Deadlines breed expediency. We at Working Sources (WS) know that journalists with time constraints may reach for the more predictable experts. As a result, media experts may lack the hands-on knowledge that comes from lived experience and also are less likely to be members of underrepresented groups, including people of color, women and gender fluid individuals. While some news organizations, including the BBC and NPR, have begun to encourage reporters and producers to find and include such sources, there are few effective databases that media workers can rely on to help them bridge this information gap.
That’s where WS comes in. This archive includes experts whom, say, have both personal and professional experience with drug addiction and wage discrimination. More about our individual lists follow as well as how sources can help provide new kinds of stories, ones with authorities whose voices should be central to the conversation.
Look for more category lists in the near future as Working Sources expands.
America is unique among economically advanced countries in that it lacks supportive policies for families, such as paid leave or flexible work arrangements.
Our Care list, which includes day-care workers, paid-leave advocates, mothers’ support groups, experts in Latinx families and many others, was designed to help reporters find new, inventively selected and on-the-ground sources. We believe these experts can better tell the story of our country, which ranks at the bottom of all nations for its spending on care. The WS Care archive can bring reporters fresh angles on child care and related topics. We believe that when media includes these voices and those of others with firsthand knowledge—as experts and not just anecdotally—it can change the way readers and viewers understand this area overall.
Our experts share an awareness that the existing system is mainly carried on the backs of women, many of whom are women of color. For this hard work, they’re paid poverty wages. Our experts also understand that families who utilize care networks are usually fending for themselves. We hope that this index, by providing context, will bridge the gap between how stories are being reported and care as it is genuinely lived out.
The labor beat is making a comeback, thanks in part to renewed interest in unionization at Amazon, Starbucks and the white-collar media sectors. But not every publication has kept up with this trend or featured workers and organizers as experts in their own stories.
For instance, there can be a propensity in labor stories to exclude such sources and to instead insist on using powerful interests, minimizing the value of employees’ expertise on the companies where they work. Often even those labor advocates and academics quoted are those with means, such as tenured Ivy League professors, rather than, say, community college faculty who may themselves have worked on a shop floor, been involved with a campaign or have different backgrounds or perspectives.
Our list gets up close and personal. Its range of sources includes gig workers to organizers, to nonprofits that educate, organize and fight for better conditions and justice in the workplace.
Drugs and addiction are beats haunted by decades of political propaganda. To this day, some reporters may be unaware of how erroneous conventional wisdom about drugs can be.
We believe that better coverage could come from having media experts who recognize complexity, which is where our specialists come in. Some on our Drugs list, for instance, have used drugs themselves. Others are people of color who have had intersectional experiences with how racism intersects with the policing of drugs. Still others have encountered testing interventions or worked on reducing injection risk behaviors. In addition, because the current overdose crisis has had a profoundly negative impact on pain care, this list includes sources who have been directly impacted by chronic suffering and opioids.
All of these authorities have thought deeply about drugs. They also bring cross-disciplinary perspectives that will enrich media coverage. They’re also likely to spark story ideas and present avenues to pursue often overlooked by journalists reliant on more traditional sourcing.
Economists quoted in the mainstream media often mirror the discipline’s startling lack of diversity. As a 2016 report revealed, only one in sixteen tenure-track or tenured economists is a person of color. Those with the most media visibility tend to be attached to elite universities and think tanks, and reporters seeking more adversarial and original readings, or perspectives that incorporate and address diverse populations, face a daunting task, especially on deadline.
In contrast, this list includes unconventional researchers and economists who study systemic fiscal inequities, such as the evolution of debt. We also have a diverse group in terms of race and gender.
We hope that this list will enable media coverage to comprise more than just those narratives dominated by mainstream financial institutions and quantitative economics. Instead, this list contains more heterodox thinkers, including scholars whose critical thinking leads them to put social profitability and a just society first.
Brigid Schulte, Vicki Shabo, Haley Swenson, Rebecca Gale and Ai Binh T. H, all of Better Life Lab
Alexandra Lescaze, The Sidney Hillman Foundation
Maia Szalavitz, Changingthenarrative.news
Thomas Gokey, Dr. Hannah Appel, Astra Taylor, René Christian Moya, Manuel Galindo and Lindsey Muniak, all of Debt Collective
Special thanks to Working Sources funder Omidyar Network
Alissa Quart: Executive Editor
Roberta Bernstein: Managing Editor
George Lozano: Operations Manager
John Webb: Copy Editor
Jy Murphy: Fact-checker
David Wallis: Consulting Editor