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Chapter 3: Sources and Background Information: Reporting before the Reporting

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Bruce Lerch, a Boston area high school sports reporter, outlines some key ways of being a multimedia reporter, especially the need for good research and backgrounding.

Scott Barboza, who covers high school sports for ESPNBoston.com, explains how he thinks about different media in his reporting.

Andy Carvin, National Public Radio’s social media strategist, points out two questions to ask to determine if social media is the best place to be looking for sources.

John Katsilometes, multimedia columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and lasvegassun.com, talks about how Twitter can help him expand his approach with sources.


The assignments for this chapter involve ways to develop a source “book,” i.e. a record of people who would serve as good sources for stories. Some of these sources can be found on social media while others require background knowledge and information from research and reporting.

  1. Find a news story and outline how crowdsourcing could enhance the story.
  2. Follow a local breaking news story on Twitter and examine the sources used that enable you to trust the information presented.
  3. Find five national organizations relating to the beat you cover. Identify five local affiliates from those five. See if they are on Twitter and what information you get by following them.
  4. Find five local individuals or groups that could be good resources on your beat. Examine their background and determine how you would assess their credibility. Outline how you would verify their information. See if they are on Twitter and what information you get by following them.
  5. Find one TV or radio newscast and identify the sources used in the stories. Determine how many sources are one-source stories and identify other people to possibly contact. Figure out what additional sources can add to the story.
  6. Find an online newspaper and identify the sources used in the stories linked on the home page. Determine how many sources are one-source stories and identify other people to possibly contact. Figure out what additional sources can add to the story. Look at the use of links as one way to add supporting information to the story.
  7. Start creating a news or beat calendar in which you write down events and activities that may be coming up in the days and weeks ahead, and that may possibly be newsworthy. Indicate in one sentence what might be the focus of a news story on the event, i.e. craft a preliminary focus statement. Come up with at least three events in the next two weeks that might be newsworthy.


Links to stories or websites mentioned:

ProPublica’s award winners
http://www.propublica.org/series/brain-wars and http://www.npr.org/series/127402851/brain-wars-how-the-military-is-failing-its-wounded
http://www.propublica.org/nola and http://www.nola.com/crime/law_and_disorder/

Toxic contamination from natural gas wells

Congressional record


Tapping civic life

Shirley Sherrod

Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Rolling Stone

Links to articles about developing, finding, and using sources

Top 10 rules for citing sources in journalism

How journalists are using social media for real results

The essentials of Reuters sourcing

Social media creates new avenues for connecting journalists and sources

Toward a new journalism with verification
“This journalism must recognize that the distribution, the organization, and the sources of our work must change.”

How Reuters journalists use social media

Google will begin integrating journalists’ Google-ized identities into Google News

What would a Google News Plus Your World look like?

A new tool for online verification: Google’s “search by image”

The limits of control with journalists and their employers increasingly active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, news organizations are struggling to respond to a host of new ethics challenges.

4 social media rules journalists should break

How journalism professors can navigate social media

Eric Carvin’s social media goal: “To get to every last journalist at AP”

How social media is taking over the news industry [infographic]

Harnessing social media
News outlets are assigning staffers to focus on networking.

How a journalist uses social media

The 5 types of stories that make good Storifys


Breitbart, A. (2010, July 19). Video proof: The NAACP awards racism—2010. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from biggovernment.com: http://biggovernment.com/abreitbart/2010/07/19/video-proof-the-naacp-awards-racism2010/.

Conflicts between reporters and government still arise. (2011, March 13). Retrieved March 17, 2011, from azcentral.com: http://azcentral.com/20110313republic-sunshine-week-html.

Dissell, R. (2011, March 14). Cleveland is slow releasing public records; Columbus often responds immediately. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from cleveland.com: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro//2011/03/cleveland_is_slow_releasing_re.html.

Harwood, R. C. & McCrehan, J. (2006, November 30). Tapping civic life. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from Pew Center for Civic Journalism: http://www.pewcenter.org/doingcj/pubs/tcl/index.html.

Kolawole, E. (2012, January 20). Innovation and the art of the story. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from washingtonpost.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/post/innovation-and-the-art-of-the-story/2012/01/19/gIQAHOL5BQ_blog.html.

Morrissey, B. S. (2011, November). Storify uses social media to help you share stories that matter. Writer, p. 10.

Q&A on the Perkasie Borough Electric Program. (2010, May 18). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from http://www.montgomerynews.com/: http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2010/05/18/perkasie_news_herald/news/doc4bf2dcc7b73ca932921441.txt.

Tenore, M. J. (2010, May 19). Ben Franklin Project’s ‘digital first, print last’ approach produces first products. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/102741/ben-franklin-projects-digital-first-print-last-approach-produces-first-products/.

Tenore, M. J. (2011, March 15). Bob Woodward: “You get the truth at night, the lies during the day.” Retrieved March 16, 2011, from poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/123587/bob-woodward-you-get-the-truth-at-night-the-lies-during-the-day/.

Tenore, M. J. (2011, November 21). The 5 types of stories that make good Storifys. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/153697/the-5-types-of-stories-that-make-good-storifys/.

The Ben Franklin Project: A bold, new experiment. (2010, August 27). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from http://jrcbenfranklinproject.wordpress.com/crowdsourcing-story-budgets/the-news-herald-www-news-herald-com/.

Urbina, I. (2011, February 27). Regulation lax as gas wells’ tainted water hits rivers. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from nytimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?scp=1&sq=natural%20gas%20wells&st=cse