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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Dialog dancing in Utah

By Garett M. Brownlee

October 25, 2006 | Are you married or engaged? How is your relationship with your family? Do you drink coffee? Outside of Utah these are simple and direct questions, but if you're a student at Utah State University these questions could obtain a deeper meaning.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 74.5 percent of Cache County's population are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-Day Saints. Since this creates a majority and minority in the community, behaviors from both subgroups produce inventive ways to categorize people as either being LDS members or not simply by the culture that lives here.

As Jewish men wear yarmulkas to practice their faith, members of the LDS church also can express their membership in external clues, such as wearing CTR (Choose the Right) rings. However, such applications are not practiced by all members. So often times there are not clear cut signs that show membership in the religion, which creates ways of questioning that is frequently indirect. Out of a survey of 110 undergrad students only .06 percent of students were unfamiliar with this categorizing process.

The survey allowed participants to answer openly about their experiences with the indirect questioning process. The results broke down into 15 different categories, with missionary service as the most frequent response at 32 percent. The LDS church highly recommends members, especially male members to serve the church by taking a two year sabbatical to be a missionary. PBS.org mentions that missionaries from the church cover over 120 nation and territories, and over the history of the church, they have sent more than 600,000 young men. Questions in this category made references to knowing a foreign language, taking two years off school, and even calculating the years in college to the age of the individual.

Other popular responses regarding the LDS church's principles were questions about Sunday activities, party life (smoking and drinking), and involvement in the church's institute programs. Some participants in the survey wrote they would throw out buzz LDS words, and see there response. Words like "wards," "callings," and "FHE," are commonly understood by members, so the responses of these from conversation would tip them off in knowing if they were members or not.

Twenty-five percent of the responses had nothing do with the church's doctrine, but more of the church's culture. These questions were primarily about personal behavior, like marriage, coffee preferences, family relationships, and why did they come to USU. Answers to these questions can trigger certain values that can relate to the LDS religion, but also many other religious or non-religious beliefs and attitudes. For example, what if George came to USU because of the beautiful campus, has a great relationship with his family, is married at the age of 25, and prefers cold coffee treats on summer afternoons. If someone was trying to figure out George's religious preference they would have to ask him questions about the LDS church's doctrine, not just assumptions formulated by the culture.

Indirect questioning is a safe and common in many cultural settings. "An important technique used by researchers to mitigate the effects of social desirability bias is indirect questioning," Robert J. Fisher Social Desirability Bias and Validity of Indirect Questioning. The real danger is when the participants in the discussion generalize the answers as truth, instead of realizing that they are just dancing around the subject.

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