The Diverse Sources Database was called Source of the Week when this post was published. The post and its headline have been updated.
Public radio has an issue with diversity in sourcing — and the numbers to prove it.
An internal NPR analysis found that in fiscal year 2018, the most recent data available, sources on weekday newsmagazine shows were 83% white and 67% male. When compared to results from 2015, the percentage of white voices on All Things Considered and Morning Edition went up “noticeably,” writes public editor Elizabeth Jensen.
Those findings came as part of NPR’s ongoing effort to increase the racial/ethnic, gender and geographic diversity of its sources. Since 2013, NPR has underscored the need to have its sources “look and sound like America.” Nancy Barnes, the network’s senior vice president of news and editorial director, has set a goal to have everyone in the newsroom counting their sources by the end of 2020.
Member stations such as Blue Ridge Public Radio, KCUR in Kansas City, Mo., WHYY in Philadelphia and KUOW in Seattle have also been tracking their source demographics. KUT, in Austin, Texas, saw small improvements in parity after it started tracking in September 2018. A year of data showed that 66% of the station’s sources were white and 60% were male. As KUT projects editor Matt Largey writes, “There is work to be done.”
One tool NPR has created to improve source diversity across the public media system is Source of the Week, a curated database of experts from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the media.
Founded in 2012, SOTW is closing in on 400 profiles, which you can search by expertise, keyword and location. These NPR-vetted sources can help you diversify your source base. Here are some examples of how.
You need …
An expert who can speak on a trending topic: Each week, we choose experts who can speak to a current issue or event. The top source on our homepage is the newsiest; for example, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician, was featured as COVID-19 began appearing in the U.S.
An economics professor, but you’re not sure what kind: Simply search “economics” or use the “Browse by expertise” option in the hamburger menu.
Someone from a niche field: Just search with a targeted term, such as “machine learning.”
A source in Atlanta: Use the “Browse by location” option in the hamburger menu to see sources from Georgia, or just search on “Atlanta” or “Georgia.” Check to see if the expert still lives in the listed city or state, though, as they may have moved since we spoke to them.
The tools and methods we use to find SOTW experts can also help you mix up your source base.
Evaluate what networks you can tap into. Is there an association that aims to increase representation within its industry? Googling “constitutional law professors of color” brings up the nonprofit Lawyers of Color; its publications list notable attorneys. If you contact a university or organization that doesn’t represent a specific demographic, give some context by explaining that you’re seeking to diversify your sources.
Explore LinkedIn. As you expand your search into social media, start with the motherlode of industry contacts. For example, type “constitutional law” in the LinkedIn search bar and navigate to “People results.” Note: If you don’t want someone to know you’ve viewed their profile, search anonymously.
Do a deep dive into Twitter. The land of hot takes is a great place to find the hot takes you need. Find relevant people — frequently quoted experts, or sources you’ve used before — then scroll through who they follow. This is how we found AI technology expert Mutale Nkonde. She’s followed on Twitter by a researcher from the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law who’s been regularly quoted by national media.
Ask “who else should I talk to?” Ending every interview with this question is a good practice to expand your networks. The next time you call a go-to source, ask for their recommendations.
Find a great source? Tell us! Suggestions are welcome.