What kinds of experts do journalists turn to most often?
Last week in an effort to answer that question, Informed Opinions emailed several hundred editors, producers, hosts, columnists and reporters.
Looking to make our experts database more useful – and gain some insights for a conversation we’re having with the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council of Canada – we listed all the disciplines cited on SSHRC’s site, and invited our media contacts to identify the ones they called on most frequently.
The exercise was very subjective, of course, and many of the 11% who responded qualified their selections with comments about their particular beats or the built-in biases of their jobs. Others pointed out that the discipline is invariably less relevant than the capacity of the expert to provide cogent and accessible analysis, cite examples and make connections – in other words, live up to the vaunted title of “a good talker”, as they say in the broadcast biz.
But we still found the results revealing.
Not surprisingly at a time of worldwide fiscal restraint and ongoing concerns about global financial meltdown, economics topped the list. Criminology, however, was a close second, and its prominence can’t be explained in the same way, since crime rates are actually falling. We suspect the inherent drama and conflict of crime news, in conjunction with the federal government’s crime legislation, are at work here.
Political science and environmental studies tied in third place – both predictable, given the impact that politicians’ decisions have on us all, and our collective concerns about sustainable energy sources and the impacts of climate change.
We were surprised, however, by the fact that law was comparably low on the list, given the number of law profs we’ve trained who have gone on to publish commentary, relatively little of which related to criminal issues.
If you’re a journalist and would like to receive future news or queries about our work diversifying the source pool, please connect with us via our homepage or on LinkedIn. And if you’d like to offer feedback on this issue, the original, complete list appears below.
Classics, Classical & Dead Languages
Communications and Media Studies
Library and Information Science
Literature and Modern Languages
Management, Business, Administrative Studies
Urban and Regional Studies