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How choosing great sources will bring your story to life

Inserting a great source into your story is one of the ultimate tricks of the journalism trade. A great source illuminates and strengthens a piece, adding intrigue and credibility to the facts at hand. Thanks to social media, Google, and services like Profnet, there are no excuses for not finding and quoting that perfect source.

Yet in an age of journalism where writers are often rewarded for the speed, not the depth, of their reporting, great sourcing is quickly becoming a lost art.  Content is created with quotes taken from previously published work or just no authorative view is sought.

Here are some important tips to help you focus on finding the perfect source for your story

Sources want to talk to you

If you ask people questions, they’ll answer you most of the time.  When people know something about what you are researching, and you come to them with interest, they’ll definitely help you out.

It is hard when you are starting out as a journalist.  You tend to feel shy and nervous when you call people. You quickly realise that most of the time you can be successful, as long as you come at them with an attitude of, ‘You know something I don’t, and I want you to share it with me’.

Let experts see their quotes

Quote approval is becoming an increasingly common request by sources. You should never grant quote approval if you want to maintain your journalistic credibility, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t let experts see their quotes.

Especially with an expert, I’ll always let them see a quote. I won’t say that they can take it back or change it—my reporting belongs to me—but especially for an expert, where it’s not an adversarial point of view, you want to make them look smart.

What I will say is “I’ll run the quotes and I won’t give you approval, but I’ll send the quotes to you and if I have missed something or are running it out of context, tell me and we’ll talk about it.”

Your sourcing won’t always be pretty

Though journalists always strive to find the perfect original source for your story, sometimes you don’t have that luxury when facing a time crunch.

You tend to see people saying the same thing in every publication, so try to avoid being that person. Still, that doesn’t mean that you have to accept the same generic quotes the source is giving every publication.

Tools will help you find sources

Though you’re sometimes forced to copy your sources from other publications, it’s always best to find an original source. Tools like Profnet that connect journalists with subject-matter experts do just that.

Another one is Sourcebottle - a free connection platform that enables journalists and bloggers to efficiently find knowledgeable sources.

The Journalist’s Toolbox  has a comprehensive list of other sites that can also help journalists find sources.

Find the sweet spot with every source

When you’re writing about something that’s a little bit complicated and you need to explain it to your readers, you don’t want to drag them through a seminar in something boring.  You need to give readers something to a little fun, a little compelling, while they’re taking their medicine – so to speak!

Sometimes, that little bit of sugar to sweeten your story comes in an unexpected form.

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