Photo source: internets_diary on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Resource Links

Team 11, LIS510, Fall 2009
Trent Hill, instructor

Carolyn Barske
Diane Doctor
Poppy Louthan
David Talley

Assignment 2
Information World of Journalists

Journalists surround themselves with information. They seek it out, they sift through it, they discard it at times, they synthesize it with their own angles and ideas, and finally, they present it to their audience before turning around and beginning the process over and over again.

Our presentation seeks to illustrate the importance for information professionals to study the work of journalists. This is because journalism is information seeking and transferring. They are the consummate “information pushers,” and they must produce information on a continual basis (Leckie & Pettigrew’s model of Professional IB).

The literature we reviewed during the course of our investigation went in two main directions: the ways in which technological shifts affect the information-seeking behavior of journalists, and the potential reasons behind the information choices journalists tend to make. Some of the main issues addressed in the literature we read were: time, the angle of a story, accuracy, service to the community and the introduction of the technological age.

The group of respondents for our study included six journalists from a variety of backgrounds, including both print journalists and radio journalists. Three of the six interviewed were also observed while seeking information. Our fieldwork discussion shows that journalists draw on a wide variety of information resources, both formal and informal, but that most prefer that the greater part of their information comes from direct human-to-human communication. In fact, our findings indicate that important elements of the story would be absent without the luxury of in-person interviewing.

Our information model is based on our findings that journalists have a strong commitment to accuracy, completeness, and balance. They check their information against multiple sources and strive to present their stories clearly and concisely, while avoiding value judgments and biases whenever possible. The nature of the journalist’s work often results in a story that moves in an unanticipated direction. In addition to maintaining a strong sense of balance, a journalist must be ready to accommodate this directional shift.

Our findings, in agreement with Attfield, Blandford, and Dowell, show that the closest fit for journalists’ IB is Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process theory. We have taken Kuhlthau’s work as a basis for our model, expanded upon it, and modified it to more closely resemble the information behavior specific to journalists.

In our section on implications for further research, we address the fact that journalism is in decline and approaching crisis status. We identify needs to be addressed as well as offer suggestions to prevent further decline and to improve the current status of the profession. These suggestions raise questions for further research to provide guidelines for a comprehensive information system to help journalists cope in an information world of declining resources.

We aim to present our information in an insightful, compelling and succinct manner, and we hope that our IB model and implications for further research spark lively conversation that, if nothing else, gives us all some ponderables to consider.