Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What is wrong with getting too close to your sources?

This is something they won't teach you in your university course, so pay attention.

Say you've gotten some great stuff from a source for a story, and they want a copy of the article. No biggies there, just send the article they're quoted in to them, it's polite to do so after all. Then they start to come back to you about stories they've heard about and which they could go on the record about. So here you are, with a great source for stories into the future, right? Well, you may just want to tread lightly on this one.

You've got to weigh up the material against the fact that you'd be quoting them on a number of stories if you took their leads. Now, if you were to come across a writer who used exactly the same sources for stories, you'd think they were pretty damned dodgy. Even though your intentions are good and what your source is saying may indeed be the truth, nobody will believe because they think you have been manipulated by your source.

That can happen on a number of occasion, especially to younger journalists when PR-savvy people start to get their hooks into you. I've seen it happen time and time again (even quite recently) to young journos, that because someone's given them the time of day they think they can be a trusted source. PR savvy people know what they're doing, and their aims aren't always so altruistic.

I've written about being Shanghaied into stories, now imagine a PR person having your number on speed dial for any little story that breaks. Sure, you have some great material for stories but you're ethically in the wrong for allowing one particular voice into your head time and time again. Even the most implausible opinions are given weight through repetition, and that's called propaganda.

Once you've given into propaganda, you've betrayed the central tenant of journalism. Now, I realise it may not be as quite dramatic out there in the real world, but it's something that every single young journo should get into their heads quite early. It's all about striking a balance. Funny word that...balance.

It's what every single journo on the planet should strive for; the truth being the balance between extreme opinion.

Anyhow, some non-journalism stuff now.

Lately, I've found myself getting into Sigur Ros quite a bit. It started with a reference in Questionable Content about the band, and then I started to check them out. As soon as I heard Gobblegigook I was in love.

Don't get me wrong, some tracks aren't my cup of tea, but awesome tracks like Hoppipolla, Staralfur and Gong (holy crap! That's the song from Dreamfall!) keep me coming back for some laid-back and yet inspirational Scandinavian beats.

Check them out, 'till next time.

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