The journalism students at Michigan State University developed practices for surveying, analyzing and understanding sources and communities. They use user-friendly, "off-the-shelf" tools measure age, gender, ethnicity, race and political leanings of their sources. They compare their source data to community data.
With the tools and the data in hand, students can compare the sources they have interviewed with the actual makeup of the community. They can make visualizations over a long period of time or just the past few hours. Then, if they discover gaps, they can make changes to improve their coverage.
This practice teaches them to be better reporters.
The journalists easily survey sources and report demographics, in real-time and as they are reporting. They ask simple, multiple-choice questions. The reporters quickly enter the answers on their phones.
The students customize the questions to gather whatever the news organization wants to capture, such as ZIP Codes, income levels or people’s opinions about the press.
Students then compare sourcing diversity with the communities they cover. This method of data visualization helps them analyze sourcing, compare it to community characteristics and generate reports on changes over time. They can measure their coverage as a newsroom, a reporting team or as individual journalists.