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Providing context

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Foundations_mainEthical guidelines
Journalists should present relevant information in context so the audience has adequate information on which to base decisions. Context is just as important as factual accuracy and can help readers fully understand an issue and its relevance to their daily lives.sprclogo

Staff manual process
Staff members should not only fact-check their information but should also ask themselves questions such as “What does this story mean to my readers?” and “What do I want my readers to take away from this information?” This means gathering not only the 5Ws and H but also connecting dots for readers by helping them see related ideas, important relationships or significant background information. By assuming a topic is new to readers, editors can revise from the perspective of the audience and look for any holes that might be present.

Suggestions
• Writing checklists should address covering all 5Ws and H. Training materials and checklists in the staff manual also should address helping readers understand what the information means and why it’s significant.
• Part of the process may including asking members with no prior knowledge of a story to give feedback before publication or airing on whether the information provided is clear and paints a full picture of what is happening.
• The staff manual should include material about how to solicit feedback from readers about what kinds of stories, details or information they need in order to better understand school events or policies.
• Student media staffs should label analysis/personal perspective pieces so readers understand these are not typical, straight news pieces.

Resources
Principles of Journalism, Pew Research Center
Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Reporting, Journalist’s Resource

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