News Reporting on Human Trafficking: Exploratory Qualitative Interviews with Illinois News Journalists
Published: January, 2018
Media—in particular news coverage—contribute toward shaping public understanding and opinion on societal issues, and influence policies, programs, and legislative action. While a small number of previous studies have explored journalists’ reporting on other social issues, very little is known about their perceptions and knowledge of human trafficking. In this exploratory study, researchers conducted 12 qualitative interviews with Illinois newspaper reporters to examine their understanding and work process in covering human trafficking. The results suggest that while many reporters understand the federal definition of trafficking, there remain gaps in knowledge about the complexity of the issue. Furthermore, the work process that reporters follow to report on human trafficking differs by their particular role and level of experience, with investigative stories on human trafficking being covered by more seasoned reporters who have the time and space to explore the issue in greater depth. The study findings highlight the importance of, and constraints upon, comprehensive news coverage on human trafficking.