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Sept. 16, 2020

Spartans combat bias in reporting with 'Sourcing for Diversity Project'

MSU students and faculty create award-winning technique for better representation in news coverage

As the media faces higher scrutiny for bias, the MSU School of Journalism is working to ensure voices from every corner of the community are represented in reporting. Students and faculty designed a "Sourcing for Diversity Project" to help journalists write more balanced news reports, creating technology the Detroit Free Press and MLive are interested in.

“We have had a long problem with diversity in journalism,” said Editor in Residence Joe Grimm. He said diversity has historically not been emphasized enough in how newspapers and networks report the news. “In journalism, we don’t hire diverse staffs. We don’t cover communities that are marginalized, and in fact, we don’t know who we talk to. We don’t keep track of our sources.”

To address this problem, students in JRN 300 — a public affairs reporting course at MSU — developed an open-source tool that can be used in real time to analyze patterns and improve reporting. The tool shows newsrooms whom is being referenced in their reporting and how well they have represented both majority and marginalized groups.

A project with inclusivity at its heart

“The very heart of this project and research is for students to deliberately think about inclusive journalism,” said Professor Lucinda Davenport. “This project is a combination of creativity, research, class project and community engagement, with a goal of helping students think in new ways and improving inclusiveness in news coverage.”

The sourcing tool gives students real-world experience in what it takes to provide representative news coverage for their communities and some newsrooms are paying attention.

“This overall project is a great example of closely connecting classroom activities to the industry,” said Davenport. “Students see the relevance of its goals to their lives.”

Read the full story on the College of Communication Arts and Sciences website

By: Melissa Priebe

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