Journalism and Evaluation: Long lost siblings?

Much of our work here at Dawn Chorus is qualitative. Actually sitting down and talking to people can provide huge amount of data and nuance that gets lost in the numbers of survey. While there are courses in most graduate programs around qualitative methods, I’ve been wondering whether the particular set of skills that journalists bring to the table represent a huge win-win opportunity.

A cursory review of the American Journal of Evaluation shows almost nothing on this topic of journalism. And, looking through PubTrawlr shows that the majority of this work is in the health communications field, which is cool, but potentially highlights how social sciences research could be leaving out an entire profession.

network graph of “journalism” abstracts. PubTrawlr returned > 600 articles. The clusters and topics were generally around media coverage of certain issues, rather than journalistic methods.

There are several needs that I think those with a journalism background could fill quite smoothly with evaluation.

  1. Identifying and corroborating multiple source of data. In evaluation, we almost never want to sole source information. Being about to tap into diverse sources and using diverse strategies is the hallmark of mixed methods. Any, I imagine, but don’t know, getting a good story together
  2. Interviewing skills. The human element is important. When we rely on interview data, even when it is a structured interview, it is critical that a positive relationship be established so that good information can be collected and cultivated over time.
  3. Objectivity. Building off the first two, we then need people who can balance the veracity, viewpoints, and biases of sources so that a more complete picture can emerge. Even when working in formative settings, it is critical that accurate information be passed on so data-informed decisions can be made.
  4. Synthesis (both rapid and comprehensive). Results to be published. Being able to pull all these appropriately weighted sources together is a critical skill.
  5. Writing and storytelling. As you might know, I don’t write so good. So, it would be an incredible asset for evaluation if there was a person or team tasked with frequently updating all stakeholders: not through calls or email, but through well-researched current information. Further, we need the data to connect. There’s a lot of buzz recently around storytelling and how we can use it to better influence change (No surprise, by the way. It’s what humans have been doing for ~200,000 years)

Over the past decade, we’ve all seen how the journalism ecosystem has fractured and become very click-driven. As I also understand it, journalist are overworked and severely underpaid. Having more science-focused journalist as a critical part of an evaluation team may be an incredible addition. All this is to say that Dawn Chorus is exploring hiring journalism-focused individual. Reach out if you are interested or have ideas.