chapter  4
20 Pages

Sources of News

ByBarbara Alysen, Mandy Oakham, Roger Patching, Gail Sedorkin

From time to time, the process by which news is made itself becomes news. One such time was the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, when the global news media were dominated both by the reports generated by the website WikiLeaks, established to collect and disseminate material from whistleblowers, and also by stories about its Australian-born founder, Julian Assange, whom Time magazine made the runner-up (to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg) in its annual choice of Person of the Year. The story of WikiLeaks and Assange is beyond the scope of this book and is covered in detail elsewhere; however, one of the related debates that concerns us here is the intense focus it created on one form of news-gathering, the use of leaked material from sources with access to high-level information at the expense of other forms of news-generation. While there is no denying the impact and importance of the types of stories WikiLeaks triggered, this is not the form of news-gathering the bulk of reporters do most of the time, and it is not how most reporters begin their working lives. So this section is a guide to the techniques of generating news stories, particularly in entry-level work. Contemporary journalism is often criticised for its dependence on public relations, and there are many factors that play into the relationship between the two professions, including stretched newsroom budgets. But having confidence in your ability to find your own stories is one way of ensuring that your reporting serves your audience rather than vested interests.

32In my first job interview, I was asked if i agreed that journalists should have a 'nose for news', I iagerly agreed. The interviewer then asked what I'd seen that was newsworthy on my way to the interview. Legend had it that in previous years the interviewer had placed a fire extinguisher on the desk directly in front of him. If the candidate failed to ask what it was for, he didn't get the job, as it was a journalist's job to be curious and ask questions. (Journalist and academic Paul Bethell)