Given that many news consumers lack understanding of journalistic processes, and are oftentimes unaware of the amount of work that goes into bringing a story to life, newsrooms have been ramping up efforts to increase transparency and show what goes on behind the scenes of their journalism.
In the build up to World News Day on 28 September 2022, a global campaign by the Canadian Journalism Foundation and the World Editors Forum to show why journalism matters, we will be going #BehindTheHeadlines with case studies to highlight what newsrooms are doing to better tell the story of their journalism.
One such example comes from The Globe and Mail in Canada, which joined forces with UNESCO and French outlet Society as part of #ReadTheSources, a campaign designed to help further the public’s understanding of what makes good journalism, raise awareness of the importance of verified sources, and showcase the value of rigorous journalistic work.
“The interest we had in terms of #ReadTheSources was that the industry is very bad at telling its own story,” said David Walmsley, The Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief and initiator of World News Day.
“It’s a natural consequence of working in an environment where you’ve got daily deadlines and you don’t actually stop to consider what you’ve done. But one of the things that the metrics have shown us is that when we do a better job of demonstrating the methodology of the work that we do, the audience actually stays as long with that explanatory material as it does with the actual journalism.”
Access to more than 180 files
The story The Globe and Mail chose to showcase, titled Extreme, deadly heat in Canada is going to come back, worse than ever. Will we be ready?, focuses on the June 2021 heat wave in British Columbia, the deadliest weather event in Canadian history, and the further implications of global warming. It was released in September 2021, shortly before the fourth annual World News Day, which put the spotlight on news organisations’ coverage of the climate crisis.
Some 180 files that informed the story were made available on the #ReadTheSources website, including research reports, images, and interview recordings, giving readers a behind the scenes look at the amount of work that went into producing the piece. For The Globe and Mail itself, participating in the project turned out more labour-intensive than expected. In total, it took about three months to gather and detangle all the information that had fed into the story, and to present it in an easily digestible format. UNESCO provided technical support, and produced a video about The Globe and Mail’s investigation.
Offering a behind the scenes look
“Anyone who’s creating the news knows that the business of putting this stuff together is anything but easy, but we live in this professional paradox where we want everything to look as professional and simple as it possibly can,” Walmsley said.
“I think there has to be a little bit more of a showing of what’s going on in the background, to let people understand that there are professionals at work, that there are ethical codes in place, that there are multiple fact checking processes going on. I think that’s a relentless pursuit that never stops.”
#ReadTheSources is part of an ongoing effort by The Globe and Mail to shed light on its journalistic processes. Whenever the newspaper publishes an in-depth investigation, it is accompanied by an explanatory piece that focuses on the methodology, motivation, and techniques behind the final piece of journalism. Readers seem to be just as interested in background content as they are in the final product, spending a similar amount of time with both.
“There’s a fascination and an interest, but probably also criticism where people are looking at the work we’ve done and trying to find fault with it,” Walmsley said.
“And that’s great, too, if they find fault. When you have the confidence to explain your methodology to the public, you’re confident that it’s good work, so it actually heightens standards. It allows scrutiny to be done in a non-defensive way.”
The post Behind the headlines: The Globe and Mail shows what underpins its investigative climate journalism appeared first on WAN-IFRA.