Throughout 2021, The Journalist’s Resource produced 104 research roundups, articles, in-depth explainers, tip sheets and expert commentaries. Here are our 10 most popular posts of 2021, which supported journalists as they reported some of the biggest news stories of the year — including the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the truck driver shortage and its effect on the global supply chain, and the debate about critical race theory. This list includes articles and research roundups we published — or significantly expanded and republished — in the past 12 months. Popularity is based on unique page views during this time period.
In our most popular tip sheet of 2021, Denise-Marie Ordway enlisted insights from Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law who researches legal issues related to vaccines. Tip #1: Don’t assume employers, colleges or schools that require COVID-19 vaccinations will offer religious exemptions. And if they do, don’t assume exemption requests will be approved.
“Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires U.S. employers, including government agencies, to accommodate employees whose religious beliefs and practices conflict with work requirements — so long as it doesn’t create an ‘undue hardship’ for the employer,” Ordway writes. “That means workplace administrators must let employees request an exemption if vaccines are required for work, but don’t have to grant them.”
Industry groups for years have warned of a workforce shortage in trucking, particularly for long-haul truckers who pick up and deliver across state lines. In April, more than 100 supply chain trade groups sent a joint letter to Congress explaining that the pandemic had exacerbated the shortage, partly by forcing driver training schools to close temporarily. To help journalists cover this labor story, Clark Merrefield curated and highlighted five recent studies on the trucking workforce in the U.S. and abroad.
Ordway looked at what the research says about multicultural education programs — an important topic as school administrators and policy makers decide how and whether to incorporate such programs intro their K-12 curricula. “As American public schools have grown more diverse, educators have introduced multicultural education programs to help kids understand and appreciate the differences among them — differences in terms of race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity and other personal characteristics,” she writes, noting that “it’s important to note there are significant differences between multicultural education and anti-racist education — two types of education discussed with greater frequency in recent years.”
4. Covering critical race theory and the push to keep it out of US public schools: 4 tips for journalists
Ordway asked two scholars to offer insights to help journalists make sense of the recent controversy around critical race theory, a decades-old legal framework for examining how race and racism shaped U.S. history and how current laws and systems perpetuate racism. Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with what critical race theory is and is not. That way, you’ll know when the term is being misused.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for all people 12 years and older, including pregnant people, saying there’s no evidence the vaccine leads to fertility problems, miscarriage or other health issues. To help journalists cover the story, Naseem Miller summarized several academic papers that examine how COVID-19 — and the vaccines created to fight it — affect pregnant people.
6. ‘Defund the police’: What it means and what the research says on whether more police presence reduces crime
Last summer, more than a year after the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and amid a recent surge in violent crime, political conversations about “defunding the police” in the U.S. were still going strong. To support journalistic coverage of the issue, Merrefield provided a nuanced look at policing and police funding in the U.S., relying on academic literature and input from several scholarly researchers — including, notably, two former police officers.
Merrefield highlighted a study showing a direct correlation between the number of available parking spots and the number of cars owned in an expensive, space-constrained American city. “San Francisco residents who joined affordable housing lotteries from July 2015 to June 2018 and secured units with a free parking spot were more likely to have cars, the research finds,” he writes. “Specifically, lottery-winning residents in buildings that guaranteed each unit at least one parking spot had double the rate of car ownership than residents of buildings without parking. A building’s supply of parking is also a stronger predictor of car ownership than transit access, according to the research.”
In January, President Joe Biden proposed a $15 federal minimum wage as part of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Merrefield provided a comprehensive look at what the research says about raising the minimum wage. In addition to summarizing formative findings and more recent studies on the topic, he includes links to some helpful databases — including an inventory of U.S. city and county minimum wage ordinances from Bangor, Maine to Burlingame, California.
Amid a seemingly relentless stream of tragic news and a constant onslaught of newsroom layoffs, it’s easy to explain why many journalists feel stressed. A tougher question is what the news industry can do about that. Miller sifted through dozens of studies about journalists’ mental health — and teased out some research-based tips for addressing the stress and trauma of reporting the news. Tip #1: Offer trauma training in journalism schools and newsrooms.
In a companion piece to our #1 tip sheet, Ordway gathered and summarized several recent peer-reviewed studies that examine exemption requests among workers as well as kindergarten students, who generally are required to receive a series of childhood vaccinations before starting school. One key finding: “Kindergarteners are less likely to get vaccine exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons when schools require their parents to get medical counseling and a signed form from a health care provider before they can be considered for exemptions,” she writes.