On Saturday, October 29, 2016, Al Tompkins, senior faculty for Broadcast and Online at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, presented The Poynter Sensemaking Summit for Journalists in Columbus, Ohio. Following are highlights from his message:
The four critical questions journalists need to ask on every assignment are:
- What do we KNOW?
- What do we NEED to know?
- HOW do we know what we know?
- HOW else could we look at this?
I. Making Sense of Medical and Scientific Studies:
- BioMedCentral is an open access, for-pay publisher of scientific articles.
- Retraction Watch monitors retractions as a window into the scientific process.
To make sense of findings, ask:
- Who did the study?
- Who funded the study?
- How big/reflective was the sample size?
- Did the study confirm or deny the lead author's hypothesis? Is the study repeatable?
- What conclusions can your audience draw from this study?
- How did you change your behavior as a result of this study?
People often believe that the media doesn't report certain stories because they are controlled by:
- The government
- Big corporations
- The Pope
- Bernie Sanders
Accuracy + Context = Truth
Journalists need to ask: Who are our experts and what are their areas of expertise?
As a journalist, vow to become the Truth Teller; and avoid false balance.
"It's easier to be a doubter than it is to be an affirmer," says Tompkins. "At the moment, we're in a culture of doubt."
II. Making Sense of Front Groups and Hidden Political Supporters
The order in which you place sources in a story can impact its message.
In regards to climate change/global warming:
- 97% of worldwide experts believe it is a real, man-made threat.
- 67% of the general public believes the same thing.
Journalists often use non-experts to cast doubt on the experts.
There is always a margin of error. What is the margin of error that you find compelling?
We can always find outliers in a field of concensus.
"When it's in our interest not to change, we doubt the evidence," says Tompkins.
Front groups' motto: When the facts are clearly against you, don't argue them, instead, cast doubt."
"So much of what we think we know is wrong."
Federal Election Committee features contributions from journalists to political campaigns
Super Pacs (Political Action Committee)
- No limit to donations.
- Cannot coordinate with/or donate to candidates.
- Regulated by the Federal Exchange Committee-must file regular reports, including annual, quarterly, and expenditures within 48 hours. Priorities USA is the #1 Super Pac (Democrats).
Dark Money/501c (4) The (4) represents a social action charity.
- Charity money.
- No limit to donations.
- Do not have to disclose donor names.
- May not coordinate a company name with a political party.
- Regulated by the IRS.
- Reports spending using an I-990 form ( a year after the donation).
Open Secrets is a nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effects on elections and public policy.
Making sense of the U.S. political system is more than caring what the candidates support.
Making Sense of Polling
- Who paid for the poll?
- Who did the pollster talk with? Were these the "right" people for the topic?
- What did the pollster ask?
- How big was the sample? When did the poll occur? How did they conduct the survey?
A confident lead must be 2x the margin of error (to get a 1,000 completed sample, pollsters may have to call 20,000 numbers).
Weighting-some pollsters "weight" samples to represent a population when there is a shortage of participants. They may also weight a sample to save time and money.
The Social Desirability Index:
- Respondents tend to tell pollsters what they think is "socially desirable." As a result, polls sometimes overestimate support for minority, female candidates, while underestimating other controversial candidates that may seem socially "undesirable."
How to Search Photos Using Metadata:
- Applies to any digital photo or document.
- Do a reverse search and scan the metadata.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search.
- Pull images into Google Images to search the metadata.
- Jeffrey's Exif Viewer.
P.S. Social media sites do not post metadata.
Using Mobile to Search Photos:
- Open Chrome (right click) and search Google for the image on your phone.
Open Properties drop down box-shows changes in metadata.
- Use Properties Drop Down box: Shows changes in metadata.
If you are unfamiliar with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, visit their site to learn how their programs can benefit your professional growth.