Expert Commentary

The 2019 JR staff picks: Our favorite tip sheets, stories and research roundups

It has been a productive and exciting year at Journalist’s Resource. Here are some of our team's favorite pieces that we published in 2019.

apple picking
(Mackenzie Marco on Unsplash)

It has been a productive and exciting year at Journalist’s Resource. We welcomed a new team member, economic research reporter extraordinaire Clark Merrefield. We established a great collaborative relationship with The Burlington Free Press. We created a series of behind-the-scenes stories featuring journalists who were finalists for the 2019 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. We delved deep into the 2020 census. And we began to look at what the research says about some of the Democratic presidential candidates’ policy proposals. So far in 2019, our small team has published or significantly updated 159 tip sheets, research roundups and other resources aimed at helping journalists cover the policy topics they needed to explain to the public.

Next week, we’ll reveal the 10 most-read pieces that we published over the past year. But today we’re sharing some of the JR team’s favorite pieces. Here are our 2019 staff picks.


Chloe Reichel, health research reporter:

8 tips on how to cover drinking responsibly

With holiday festivities in full swing, I thought I’d feature 8 tips on how to cover drinking responsibly as a reminder: Each year in the U.S. more people die from alcohol-related causes than overdoses from all other drugs, combined. Research suggests that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, which has been causally linked to over 200 disease and injury conditions. And yet media coverage of alcohol tends not to focus on the risks of drinking, instead highlighting benefits in lighthearted lifestyle coverage. Which is why I think this tip sheet is so important — the media can and should do a better job of covering alcohol as a public health issue.

Carbon taxes + cap and trade = Tackling climate change like an economist

I’d like to call 2019 the year of Clark Merrefield, at least for Journalist’s Resource. I’m so glad for the humor, creativity and expertise our new colleague has brought to the project. Carbon taxes + cap and trade = Tackling climate change like an economist is the perfect example. Clark pitched the idea to participate in Covering Climate Now, an international journalism campaign to strengthen coverage of climate change; wrote this informative, accessible piece as one of his contributions; annotated it using Genius; and made me literally LOL in the process. Here’s the line, see for yourself: “In Washington circles, a lot of people think carbon taxes are going to be much more politically feasible,” Harvard University economist Robert Stavins says. “My view is, if it was possible to demonize cap-and-trade as a tax, it is highly likely that it will be possible to demonize a carbon tax as a tax.”  



Denise-Marie Ordway, managing editor:

10 tips for covering white supremacy and far-right extremists

This is one of my favorite JR tip sheets because it does two things well: It educates journalists about a national and local problem that tends to be misunderstood and it offers practical tips they can use immediately to do their jobs better. The tip sheet also introduces journalists to two top scholars who’ve thought a lot about how journalists portray white supremacy and help white supremacists spread their message.

What happens to a community when a rural school closes?

I chose this piece because I’m personally interested in this topic, and because it’s a great example of how our team can work with a newsroom to help it ground and frame its coverage using academic research. The studies of rural schools that Clark found add a lot to this Burlington Free Press article by helping us better understand the role schools play in small communities and what these communities experience when their only school closes.



Clark Merrefield, economic research reporter:

Data journalism at two elite news outlets lacked transparency: Research

Whether elementary or in-depth statistical analysis, data plays a huge role in the work of many journalists. This paper Denise covered has so many important reminders and tips that can help reporters live up to their own standards for transparency. It’s a must-read for new and veteran journalists alike.

The opioid prescribing problem: A JR long read

It would be impossible for any reporter covering addiction in America not to find something thought-provoking in this long-read from Chloe. She’s been covering research on opioid addiction for years and brought together the most consequential current research on how opioid prescribing helped fuel the opioid epidemic, in this incredibly informative and readable piece.

New economic research resurfaces debate about the link between legalized abortion and crime reduction

This story I wrote offers an interesting juxtaposition between pop-economics and traditional academic economics. The paper at the center of the article is an update of an original paper that helped launch the Freakonomics franchise. This piece offers some interesting looks behind the academic curtain, of how academics who disagree interact with each other.


Carmen Nobel, program director:

Prince Harry in Afghanistan: Miguel Head shares the story of a historic media blackout

For 10 weeks in late 2007 and early 2008, hundreds of news organizations agreed to embargo a big story: Prince Harry had been deployed to Helmand, Afghanistan, serving with the British Army. Miguel Head served as the chief press officer for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence at the time. Last April, he sat down with me to share the inside story of how and why a cutthroat press decided to keep a major secret about a beloved public figure. The resultant oral history garnered attention from several popular lifestyle publications. Town and Country wrote its own article about our piece. So did The Frisky. So did Lainey Gossip. And the popular fashion blog Go Fug Yourself featured us in their weekly “Royals Roundup.”

A graphic guide to the 2020 US census

We hired the brilliant Josh Neufeld to create our first piece of graphic nonfiction, which explains the risk of undercounts, the potential ramifications of an inaccurate count, the threat of misinformation and disinformation campaigns, and important dates on the census calendar. It also includes cartoon cameo appearances by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross — donning a New Year’s Eve party hat.

Happy holidays, readers. Come back next week to see JR’s most-read features of 2019.

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