Equity Board Brief #21

Communicating & Respecting Boundaries 

The Importance of Communication in Journalism

This week I want to focus on something that is critical to the work we do and is often overlooked once we really get into the journalism industry: communication. 

I know it sounds intuitive but sometimes we have to step back and remind ourselves of the basics. When it comes to reaching out to sources, communication is a big part of how the story pans out. One of the first things we have to do is introduce ourselves as journalists, no matter if we are out in the field or connecting via social media. If we’d like to include them in our story, we need to make sure they know that they are talking to a journalist about a story. 

One of the first things we have to do is introduce ourselves as journalists, no matter if we are out in the field or connecting via social media.

Creating & Respecting Boundaries 

The next thing is creating and respecting boundaries, especially when we are covering sensitive topics. It’s already cemented at the very beginning of our interviews when we ask the person “is it okay that I record this interview?” From there, we need to ensure that they know that everything they say is on-record and if there is something they’d like to tell us off-record on on-background, we need to respect it. It all goes back to our commitment to minimizing harm. We want to reflect a story that the people that we talk to feel comfortable sharing. If they feel differently in the future, we now have actions that we can take to alleviate that with our new policy. 

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification because it’s better that you asked than roughed it and made assumptions about what was said in an interview. This is especially pertinent to stories revolving around cultures or communities outside of your own. If there’s something you don’t know much about, ask about what it might mean or the importance of it in their community. Don’t come at it in a trivial way, ask it in a way that shows that you are interested in learning more. 

This is especially pertinent to stories revolving around cultures or communities outside of your own. If there’s something you don’t know much about, ask about what it might mean or the importance of it in their community.

Start with “I personally am unfamiliar with this concept. Can you help me better understand and share?” More often than not they are more than happy to clarify because they want to get the story right just as much as you do. You don’t have to know everything and it’s okay to admit it. It only makes you a stronger reporter. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or Pauline. We are always here to help. 

Stay safe and healthy!

 

—Steven Vargas

 

About This Site

This is a resource hub to help student reporters at the Annenberg Media Center.

If you’re new to the Media Center, check out this one-page guide to see what it’s all about.

Contact the Media Center

Media Center Director, Professor Christina Bellantoni
bellanto@usc.edu
(213) 740-3874

Annenberg Media Executive Editor, Nataly Joseph
nvjoseph@usc.edu

Annenberg Media Assignment Desk:
(213) 740-3847

For equipment-related issues:
(213) 740-5739
ascequip@usc.edu
annenbergtechops.com