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Looking for attribution

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Voodoo Chile, May 27, 2010.

  1. Voodoo Chile

    Voodoo Chile Member

    I received an email this week from a middle school athletic director who is also the varsity boys basketball coach at a high school I cover.
    He was sending me results from a regional middle school track meet, but there is a note with the email that says, "Oh, by the way, I won't be coaching basketball next season because I've been fired."
    I call him back to talk more about his firing, but he refuses to comment for the record, even to confirm his firing, because he has served many years with the school district and does not want to jeopardize his teaching and/or AD job.
    I call the principal, but he refuses comment. I call a school board member, but the termination has not yet been placed on the board's agenda, so essentially I have no official verification that he's been fired as a coach.
    Meanwhile, a coach at a rival school, in the same school district, told me who the new coach will be, but he also will not say anything for publication. The purported new coach declined to comment on whether he is leaving his current coaching job.
    It's cool that all of these people like and trust me enough to tell me things privately, but it sucks that I know all this stuff and can't get any official attribution.
    Our paper has a policy against using unnamed sources except in cases where we lay our facts out to the editor in charge and he gives approval, but in this case my editor tells me to wait until something becomes official or until I can convince someone to comment.
    I guess I just have to wait it out, but is there an avenue to take that I haven't thought of yet?
  2. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    With the number of bureaucratic roadblocks, you may have to wait for the school board to approve the hiring (so a heads-up to the education reporter would help here ... assuming you have one that cover the school board!) or for the parents who like the coach to march on the school board and demand a reversal.

    Been there, done that, go the t-shirt with way too many corporate logos on it ... not fun. But sometimes it's all you can do.
  3. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Seems to me that the coach already confirmed it for you by sending you an e-mail that says, "I've been fired." He didn't go off the record until you called to follow up. Technically speaking, you have enough to write a story from that alone, if you think it's worth burning a bridge or two. Of course, it wouldn't be the strongest story, but it *would* be a story, with additional details likely to unfold in subsequent days. Plus, you would have a scoop.

    Still, the only practical thing you can do is keep working your contacts until you can get someone to say something. It's the essence of reporting.
  4. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    I'd use the line in the email from the coach and force the issue. All of the "official" bullshit is just that.
  5. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I guess I should be old-school on this and say "two sources, yada yada yada" but to me you report that a school source said the guy has been fired.
  6. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Another option: Does the opening need to be posted through the district office? I've had people tip me off about coaching openings while they were looking for a job.
  7. Dude, the minute that he wrote the email to you that's confirmation. Emails, text messages, all of those are considered on the record. You can go with the story, put some background, state that school officials have refused to comment, get someone else to comment on who the next coach will be since its word on the street.

    Go with it.
  8. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Absolutely. It's written correspondence. Why would he write it if he didn't want you to report it? After the initial story is written, you won't have any trouble getting comment.
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