Monthly Archives: March 2020

A journalist’s guide to cognitive bias (and how to avoid it)

For the last few years I’ve been teaching my journalism students a dedicated class on cognitive bias — common ways of thinking that lead journalists (and audiences and sources) to make avoidable mistakes.

Journalism is particularly vulnerable to cognitive bias: we regularly make decisions at speed; we have to deal with too much information — or extract meaning where there isn’t enough of it. Each of those situations makes us vulnerable to poor decision-making — and many of the rules that we adhere to as journalists are designed to address that.

Some cognitive biases — such as groupthink, prejudice, and confirmation bias (covered in a second post here) — are well-known, but many others are not (there are over 180 of them). That includes bias blind spot: the tendency to see how biases affect other people, but not yourself.

So if you were thinking “this doesn’t apply to me”, read on for a guide to some of the cognitive biases likely to affect journalists — from being manipulated by sources to being bad editors of our own copy — and what to do to tackle them. Continue reading

Teaching journalists how to find stories in company accounts: the story treasure hunt

stormtroopers digging up treasure

“These are not the treasures we’re looking for..” image by Stavos (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Last week I shared some of the tips from a class for students on my MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and MA in Data Journalism on  how to find stories in company accounts. It’s a challenging subject to teach — but for the last couple of years I’ve used an approach that seems to work especially well: a story treasure hunt.

Here’s how it works. Continue reading

Here are 9 ways to find stories in company accounts (and only three of them involve numbers)

Found a conflict of interest on the last page

This week I’m teaching students on my MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and MA in Data Journalism  how to find stories in company accounts — so I thought it would be a good time to share just some of the ways that you can use these public documents for story leads and ideas.

Here, then, are just 9 ways to find stories in company accounts — and most of them don’t involve any numbers at all. Continue reading