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When does policy go too far?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by RedCanuck, Jun 11, 2009.

  1. RedCanuck

    RedCanuck Active Member

    If anyone was reading Dallas Morning News hockey beat writer Mike Heika's blog over the past few days, you'd hear about how he had confirmation on a breaking story - the Stars firing their coach, Dave Tippett, and replacing him with Mark Crawford - but he couldn't report it because the DMN has a policy their source has to agree to be a source (presumably for attribution?).

    Meanwhile, TSN swoops in and runs the story without naming anyone and runs with it while Heika is still scurrying to get that original confirmation that wasn't coming even with the news out of the bag. (Tippett requested the team not announce it until he had time to speak to family apparently).

    At what point do you go to your editors and say, "Hey, this just isn't working as we're trailing on a story that should be ours?" then do whatever you can with the sources you have to advance the piece?
  2. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Every publication has its standards for sources.

    Sometimes it doesn't work out. You just have to work with your system.
  3. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    I wondered about this, shocked that Heika didn't have anything for today's paper, because his stuff on the Stars is excellent. I couldn't figure out why he had so little.

    Now, it makes sense.

    The policy may be a pain in the ass, but I would bet two things: 1) It's probably saved him -- and others -- before, and 2) If I was a potential source, I'd look at this and say, "I can trust that guy. He was dying to report it, but didn't burn anyone." That's such an important thing to have.
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I've said it before and will say again: Blanket policies, with no common sense on a case-by-case basis, are stupid.

    I've given this example before: We've gotten stories in the past about a coach leaving for another job from a single, unnamed source: the coach himself.

    You don't write that? Makes no sense (of course, if the coach changes his mind, you can even be burned in a situation like that, which has also happened; but you can't be gunshy about everything).
  5. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Maybe next time, the Stars deny everything and change their mind, and TSN loses credibility, which is quite a bit to risk for the occasional scoop.

    At the very least, I see both sides.
  6. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    The DMN did have the story and a column on it today. Didn't have any sources on the record though.
  7. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member


    I'm all all for treading lightly, confirming and re-confirming. I'm a firm believer that you can't base a story a single unnamed source.

    My only exception: If the source is THE source.

    A coach tells you something himself, but needs to keep his name out of it for the time being? You can run that and feel good about it.
  8. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    I'm confused. The source has to agree to be a source? Does that mean the writer has to divulge to editors the name of the source?

    Otherwise, a stupid policy. Heika has been on the Stars' beat forever. I would imagine that his source (if not the coach himself) was a trusted source. If Heika felt that he had the story nailed with the one source, the DMN weasels should have gone with it.

    If not for content sharing with FWST, would this story have been a local scoop instead of belonging to a Canadian outlet?
  9. Shifty Squid

    Shifty Squid Member

    Almost always.
  10. Yes. DMN policy is that any unnamed source must be approved by someone with the rank of deputy editor or higher before that source's information can be published.

    And it's probably not a good idea to call anyone a weasel until you have all the facts. Which I'm guessing you don't.

    In general, high standards -- as Mike himself called them in his blog -- are a good thing.
  11. if a paper's policy is that the only unnamed sources you can quote are the subject of the story itself ... the identity of the sources won't be unknown for very long!
  12. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    Well, I probably wouldn't, you know, PUBLICIZE the policy. This is pretty much the internal policy at our shop, but it's not like it's spelled out for the readers to see.

    Also doesn't come up that much, anyway. Usually, it's simpler just to get multiple other sources.
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