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Cultivating Sources for Stories

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JennaLaine, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. JennaLaine

    JennaLaine Member

    So I've been at this a few years, but I know there are folks on here who are vets of the sports journalism world, so I wanted to get some input...

    When putting together stories, and say you need a quote from a "higher up" (assistant coach, scout, athlete themselves, etc) do you personally always go through media relations/agents or as you establish a rapport with these people, just go directly to them? I always try to go through media relations, but in ever sport, you're bound to hit roadblocks with PR departments, especially during the off-season when a story is timely and you have wait for so-and-so to call so-and-so to leave a message to call so-and-so to finally call me back. I've always prided myself on going about these things the right way, but sometimes I feel like it's held me back in getting to the bottom of things. Thoughts?
  2. Harry Doyle

    Harry Doyle Member

    Call 'em directly. Worst they can do is refer you to the PR person.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I've had coaches that only would talk if it was arranged through an SID and have had others just give me a cell number so I don't have to bother going through someone else. It all depends on the person. I try to be friendly to sources, but not a pushover either. It doesn't do anyone any good if you are a jerk to everyone just to get a useless story.
  4. JennaLaine

    JennaLaine Member

    Thanks guys. Yeah I'm trying not to be a minnow in a pool of sharks...
  5. shockey

    shockey Active Member


    forget the p.r. folks. anyone who is going to let you use him/her as a "source" is going to be someone who knows you and whose trust you have gained. go directly to them any which way you can.

    the fewer people who know who you have talked to the better. ;)
  6. ralph russo

    ralph russo Member

    Here's my 2 cents.
    If it isn't urgent I tend to go through the SIDs even for the coaches, commissioners, ADs and such that I have cell numbers for. If it is urgent or I'm trying to keep what I'm working on really close to the vest, call'em direct.

    I think it sometimes helps to establish credibility when you respect the protocol (when it's in your best interest, of course).

    What you are gunning for is a relationship with a source that is so solid, you really do feel free to call them anytime.
  7. Harry Doyle

    Harry Doyle Member

    That's a good post and establishes some guidelines I typically follow as well. Don't necessarily flout the flack, but don't be afraid to go around him either.
  8. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Good point.

    Ways I have done this in my career is to network, never toss a phone number or email address and try to be nice, trustworthy and respectful to everyone from secretaries and trainers to coaches and 'bosses' running the show. You don't always have to call only when you need something. Take a few minutes to call just to say hello and talk informally.

    Secretaries, or administrative assistants, are the gate-keepers. Take time to talk with them instead of breezing past. Notice their family photos or things on their desk that interest them, like a collection of something reflecting their hobby. Hell, just be friendly to people. That goes a long way.

    One of my best sources in a state department is the main secretary for the big boss. I call just to talk and see what's up. She knows I never would quote her. Whatever little tidbits she provides points me down a path I may wait a few days to pursue. I call other people in the department to cover tracks if anyone goes on the warpath to look at phone records (which I've been told has happened).

    Same thing with trainers and assistant coaches. A lot of coaches close ranks more today than in the past, but if you establish trustworthy relationships you can get contact information and call when you need to.
  9. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Step one...put down the phone and setup an initial face-to-face talk with the sources you are aiming to develop. You're going to get places much faster if you are a friendly face instead of a disembodied voice on the phone.

    Use the SID/PR dept. to set these up and you'll score points all around to get started, then take it from there. Some sort of regular contact always helps, even if it's a casual quick chat at the practice facility.
  10. Colin Dunlap

    Colin Dunlap Member

    Step 1: Don't just talk to people (sources) when you need them for something.
  11. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    good point. and always shmooze up the go-betweens -- assistants, secretaries, flaks, etc. -- when a message that you called must be relayed. if it's a busy day, and a source has a bunch os messages, shmoozing your way to the top of the list doesn't hurt.
  12. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    So wait . . . do we avoid the PR people and have as few people as possible know about a conversation? Or do we schmooze people to get our contact attempt to the top of the list?
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