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Tools of the Craft

  • Fact Checking
  • Getting Started - Keeping Current
  • Don't Limit Your Audience
  • How to Interview
  • Protecting Your Sources
  • What is Investigative Journalism?
  • The Muckraking Tradition
  • Using Style Sheets for Publication
  • Power Structure Research
  • Basics of Responsible Journalism


    Protecting Your Sources

    Learn the definitions for journalistic craft terms: On the Record, Off the Record, Not for Attribution, For Background Only, Not for Quotation, Hold for Release, etc. When talking to a source, try to keep the discussion On the Record, but be flexible and move Off the Record if necessary.

    Don’t expect that you will remember what is on or off the record: Be sure to mark in your notebook when the discussion goes off the record and when it goes back on. Never make a promise to a source that you cannot in good conscience keep.

    Remember, journalists sometimes go to jail to protect confidential sources.

    Reference your sources (except those off the record, of course). This is not only ethical, it helps others follow your tracks, find reliable information and do further work in the field. It counters the unhelpful all-knowing guru syndrome. Consciously diversify your sources and interviewees. Fresh perspectives and research are crucial for progress.

    In some cases, e.g. books and journals, you can reference with footnotes. In newspapers and many magazines, you have to reference internally within the piece, e.g., “As Shirley Eelpond wrote in her book Tales from Woodshole....”

    These pages are adapted from a course, "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting," developed by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher
    for theZ Media Institute hosted by Z Magazine in Woods Hole Massachusetts.
    Please do not copy or distribute material from these pages.
    Links are welcome.
    All material unless attributed to a specific author is
    © 1968-2015 by Research for Progress

    All Z Media Institute material © 1997-2015 by
    Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher

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    Civic Education

    Elements of Democracy: The Overall Concept

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    Democracy Activism

    Frances Moore Lappé, Doing Democracy: 10 Practical Arts Handbook, Small Planet Institute.

    Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley & Steve Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, New Society Publishers.

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    Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
    - - -
    Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, 
    over time, given enough accurate information,
    the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
    and to vote without intimidation,
    reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and 
    preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality,
    and thus defend democracy itself. 


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    Site curated by Chip Berlet