Here’s a few things to remember and keep in mind as we go through this semester:
- Sourcing: When trying to get a specific piece of information, don’t just go to the obvious source. Take a moment and consider who else might have the information (and an opinion on that information, if need be). Then, reach out to multiple people at the same time. Don’t wait for your sources to return a call, just continue reaching out. Why? Because if Source A blows you off (or doesn’t have the info you’re looking for) Source B might. And if they both call back, bonus!
- Photos: In our online world, photos, videos or graphics are increasingly vital. This means you may be asked to provide your own images. However, you need to get the names of anyone identifiable in your photos. Remember, get close! No one wants to see images 100 feet away from your subject. (Also reduces the number of people you need to get names from.)
- Interacting: Remember that basic friendliness can go a long way. This does not mean butt-kissing or otherwise being obsequious, but it does mean to remember to be open, friendly and unfailingly polite.
- Identifying yourself: You should identify yourself as a reporter for South Florida News Service as soon as is practical. First, this is basic journalism ethics: The people you speak to should know you’re a member of the news media. Second, that means your potential source is now on notice you may be writing down what they say. No additional notice or permission is required. This only applies to people who reasonably would be considered sources. It does not mean you have to blurt out to every receptionist, clerk or other gatekeeper that you’re a reporter. (They’re probably going to ask, though.)
- But: Realize that this may mean people will treat you differently. This is natural. Remember, however, that you can put people at ease by saying that you’re just looking for some help finding some information, not that you’re going to quote them. Obviously, be truthful if you say this.
- Finally: Know your rights. Reporters have no more rights than members of the general public to see documents, public records or other types of access. But it means we don’t have less right to see things or be in specific places than others. Don’t let public officials push you around. If they say you’re not authorized to see a document, ask for the specific exemption in the Sunshine Laws that allow for this. (If this is a low-level person doing this, politely ask to see their supervisor.