15 Questions To Ask Journalists

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Journalism

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Journalists ask hard-hitting questions, but they also take responsibility for the answers. They have an ethical duty to produce truthful reports and to be honest in their reporting. Journalists are professionals who are paid big bucks to provide unbiased news that keeps communities informed and active.

 

After reading this article, you will know how responsible journalists report stories about controversial topics as well as what questions you can ask them if you want a fair story or want more clarification on a topic. Ethiopian news youtube is reporting this article, but after a couple minutes, I found that the video was deleted. So this article will stand on its own for those who are interested in real journalism.

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15 QUESTIONS TO ASK JOURNALIST (APPLIES TO MEDIA, TV, RADIO AND NEWSPAPERS)

1. Who is funding you?

 

Some journalists are biased. They are on the payroll of a person, a company, or an organization with an agenda. Journalists know who pays them and they often share that information with their sources. If you have a specific question about who is paying for the journalist to be in a place or do what they do, ask them to tell you. A good journalist should never be secretive with information like this.

2. Are you being paid to cover this story? If so, how much and by whom?

 

Some people want to influence public policy in a certain way so they pay journalists to report stories or give speeches that support their point of view. The funding sources usually want to remain anonymous. If a journalist is covering a story that is important to you, but the journalist has received financial backing from an organization or person who has an interest in the outcome of the story or policy decision, you need to know this. 

3. How long have you been reporting on this topic? Why?

 

Journalists who stay on a story for a long time sometimes have an agenda related to that issue. Maybe the issue is in a place where the journalist lives, or maybe they were close to the issue when it started. Maybe it’s a personal issue for them, or an important story that they feel needs to be told. A good journalist will be honest about their expectations.

4. Who are your sources? On what do they base their claims?

 

A good journalist will have sources of information and those sources will be experts on the topic at hand. But you need to ask; “What makes them an expert? How do they know what they claim to know?” If there are two opposing sides who each claim to have experts on their side, you need to consider who might be lying about having expertise.

5. Do you have an opinion on this subject? 

 

If a journalist has a point of view about a controversial issue, ask them to share that with you. In some cases, it is important to let the people know where a journalist stands on an issue so they can decide for themselves if it matters to them or not. But for the most part, especially when journalists are reporting news, their job is not to persuade people to agree with their opinions — it is to present the facts clearly so the reader can make up his or her own mind about what is true and what isn’t.

6. How do you know that this information is factual?

 

Journalists need to be honest about their sources. If they are reporting on a good source, they should be willing to share that with you. If they are reporting on bad information, then it may be worthwhile for you to find the source of that information and challenge the person who is behind it. Sometimes journalists want to remain anonymous so they don’t get into trouble for reporting bad information, but if there are serious consequences from publishing false or biased stories, the journalist may not do this anymore.

7. Can you explain to me why this information is important? 

 

Journalists are not there for us, but for our own good. They are paid to inform us about the most important issues of our lives as best they can. They should leave it up to us to decide whether things are important to us or not. If a journalist cannot answer your question and explain why something matters, then ask them what they think is important that you need to know and they should be able to tell you.

8 . Why is this topic important to me?

 

Knowing the personal stake you want to be made on an issue gives you a better idea of whether a journalist’s reporting is worth consuming or not.

 

9. What is my role in this story?

 

Some journalists are very uncomfortable when they report on important stories where their readers are also taking a very active role. Some news organizations encourage their readers with stories that readers should take action to solve problems, which means they shouldn’t rely on the media completely.

10. What do you know about the people involved in this story?

 

If you’re not interested in the person, then there is no reason for a journalist to talk about them. A good journalist will have a professional interest in the other people involved in the story, including those who are not directly associated with it. Sometimes journalists use their writing to reveal information they would not otherwise be able to share if they actually met up with someone and asked them all of these questions face to face.

11. What is your opinion about those people you mentioned?

 

Some journalists think of their work as a confession, but if they are doing a really good job, then they shouldn’t be confessing about anything. A good journalist will only think about what is best for the story, and not how that might affect the people involved. That is not to say that a journalist will not do anything he or she thinks is in their best interest while reporting on someone else.

12. How do you know this story is true?

 

This is a very important question to ask. The reason being, in the past there have been many cases of journalists getting paid by people with money to buy their stories and people end up getting hurt by bad information from them. Some good journalism requires some amount of trust from a readership, so it’s important for you to make sure the journalist has enough background information about their sources and information to verify what they are saying.

13. What are your claims about this story?

 

Some journalists become very reactionary in their reporting and just go with what they think should be true, rather than the actual facts. There are even some journalists who refuse to believe in the facts that challenge their beliefs. This makes them biased and unreliable sources of information, so you should always question them about the basis for their claims. If a journalist can’t tell you how he or she knows something is true, then it’s probably not true at all.

 

14. What do you want me to do after I hear this story?

 

Most journalists are not very good at giving their readers the right actions to take in response to a story. They need guidance on how they should report their information. If your concerned about something, then it’s better for you to make suggestions about what people can do instead of just accepting the news as is.

15. Can someone else verify or debunk this story?

 

If the journalist has evidence of his or her story, then there is a reason to believe their claims. If the journalist is making claims that have no evidence, then it’s probably pretty easy to prove that their claims are not true. Many people use easy refutations as a way to get attention, but this is more often than not a way to give bad journalism attention by pretending they have already debunked something and that no one should be paying any attention to them. 

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