Pages Navigation Menu

End-of-the-year audit: whose voice made the cut?

By Kristin Taylor

One of the highest callings of journalism is to “give voice to the voiceless.”

As scholastic journalism classes begin to wrap up, it’s a good time for staffs to look back at the year to evaluate their coverage and see how fully they’ve met that goal. Before starting the process, I suggest having students make predictions.

How many people do they think they covered? How balanced was their coverage of various areas? Can they think of any voices they didn’t cover as well as they could have? Did any voices dominate? Were the students they used as sources throughout the year representative of the school population?

These gut feelings are often wrong, and comparing what they think they covered to who actually covered can provide an important reality check.

The next step is data collection. This process can be tedious, but it’s invaluable in getting quantifiable data. Have students count the total number of articles in each section of the paper and begin to list how many articles they wrote about specific topics. This might reveal an imbalance in sports or academic coverage, for example.

I also suggest starting a master list of who got quoted in each article, much like the index in a yearbook. You might have students do this for their own articles to cut down on work. How many times did they quote the same people? Did their student sources correlate with the student body as a whole? While some imbalance is unavoidable — they will likely always have to talk to student leaders more often than most — this is a good time to assess when they missed opportunities to bring in more points of view.

It’s also important to look at representation of marginalized groups. Percentages of quotes should roughly match up to the school population statistics. For example, if 50 percent of the student body is male, only about 50 percent of the quotes should come from males. Similarly, if the student body is 60 percent Latino, students should be aiming for about that same percentage in their sources Additionally, if they are reporting in a 9-12 school, are they seeking perspectives from all four grades or always turning to juniors and seniors?

If students question why this is important, consider sharing this research report from the Global Media Monitoring Project or this New York Times piece. This conversation might also start a larger dialogue about why seeking diverse sources is so crucial to “giving voice to the voiceless” and making sure we aren’t missing important stories in the community.

After gathering the data, compare their expectations to their findings. This final step will allow them to draw conclusions about how well they did and set goals for the following year.

This process isn’t a panacea for equal representation, but it’s a concrete way for students to evaluate their coverage and work to give voice to more students in the following year.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.