Questions to ask + habits to build

It can be challenging and overwhelming to try and unpack the complexity of issues in your reporting, particularly on deadline. Illuminating the larger systems at play in the events and issues you're covering starts with simply asking a different set of questions. 

 

In that spirit, we’ve put together this list of habits you can build and questions to ask throughout the reporting process to help you take a systemic view and strengthen the impact of your journalism.

1

Imagine healthy systems + consider long-term impact

  • What would it look like if everyone benefited from the systems you're reporting on? What characteristics would define a healthy system?

  • What role do you and your journalism play in creating healthier systems?

  • What are two specific and bold outcomes that would constitute success for your reporting? Think beyond just the reach of your reporting and consider real-world outcomes that might result from people engaging with your journalism. 

  • How will you report on potential changes in the system over time? How will you track long-term impact sparked by your reporting?

          Habit to build          

Be mindful of the impact your journalism has, how it can influence the systems you're reporting on, and shape the public's understanding of what's possible.

2

Identify + engage your stakeholders

  • Who is your reporting for, specifically? What do you want them to do with your journalism?

  • Considering past coverage of your topic, whose voices are traditionally not heard? Whose stories and perspectives need to be elevated? How can you center those most affected by the issue?

  • Who is benefitting from the system as it's currently designed? How are they benefitting? And in turn, who is being harmed, and how?

  • Who is doing related work on the issue you're covering? How can they inform your journalism? How could you partner with them?

  • How could you or your newsroom convene key stakeholders on this issue to explore how the system functions and discuss opportunities for change?

          Habit to build          

Consider the breadth of people and communities connected to the system, center a wealth of perspectives, and create pathways for community participation in your reporting.

3

Expand the lens for your reporting

  • What are the trends and patterns driving this event or issue? What data or research would illuminate trends happening over time?

  • How does this story situate itself in history? What context could you provide to help people understand the decisions that have produced the system as it's been designed? How do race, class, gender, and identity play a role?

  • What cyclical patterns are at play in the issue you're covering? Why, despite efforts to address this issue, do problems persist?

  • Instead of holding individuals accountable, how can your reporting hold entire systems accountable?

          Habit to build          

Seek ways to illuminate interconnected patterns, policies, and power dynamics that are driving specific events and outcomes that you're reporting on.

4

Inform and challenge dominant narratives

  • What personal assumptions and beliefs do you hold about this issue? How have these assumptions affected your reporting in the past?

  • What are the deeply held beliefs, ideas, narratives, and assumptions about the issue or topic you're reporting on? What stories could you report that challenge or inform them?

  • What kinds of stories, perspectives, or information resources would help people understand the agency they have to affect change?

  • What would a story look like that focuses on how the system you're reporting on is structured, and the mental models that have shaped it?

          Habit to build          

Interrogate the assumptions, ideas, and beliefs that influence the issues you're covering.

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