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Source situation

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Sneed, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    OK, this is a boring but inconvenient situation brought about by my own naivette, but it's been a lesson learned.

    That said, what would you expect/want from a writer in this situation....

    My deadline is tomorrow morning at 10 for a 1,200-word feature on a guy who runs a shoe repair shop that's thriving in spite of the recession and a massive overhaul to its own shopping center that's included the removal and replacement of the shop's front wall. Not exactly a riveting piece, but I've found enough details to make it interesting.

    Problem is I only have one real source on record. The construction contractor didn't want to talk about it for whatever reason (sources are weird sometimes as we all know). The owner of the shop talked with me for only five minutes, but it's understandable because he's a Korean immigrant who speaks little to no English. He referred me to the shop manager, who is my main source. He was a good source, gave me plenty of good quotes and helped me get all the details straight that I needed.

    I played phone tag with the project manager of the development company overseeing all the renovation. Finally talked with him Friday morning, told him what I was doing, wanted to get details from him on the purpose of the renovation, etc etc, how long it might be until they're done, how they've accomodated the shoe store, all that. I got most of that information from the shop manager, but I obviously want more than just one source quoted.

    Problem was that the project manager didn't want to do an interview over the phone. When I suggested in person, he told me to just send him an email with the questions I wanted to ask in it. Which I really don't like doing in cases like this, because there are always going to be questions and details come up that you want to follow up about, and with my deadline on Tuesday and this being Friday, I knew I wouldn't have time for that since he'd be out of the office all weekend.

    When he refused to let me interview him, I said okay no problem, I'll have you the questions by noon. He said that would work fine.

    It's now Monday around 4:40, and I've yet to hear back. I called him this morning, emailed him, nothing.

    Do I say he didn't want to comment? Because that's not completely true, because he wanted to, just through an email.

    Do I say he didn't return phone calls or emails? Because he did, just not the right ones at the right time.

    Do I just leave it out completely? This averts potential problems between he and I, but makes me look pretty lazy and non-resourceful as a reporter despite the fact that I've contacted at least half a dozen folks trying to get more sources. I don't care how I look to readers, most of whom wouldn't notice, but this is my first freelance assignment for a new editor, and I'd really like to keep writing for said editor and her section.

    My secondary research and interviews with the shop manager went well enough--thankfully--that I still have the story. I probably exhausted the poor guy, but I made sure to get enough to write what I needed to write without fattening it up.

    Thoughts on the whole situation? Thanks.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Why don't you try to talk to some customers about getting their shoes fixed? Are some first-timers who would have bought new shoes in a better economy, etc. ....
  3. gutenberg

    gutenberg Guest

    I was going to suggest something similar to what Ace just stated -- find another way to have a second quoted source in your story.

    As for the guy dodging you, you made several requests to interview him and he has declined. If he doesn't provide you the e-mail answers to your questions, you certainly can state "(so-and-so) declined multiple interview requests" or however you think best describes the situation.
  4. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    While I was interviewing him, three came in, none of whom wanted to be interviewed. It's been one of those stories, but I don't know why. This is a positive feature, not something people should be skittish about. I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes.
  5. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    40 inches on a shoe shop? Make it sing.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    Unless the guy is really dealing weed out of the shop that's unusual to be ducked by so many people.

    I would have said, to the customers.

    "Hi, can I ask you a question? I'm Sneed and I'm doing story on this shop for the Daily Podunk. Have you been a customer long? Are you doing more to save shoes rather than buy new ones in this economy? Has the construction a hassle? etc..."

    Identify yourself. Get your questions in. But don't ask them if they want to be interviewed for the paper. That gives them the opportunity to say no. If they are answering your questions and will provide you with their name at the end, then they have agreed.
  7. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Youthful mistake. You're right, I should have just asked the questions first. For some reason it feels easier to do that some days than others. I got into this business because I love to write. It's the asking of the questions that truly challenges me.

    Thanks man.
  8. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Seems like you need more than one soul on record for a story about shoes.

    You should ask the owner if he provides health care for his employees
  9. Del_B_Vista

    Del_B_Vista Active Member

    Just try to cobble something together.

    Sorry, I had to. Not sure I have much to help you with on this story, but one thing I'd recommend in the future is not to give up so easily on the store owner. See if you can find somebody in the Korean community who can translate for you. There's usually somebody like that who helps people jump through governmental paperwork, bureaucracy and such.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    You are not alone.
  11. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    That pun literally made me laugh out loud. Nice.

    If I'd had more time, I would have done just that. I really like that idea, and I'm glad you said it so I didn't feel like I was crazy for thinking it. The timing of how everything worked out just sucked; I couldn't get up with the store manager, my primary source, until three days prior to deadline, and it was on a Friday, so nobody else was available all weekend.

    Oh well. It got turned in on deadline, and I've seen worse stories in the paper before. It's not something I'll use for a clip in the future, but it came out solid nonetheless; just hope the editor likes it.
  12. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I wouldn't care if the editor likes it. If your editor wants 1,200 word features that no one will read, then the paper has more troubling issues to worry about.
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