Informing the news with The Journalist’s Resource
Why we exist:
Newsrooms, especially local newsrooms, are short-staffed. Too often, journalists find themselves reporting on unfamiliar public policy topics. Fortunately, the world of academia publishes high-quality research by scholars with deep expertise in these topics – and time to delve into them. Like journalists, scholarly researchers are intensely curious and driven by society’s tough questions. Realizing a need and an opportunity to bridge the gap between academia and journalism, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy created The Journalist’s Resource, an open-access online publication for journalists.
For journalists, academic research is an essential tool for thwarting misinformation, holding policymakers accountable, generating story ideas, bolstering investigative reporting projects, and shedding light on solutions to societal problems. Yet many journalists don’t know how to identify high-quality research or use it in their reporting. Often, they are not trained to identify problems in research or explain findings and research terms to lay audiences. They don’t have time to sift through academic journals and read lengthy journal articles, and they may not know how to make sense of academic jargon.
What we do:
The Journalist’s Resource examines news topics through a research lens. We curate, summarize, explain, and contextualize public policy research relevant to media practitioners, educators, students and general readers. In clear, non-academic language, we provide journalists with a way to get swiftly up to speed on complex problems and their potential solutions. Every week we publish research roundups and explainers on newsy public policy topics, articles about standout studies, informative nonfiction comics, and interactive graphics. Our hope is that journalists, when they set out to cover a new topic, will routinely look at what the research says.
Additionally, we publish tip sheets and explainers to help journalists understand academic research methods, find and recognize high-quality vs. flawed research, and avoid missteps when reporting on new studies or public opinion polls. We also offer online and in-person training sessions on how to use academic research in reporting and often present at journalism conferences. Our work helps to prevent journalists from inadvertently spreading misinformation.
How we matter:
Now in our second decade, we have become an invaluable source of information and material for thousands of journalists all over the world – and we hope to grow our operations and continue to be a trusted resource for decades to come. There are now more than 2,720 published pieces in our online archive. Nearly 44,000 journalists, faculty, students, policymakers, and others subscribe to the project’s weekly newsletter. Some 58,400 people follow JR on Twitter. Our website receives between 1.5 million and 2 million page views annually. Proactively, we serve as an occasional research desk for news collaboratives such as the Mental Health Parity collaborative, and we cooperate regularly with organizations such as the Solutions Journalism Network. We publish under a Creative Commons license and actively encourage newsrooms and classrooms to republish and distribute our content. Many do so.
As the need for high-quality reporting grows, we are expanding our team of reporters and editors, improving our website and offering new kinds of content that help newsrooms meet this moment, thanks to the generous support of foundations and individual donors. JR continually seeks funding to continue to grow, and to make our work possible, sustainable, and openly accessible to all for years to come.
Who we are:
Carmen Nobel, program director and editor-in-chief. She joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2018 after serving as senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, where she wrote about economic research and forged content partnerships with Quartz, Forbes, HBR Ascend, and the World Economic Forum. Her work also has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Inc., NPR Science Friday, PC Magazine, eWeek and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Nobel earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University and a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism. She grew up in Gorham, Maine. An interesting fact: As a child, Nobel sang backup on the theme song for “Bruce the Dental Health Moose.” @carmennobel
Denise-Marie Ordway, managing editor. She joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2015 after reporting for newspapers and radio stations in the U.S. and Central America, including the Orlando Sentinel and Philadelphia Inquirer. She received various national, regional and state-level journalism awards and, in 2013, was named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for an investigative series she led. Ordway, a 2014-15 Fellow of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, serves on the board of directors to the national Education Writers Association. She attended Daytona Beach Community College, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of North Florida and a master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Ordway grew up in Oak Hill, Florida. An interesting fact: Ordway wrote and sold a screenplay about abolitionist John Brown and his attempt in 1859 to start an armed revolt of enslaved people by raiding the national armory in Harpers Ferry. @deniseordway
Clark Merrefield, senior editor, economics and legal systems. He joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2019 after working as a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, as a researcher and editor on three books related to the Great Recession, and as a federal government communications strategist. He was a John Jay College Juvenile Justice Journalism Fellow and his work has been awarded by Investigative Reporters and Editors. Merrefield earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He grew up in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island, New York. An interesting fact: Merrefield played trombone in the 1999 New York Yankees championship parade. @cmerref
Naseem Miller, senior editor, health. She joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2021 after working as a health reporter in local newspapers and national medical trade publications for nearly two decades. Before joining JR, she was a senior health reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, where she covered the Pulse nightclub mass shooting and was part of the team that was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for its coverage of the tragedy. In 2017, she co-started the Journalists Covering Trauma Facebook group as a gathering place for reporters and editors and an information resource about journalists’ mental health and responsible reporting of tragedies. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and microbiology and later earned a master’s degree in journalism at American University. An interesting fact: Miller enjoys working on intricate crochet projects in her spare time, a skill she learned from her grandmother. @NaseemMiller
Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press. He is the founder of The Journalist’s Resource and author of the 2013 book Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism. His earlier book on the media’s political role, Out of Order, received the American Political Science Association’s Graber Award as the best book of the decade in political communication. His book The Vanishing Voter looked at the causes and consequences of electoral participation. @tompharvard
We receive feedback nearly every day about The Journalist’s Resource; here are a few testimonials from people who have found value in our resources:
“Journalists love data and research but are notoriously strapped for time. Our reporters in particular have taken on assignments for this project in addition to their existing, full workloads. Through their journalist research briefs, The Journalist’s Resource at the Shorenstein Center has been a critical resource to help fill in the gaps and strengthen the quality of the reporters’ mental health coverage. Our partners have pitched an array of topics and somehow the center has been able to provide resources for nearly all of them, along with producing new briefs for our upcoming websites. We are greatly appreciative of all the help they’ve given the team.”—Nora Fleming, newsroom collaborative manager, Mental Health Parity Collaborative
“There is no site I’d rather discuss my research with than The Journalist’s Resource. The writers ask insightful questions, always with an eye towards a broader audience and translating research findings into tangible actions and solutions. Whenever JR writes about my research, I know that other media outlets and interested groups will soon be in touch. I also regularly assign their articles in my classes! I’m so glad that JR exists, and always look forward to speaking with them again.” — Joshua Darr, assistant professor of political communication at Louisiana State University
“The Journalist’s Resource is a necessary bridge between academic research and journalism. Journalists, especially those working in local news, are hungry for data on deadline and need information to contextualize what’s happening in their communities. News organizations are critical to helping bring the knowledge generated in academia to a broader audience. JR facilitates a critical partnership for healthier, more informed communities.” — Leah Todd, Local Media Project team and New England region manager, Solutions Journalism Network
“The tip sheets and other services Journalist’s Resource provide have helped our reporters and editors tackle complex topics in which they may not previously have been immersed. And that’s a fundamental predicament for journalists who can wake up to a completely new and urgent subject every day. As the speed of the news cycle has accelerated, this has become a bigger problem for newsrooms. Journalist’s Resource has responded with prescient prep work on emerging topics and timely response when news breaks. It’s like having a newsroom librarian, an ethicist, and a veteran journalist with encyclopedic expertise on a niche topic again, even though all of those things have long been missing from many depleted newsrooms. Most of all, Journalist’s Resource helps us build trust in our reporting by flagging common pitfalls in reporting on particular topics, helping us improve accuracy and bring context and nuance on deadline.” – Matt DeRienzo, editor-in-chief, The Center for Public Integrity
“I work regularly with journalists and researchers and I find The Journalist’s Resource to be an asset for both. By creating an understanding of what journalists need to know (and what researchers need to tell them), this endeavor is a big step toward helping restore public trust in both journalism and science.” — Jolie Breeden, lead educator and science communicator, Natural Hazards Center
“The journalists working in our small newsroom are expected to report on a wide range of topics that touch our readers’ lives. I tell my staff it’s OK to admit that we lack knowledge about an issue, but it’s indefensible to be satisfied with not knowing. It’s our job to find out, and the staff at Journalist’s Resource have become invaluable collaborators in helping us understand complex topics. Together, we have undertaken ambitious coverage of timely societal issues, such as how to best support people in recovery from opioid addiction and how increased access to gender confirmation surgeries affects transgender youth. Working with Journalist’s Resource has helped us elevate our coverage from anecdotal to scientific. We, as journalists, are trained to find interesting stories, but finding and understanding high-quality research is a skill unto itself. The Journalist’s Resource reporters have proven to be adept at corralling that research and conveying it in an understandable way. Our credibility is built upon providing clear, accurate information. Journalist’s Resource has helped us strengthen that foundation.” — Emilie Stigliani, former executive editor, Burlington Free Press (now assistant managing editor of the Sacramento Bee)
“Journalist’s Resource is invaluable. It is the single best resource I know for summarized, contextualized, and curated content for researchers as well as journalists. Carmen Nobel is a prescient trend-spotter, always providing resources just as the need for them arises; she has her finger on the pulse of the world.” — Sandra Sucher, the MBA Class of 1966 Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School
“I love your site. I organize my course around students’ finding their own study and research topic, and that’s where they look at what you have posted on your site. They then write an inverted pyramid news story about the study’s findings. From there they expand their topic and write a short feature and an in-depth feature.” — Janet Mizrahi, lecturer, UC Santa Barbara writing program
“Your syllabus has proved quite helpful — I’m a happy user. I’ve synthesized it liberally with other sources, including a syllabus from a Baruch colleague, and my own concepts from a 45-year career at The New York Times.” — Ralph Blumenthal, distinguished lecturer at Baruch College, City University of New York
“I’ve found Journalist’s Resource to be a great tool, both as a reporter and now teaching at Stonehill. And the help I’ve gotten from the folks when I’ve been hunting for information has been terrific.” — Maureen Boyle, director of the journalism program at Stonehill College