Never Share A Story Before It Goes To Print

via simplehomeblessing.com

via simplehomeblessing.com

I actually learned this lesson in college.

I’ve kept it close to my chest ever since.

While in college, I had no idea how many people were going to ask me to read stories before they went to print. I had no idea that so many people were worried that I was going to get something wrong, make them sound stupid or take things out of context.

Even then, I had to reassure tons of sources that I wasn’t going to do any of those things and that the story was going to be balanced. I’m not that kind of reporter.

It amazed me that I had to do that for almost every story. It didn’t matter if the story was about a water fountain or a Student Government Association meeting, someone always asked to read it before it went to print.

I can say, with confidence, that no one, besides the staff and editors, read any story before it went to print.

When I graduated, I thought that would end.

I was wrong.

Less people ask me now, but it happens too regularly.

When sources say that other papers let them read stories before they go to print, I’m shocked. I really thought that was out of our system. Again, I was wrong.

I tell them, as I did when I was in college, that per our ethical codes, we cannot send them any story. I can go over the quotes with them and tell them what they said, but that’s where the line is drawn. My editors have pushed that on me at the Chronicle since day one.

Sources have every right to know what the stories about, who else I talked to and when it’s going to run. I give them that luxury because that’s the right thing to do.

I won’t go over the entire story with them, but, rather, I’ll try to reassure them that they can trust me.

Telling someone to trust you is easier said than done. You have to have a good rapport with them to be able to do so because they may just say scrap it. It takes careful consideration and a lot of talking to get them to be okay with something, especially if they aren’t okay with it.

Most of the time people realize that I’m just doing my job. It’s been very rare where someone gets truly upset about something and wants to speak to an editor.

Each person is different, just like each time this happens it has different circumstances with different motives. You have to adjust to them and keep on doing your job. It won’t be easy, but it’ll keep you on your toes.

Jonathan

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