Wick Communications

Let the experts speak

In Writing techniques on 15 Jul 2010 at 3:02 pm

This week I was reading a long story, written for our HMB Review magazine, on the importance of kids’ unstructured play over the summer. I got to this passage fairly early on and just wanted to hug the neck of the writer:

… And that’s exactly what children need, says Kenneth Ginsberg, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Ginsberg authored a 2007 report with the American Society of Pediatrics on the benefits of learning from play.  It used to be that summertime meant that kids would roam the streets until twilight and read whatever they wanted. But then a host of studies noted “summer learning loss” and how American children were falling behind, said Ginsberg. Partly as a result, children were shuttled from day camp to soccer practice to violin lessons to swimming classes. There wasn’t time to do everything, and playtime was lost.  And that’s a problem, Ginsberg says, since play is key in socialization, discovery, cognitive development and honing of interests. Plus, it’s the stuff of childhood.

A Kelton Research poll in 2008 found that nearly four out of five parents believe that children aren’t getting enough physical playtime on a daily basis, and Kohler (a local parent quoted earlier I the story) is determined to change that — in her family at least. And she’s not alone…

The author is Review intern Amy Julia Harris. (The photos accompanying this post were taken by Review photographer Lars Howlett and feature the Kohler family, which is prominent in this story.) Amy accomplished something I have been preaching for years: She provided outside context to our local situation. She did so by seeking experts in the field. And she did it in a way that is perfectly seamless.

Sounds difficult, right?

“I literally just Googled around,” she said. She sought out academics who had an interest in the field and it turned out they weren’t hard to find. Amy, a student at Stanford University, also called her own school for another story and found just the regional expert necessary to lend credence to what the locals were saying.

I think I’ve mentioned another way to find experts in the past. I’m sure many of you already know of “profnet.” It’s a well-known way for journalists to connect with PR representatives at universities and corporations. Simply create a login, make a query and you may well hear from just the right source. (Of course, these sources want the publicity… so you have to be careful about allowing them free rein to shill.) Using Twitter is another good way to find experts.

Context is missing in too many news stories today. Don’t merely take the locals’ word that, for example, unstructured play is important. Seek corroborating evidence. I just may hug your neck.



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