Why Sources Weren’t Born to Make Reporters Happy?

It’s easy to get drunk on media power. It is that feeling when you think you are entitled to ask anything to anyone at anytime because you are a journalist, you are onto a story and you deserve an answer right when you call. It’s equal whether you’ve done your job in advance – proper research, clear questions. You deserve an answer. Now.

Well, surprise. Sources – politicians, corporate managers, housewives – have a life that goes beyond the media. If you might be entitled to have these expectations from a public figure – with certain privacy limitations – you cannot expect that sources living beyond the public interest can be there for you all the time and to the extent that you need.
Here are a few things that will estrange a source from you forever if you indulge in such practices.

  1. Lack of research. The pressure of live news and the new technologies and social media have been cutting deeply in a reporter’s time to investigate the topic of a story. However, knowing nothing about the topic and expecting the source to do the research for you is inconsiderate at best.
  2. “Is this a good moment?” You have the right to insist that a source talks to you when you catch her on the phone. At the end of the day, if she didn’t want to be disturbed she should have switched off her mobile. However, asking politely whether the source is available to talk is elementary.
  3. Yesterday it was late. You are on a deadline and you need to get your story done by Xpm today. Share that with your source. If the source suggests an e-mail for the next day, explain why that is not possible. Don’t forget that sources have deadlines, but don’t live on deadlines like reporters. Explain your need and why answering to your questions is important to the source, then cut a deal to get your quote well before your deadline.
  4. Give me the facts. If the source had no time to research on your inquiry, you may ask for facts, but you’re also running the risk of getting the wrong facts. Do you know the Czech GDP per capita when you wake up at one o’clock at night? You should, you live in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, things are not always that easy.
  5. Who else can comment? For the sake of checking the info from several sources you often need more people to tell you the same thing. Chances are the source you’re talking to is familiar with other people who think the same way. When you ask for other contacts, the source is putting her reputation at stake. Explain why sharing such contacts is good for the source, like placing her thoughts in the right context or running her comments in a pack of quality peers, then use those new contacts wisely.
  6. To quote or not to quote. Often the info a source gave you ends up irrelevant in the new story turn or is cut out by the editor. It’s polite to drop a small note to the source explaining the situation and offering the chance to be quoted again when her expertise will be needed in the future.
  7. Long-term investments. A journalist is only as good as his sources. As sources mature, so do you. Today’s young and inexperienced marketing manager can be the tomorrow’s CEO of a multinational. Yet, the names of people who harmed us remain in our memory written in red letters. Try to have your name written in nice, blue letters: Yes, this is a good reporter. It makes sense talking to him.

You can try to do this, or treat your sources like a Russian tank. The problem is, the media power drunkenness is gone sooner or later and you remain with nothing but a long-lasting bitter hangover.

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The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.
Cristina Muntean
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Let's Talk

The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.