Cultivating sources, July 29, 2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

Developing good sources is probably the most important element when it comes to reporting.

This has been in the news quite a bit lately with the flap over the leak that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame.

While the focus of that coverage has been on confidentiality and whether reporters should be forced to reveal sources, I’m talking about something different today.

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News gathering organizations, particularly small ones such as the News-Herald, can’t be everywhere all the time. There is so much going on in a city the size of Suffolk that we can’t possibly know everything. As such, we have to rely of tipsters, friends and genuinely concerned citizens to let us know about things the public should know.

This worked to perfection Wednesday evening. I left the office shortly after 6:30 headed home. I received a call on my cell phone from a friend.

&uot;You might want to check out what’s going on at the Suffolk Inn. I just drove by there. The police were there and it looked like they were getting everyone out of their rooms and moving them to the parking lot. I just thought there might be something going on there, particularly in light of what happened the other day,&uot; my friend said, referring to the story about the guy who was alleged to have been dealing drugs out of a room there and the condition of his room.

I was at Rite Aid at the intersection of Constant’s Road and Main Street when I got the call, so I just drove to the Hilton Parking lot off N. Main Street and started shooting pictures. I drove back to the paper and dropped the card at the newsroom. Allison Williams called and got the poop on it from the city and we came away with a pretty good scoop.

This was all thanks to my friend. Had he not called, I would have made the right on to Constant’s Road and not passed by the Suffolk Inn – not that I would have noticed anything if I had.

I’m grateful for the phone call and I encourage others to do the same. Your help is key to our being able to provide a good news report.