Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Journalism Lingo 101: Source Equals Quote

Credit: Free images from acobox.com

Here it is January 25 and I have not posted to this blog in 2011. Shame! Shame! I've been busy, and for a week, sick with a cold--not a nasty, painful cold but the kind that makes you want to curl up on the sofa with a thermos of hot chocolate and doze all day while a cable station loops the Lord of the Rings movies nonstop.

Meanwhile, the bills must be paid so I'm writing a lot for Patch.com. I'm getting used to throwing stories together quickly and not trying to make them perfect.

I've also learned that when journalists refer to sources, they mean quotes. I didn't know that; it cost me at least one story.

You see, when the word "source" is used to anyone who studied history or any discipline other than journalism, it conjures up images of bibliographic entries. It may refer to an interview, but many sources are articles from newspapers and magazines, or books that contain facts. You source facts to vet them.

So when an editor told me I needed more sources in my story on the Tea Party, I went to Fox News and the conservative pundits who are credited with starting the Tea Party. I used their data, giving credit ("as so-and-so reported in her weekly column for the Washington Post").

There! Now the information in my article was sourced. I wasn't happy because I thought it made the piece way too dry. But I figured the editor would be happy.

She wasn't. She killed the story (OK, the murder was mutual. I was unwilling to invest further effort in a story that had already taken more of my time than it was worth).

Weeks later, I meet with another Patch editor who talks about having 2 or 3 sources for every story. The same buzzword...this time I asked her exactly what she meant by source.

Quotes, I learned.

Not expert quotes, necessarily. A source could be a kid at a carnival, as long as they say something worth printing, like "I threw up on the Tilt-a-Whirl!"

That's all it is. I could talk to a crazy person and he could be a source. In fact, maybe I have.

End result is that articles are much easier to write. I quote my source; I don't have to vet their information as long as I've got the quote.

Presumably there's another level of reportage, better paid, where fact-checking plays a bigger role in evaluating what quotes to use to tell the story.

When I write for magazines, I double-check all information. I go to experts. I look up stuff. I like that better. But magazines aren't responding to my queries right this second, and I have bills to pay and promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, hee hee, ho ho.


Bad Credit Loan said...

This is very funny situation. That you jeep and writing the interesting stuff and you keep on checking through the experts but they didn't response for that. So that is very amazing.

Anonymous said...

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