The battle against our biases

Four tips from Tonya Mosley, radio journalist at KQED

Tonya Mosley talks at Storyology Sydney 2017. Nikolina Matijevic/The Walkley Foundation

With the pressures of deadlines, accuracy, balanced reporting, and cultural sensitivity, we journalists have a hard role as the fourth estate of the community.

We’re all biased. But we don’t want our coverage to be.

Tonya Mosley, public radio journalist at NPR affiliate KQED in San Francisco, says the answer is to be “intentional about inclusion”.

Meaning we need to acknowledge it and plan for it. Here’s how, in four tips:

  1. Rethink your sources. Avoid the urge to resort to a source that is filler and just gets the story done. It’s hard under strict deadlines. Mosley says she always asks her sources who else she should speak to in order to get a balanced story.

One attendee voiced a concern that she herself had a not-so-unconscious bias against female sources. She avoids them, she explained, because she’d often found that women were more difficult to get hold of — and that when she did speak to them, they couldn’t talk because of family responsibilities. In Mosley’s view, journalists should do everything in their power to work around those schedule conflicts.

“I always contact sources before an interview to make sure you get around the bias of who is available,” she said.

2. Seek an outside opinion. It’s important to slow down and talk to people who aren’t involved in the story to make sure you get as close to the truth as possible.

“We aren’t regular people. You aren’t the average joe,” Mosley said.

3. Build diverse relationships. Surround yourself with people from all walks of life. That’s how journalists write stories with depth and breadth.

“Whenever there was a story about any other races like African American, everyone would look to me [to cover the story],” Mosley said.

4. Hire different kinds of reporters. “Different races, cultures and socio-economic statuses allow the newsroom to be able to handle all types of news.”

This story is by Jessica Cortis and Jessica Guttridge.