes and how those influence how we encounter sources and events. Watching this TED talk and then talking about it in class can be an engaging way to launch a broader discussion about social markers. As journalists, we often need to size up sources quickly; the ability to do so is useful and sometimes essential. This “sizing up” may mean we rely on the first available indicators: appearance and titles, be they formal or social/cultural. These superficial indicators might then lead to assumptions that infiltrate our questions and ability to listen openly.

3. Chapter 7 in Overcoming Bias highlights decision making in the story process. Watch the first two minutes of this FAIR TV spot on Ebola coverage (the rest of the video looks at the war in Iraq and climate change). It casts a bright light on decisions made by at least one U.S. news outlet on how to report on a distinctly non-American problem. It’s not hard to grasp at least some of what was left out by this particular story frame.

4. If you enjoyed the assessment tools in the Appendix of Overcoming Bias, then you will likely find the questions on the Who Makes the News site worth your time as you begin assessing your biases about gender. As in all such mini-evaluations, the value is not in conclusive assessment but in getting us thinking and talking about how we view gender and how that seeps into our writing and news coverage. It is written for practicing journalists; that is, the questions deal with decisions made in news stories you’ve actually done.

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