In early November, The Rocket created a survey to better understand viewers’ perceptions of the newspaper’s transparency and effectiveness in producing objective, impartial journalism.
As gatekeepers of information, The Rocket staff believes it is our responsibility to bring accurate and unbiased journalism to Slippery Rock University and the community. We also believe in responding in new ways to meet community needs as they may change.
In a transparency survey, 51% of respondents thought The Rocket published information that was accurate but at times biased, 16.3% thought The Rocket is factual but biased, 14.3% answered The Rocket is factual and unbiased.
About 4% of respondents don’t trust The Rocket at all, and 14.3% have not thought about this.
At 34.7%, most survey respondents read The Rocket every week. One per month readers make up 28.6%, 16.3% read The Rocket a couple times per semester, and 14.3% only read the print edition.
The survey also included data about what section of the newspaper the audience reads. About 70.8% said they read the news, 68.8% said they read campus life, 66.7% said they read the blotter, 52.1% said they read the opinion section, and 27.1% said they read sports.
When asked if The Rocket covers important issues, 41.7% said they were leaning toward yes, 29.2% are neutral, 18.8% said The Rocket absolutely covers important issues, and 8.3% were leaning toward no, it does not cover important issues.
The survey also asked readers what The Rocket is doing well and what it could do better. Many praised the newspaper’s coverage of local stories, sports, organizations and the administration.
Many also feel The Rocket is not as strong as it used to be. Several responses to things The Rocket could be doing better included creating more of a variety in coverage, being more objective and impartial by interviewing all relevant parties, publishing more positive articles, stronger writing, stronger student marketing and leaning more toward the center.
Several responses also critiqued how The Rocket reports on administration. Some thought the newspaper needs to be harder on administration and ask fewer “softball” questions.
Others said The Rocket tries to “stir up problems on campus” and must outrun the “hatchet journalism” of previous news editor Joe Wells.
The Rocket staff will use this constructive criticism to evolve in ways that further meet the needs of their audience.
How stories are produced
With the amount of online misinformation rising and public trust in the media falling, news consumers deserve to know how their news is gathered and how stories are produced.
The survey also revealed that most readers believe writing a story only takes between one hour and one day.
The Rocket staff has a budget meeting each week for the sections to explain what stories and multimedia they will be producing. All staff are required to attend.
Story ideas are pitched with a summary for getting credible, relevant information, what photos or videos they may need and a planned due date.
The staff then evaluates the idea’s newsworthiness and feasibility and brings forward any concerns they may have such as conflicting interests, potential sources or what must be included in the story.
A writer’s next priority is contacting their sources to schedule interviews. Writers aim for a minimum of two sources in each story to accurately represent both sides of any issue.
The Rocket will sometimes publish a story with only one source referenced, but this is usually because the other party was unavailable or didn’t respond by the writer’s deadline.
Some stories covering national issues require sources to which college journalists may not have access, so writers will attempt to localize the story.
The time it takes to write the article from here varies. The writer will continue researching for their story and use that information to create relevant questions for their interviewees.
After the interview, a writer will use all relevant information and quotes to write the story in the clearest way possible.
The Rocket aims to be precise by having multiple people edit stories for factual and writing errors before publication. The story is first edited by the section editor then by the copy/web editor or assistant editor and sometimes the editor-in-chief.
If an error was made in an article, it is corrected in the next print edition in the opinion section.
Some stories can take anywhere from days to a week depending on topic complexity and the source’s schedule.
The Rocket has a news, sports, campus life and opinion section that are responsible for writing content. Exceptions are made for short weeks (e.g., holiday breaks) or can be made on an individual basis.
The news, sports and campus life sections are also required to create one multimedia piece per week in collaboration with the multimedia editor.
Additional sections include photos, copy/web and advertising. Each section has an editor, assistant editor and contributing writers if applicable.
The last print edition of Fall 2022 is the Dec. 2 edition.