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Introduction to library research in the arts: News articles and journalistic integrity

An introduction to research concepts and techniques for University of Redlands students in fine, literary and performing arts, developed as an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Learning objective

  • Identify values and editorial processes that improve the quality of news media reporting.

What is journalism?

Journalism is one of America's most venerable civic institutions. Access to news is widely considered vital for an informed citizenry that can take part in public life and uphold democratic governance at the local, state and nationwide level.

In order to effectively find and use news articles in your research, it will help to understand how news is produced and how journalists approach their work.

Writer Jennie Dear created this brief video to help introduce viewers to some of the principles that guide the work of journalists.

Activity: Analyze an article

Read over my annotations of an article on police public relations departments that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 30, 2020.

I identify important elements of the story including the headline, byline, and lead, as well as the sources the reporter likely drew upon in order to write the story.

What is it like to be a journalist?

This documentary, created with grant funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, features interviews with staff of the Charlotte Observer, a regional newspaper.

Journalist Kelsey Samuels explains a crucial principle that guides her work and that of many of her colleagues: the willingness to question their own assumptions about the world around them and the stories they are reporting.

This question - "what if I'm wrong?" - is an incredibly fruitful one for us to ask as researchers. Keeping our minds open to learning about our topics saves us from ignoring valuable sources and keeps us engaged with the complex reality of the world around us.

How is journalism changing?

Recent developments in the news business are changing the form and content of news coverage, as Karna Younger and Callie Branstiter explain in this chapter from an open journalism textbook.

This has important implications for how you evaluate news coverage of your research topics, and for your strategy in finding news articles.

John Oliver warns of the threat to journalism posed by consolidated ownership of news media.

Activity: Evaluate coverage of BLM protests

Read journalism professor Doug McLeod's recommendations for how journalists should cover protests responsibly.

Then apply his principles to the example articles linked below. How well did the journalists do at covering local protests?

Finding Newspaper Articles Tutorial

Key point

  • The authoritativeness of news articles depends on journalistic values such as accuracy, fairness and critical thinking.