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#Tip: How to build sources when you’re starting out

April 2nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

All the web-scraping, Twitter-searching, FOI-requesting tools in the world will never be able to fully replace a reliable human source as an asset to a story.

A reliable network of contacts and sources is vital to any journalist, and can take years to develop, but where do you start?

Last year spoke to ESPN anchor Anish Shroff about how to build sources in sports journalism, but the tips and advice shared are just as relevant to any field.

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#Tip: 5 ways to better cultivate sources

January 2nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists


We spend a lot of time here at talking about digital newsgathering and online sources but nothing can replace the personal touch.

The new year is a great time to speak to sources or contacts that may have gone cold – Christmas is an easy conversation starter – and some tips over at Poynter give good advice on how to make and maintain sources with trust and respect.

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#Tip of the day from – how and when to attribute

Director of community engagement and social media at the Journal Register Company, Steve Buttry, has published an incredibly useful handout on how and when to attribute in articles, which he refers to as “a matter both of journalism ethics and of strong writing”:

Readers are entitled to know where we got our information. If we are citing official statistics gathered by a government agency, that tells the readers something. If we are citing the contentions of an interest group or a political partisan, that tells the readers something else. If we don’t attribute our information, readers rightly wonder how we know that.

Buttry’s advice includes when a journalist should and shouldn’t attribute, giving specific examples, as well as the importance of using copy and paste carefully, how to link out to sources, how to attribute anonymous sources and how best to reference press releases.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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#Tip of the day from – how to quote sources responsibly

Over on Poynter there is a useful copy of a live chat with Roy Peter Clark, author of “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” looking at the use of quotes. Questions posed at the start of the post include: what defines a good quote; what’s the ideal length for a quote; whether you can “tinker” with quotes for clarity and the chat also touches on using social media for reaction.

See a playback of the live chat here.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Metropolitan Police statement on dropped action against Guardian

September 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers

The Metropolitan Police has said it will no longer pursue plans to apply for a court order which would force the Guardian to hand over documents revealing sources of some of its phone hacking coverage.

Here is our story on how the Met has dropped plans to order Guardian source disclosure. Below is the police force’s statement in full, as issued yesterday (Tuesday):

The Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards yesterday consulted the Crown Prosecution Service about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter. In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday, 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps.

This decision does not mean that the investigation has been concluded. This investigation, led by the DPS – not Operation Weeting, has always been about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information, and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that. Despite recent media reports there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists’ obligations to protect their sources.

It is not acceptable for police officers to leak information about any investigation, let alone one as sensitive and high profile as Operation Weeting.

Notwithstanding the decision made this afternoon it should be noted that the application for production orders was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), NOT the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

The Official Secrets Act was only mentioned in the application in relation to possible offences in connection with the officer from Operation Weeting, who was arrested on August 18 2011 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to unauthorised disclosure of information. He remains on bail and is suspended.

Separately, the MPS remains committed to the phone hacking investigation under Operation Weeting.

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Inforrm: European court rules in favour of right not to disclose material revealing sources

September 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The International Forum for Responsible Media blog has posted details of an interesting judgement this week by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, which centres on the rights of journalists to protect confidential sources.

In the case of Sanoma Uitgevers BV v Netherlands, the court held unanimously that the requirement of the applicant to provide material to the public prosecutor was not prescribed by law and violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case refers to journalists from a car magazine who had attended an illegal car race and taken photographs in 2002. The authorities had demanded the journalists hand over their images to police.

Following ongoing legal disputes, which led to the material being surrendered and then later returned to the magazine, the case came before the European Court of Human Rights. The magazine challenged the legalities surrounding the disclosure of information to the police that would have revealed their journalists’ sources. In its original judgement, dated 2009, the court found that “the information contained on the CD-ROM had been relevant and capable of identifying the perpetrators of other crimes investigated by the police and the authorities had only used that information for those purposes”.

But following the referral of the case to the Grand Chamber this week, which included a media intervention by bodies including the Guardian News and Media and the Committee to Protect Journalists, the court held that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and awarded the claimants 35,000 Euros for costs and expenses.

The Inforrm blog has more background information on the case and a link to the judgement in full.

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Le Monde sues office of President Sarkozy for spying

The row over an alleged attack on press freedom by French president Nicolas Sarkozy continues this week after it was confirmed by police that a senior official has been implicated as part of an investigation into leaked information.

According to a BBC News report, French newspaper Le Monde is to file a lawsuit accusing the office of President Sarkozy of spying on its journalists, claiming it understands an intelligence service was used to identify one its sources in relation to a story ran in July.

The report in question by Le Monde linked a minister to an investigation by authorities into L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and donations to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. The president’s office reportedly rejects the claims made by the paper.

Following the news of legal action, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders pledged its support to Le Monde.

If the Elysée Palace really ordered government personnel to violate the law on the secrecy of sources in the Woerth-Bettencourt case, it would constitute a violation of press freedom as serious as tapping journalists’ telephones.

We offer Le Monde all our support in its determination to establish whether the government violated the confidentiality of sources. These allegations must be treated with the utmost seriousness. Reinforcing the protection of journalists’ sources was one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign promises and a law was even voted in January. It would be intolerable if the Elysée Palace were the first to break a law requested by the president.

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Tumblr improves attribution process

Tumblr has announced an upgrade of its attribution feature which will now only provide attribution to original sources within the post content, rather than all re-bloggers.

In the announcement on its staff blog, Tumblr says the upgrade was needed to fix issues within its automatic ‘via’ system, such as links being dropped, credit being buried under re-blog links, frequent mistaken attributions and the resulting impact on post appearance.

Starting today, reblogging will no longer insert attribution into the content/caption of the post except to quote content added by the parent post.

The new feature will also enable authors to attribute content to a source outside of Tumblr which will then be attributed whenever the post is reblogged on Tumblr, while the entire reblog history will remain in the post notes.

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