Wilder Research and APM Research Lab have taken on the cutting edge of data collection in journalism. The two organizations set out to find information on how media professionals perceive racial narratives, how they feel about racial representation in the media, and to understand the level of training they received.
Information was collected by a survey administered to media professionals from mid-January to early-February. The survey was initiated by the Truth and Transformation: Changing the Racial Narrative in Media conference partners to help inform conversations at the conference.
“This is really important work for people to be doing,” said Dylan Galos, a research scientist at Wilder Research, who played a role in conducting and developing surveys for the conference. “My professional opinion is that doing that kind of work could be a really big contribution to advancing the work around racial narratives in the media in general.”
Galos says there was little information in the academic world to serve as a jumping off point for the “groundbreaking” initiative. He and his colleagues have been breaking down the survey results since its completion. He notes that a lot of media professionals who provided responses were lacking sufficient race-related training, yet most felt “equipped” to cover communities color.
Riham Feshir, a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio and participant at the conference, was one of the media professionals who took the survey.
Feshir said she “wasn’t surprised” by the results. She said in her own work she has been able to represent some communities better than others, but there is room for improvement. She wants journalists to find ways to tell stories about underrepresented communities
“As this conference is telling us and showing us, there is a lot of power in the stories that we tell,” Feshir said. “We just have to make sure that we are working hard and prioritizing those stories [that cover underrepresented communities].”
The survey does, however, come with a disclaimer. The samples were not randomized, and the participants self-selected if they would answer. That means the results are not “scientifically representative,” according to the APM Research Lab website.
Galos said it is important for those reading the survey results to understand this, but he added he is just starting his work when it comes to revealing the reality behind the perception of race in the media.
“I think it’s just important to highlight that a two-day conference is only the beginning of this kind of work and this kind of change requires commitment, it requires things ongoing,” Galos said. “It’s important that we find work that works both with the individual, with these stories, that really gets to the heart, and also affects the systems and works with the systems and changes how journalism is done.”