Reporters have a wide range of sources-which they can explore in search of newsworthy stories. These sources have been broken down into three broad categories – stored, personal and observational sources (Stovall, 2005, cited in Nwabueze, 2021). Every other source for getting facts for a story falls within these three broad categories.
These are secondary sources of information which journalists use to enrich their reports. They are information contained in books, reports, libraries, press releases, the Internet and World Wide Web, speeches, journals, petitions, and documents of all kinds. Websites of various organizations, and e-libraries are among stored sources made possible today by sophistication in information and communication technology. Stored sources help in providing background information for stories. A full story could be written based on stored sources such as press release, research reports, written address, among others.
Personal sources are people in the news whose comments are used to develop stories. Information from such sources could be on or off record, that is, attributed to the source or written as information from anonymous source. The interview granted to reporters, the statements made by people involved in stories, various views on an issue from different persons, are outcomes of reporters’ interaction with personal sources (Nwabueze, 2015). The use of interviews to get information from people is a common practice in journalism. It could be face-to-face, telephone, casual, impromptu, ambush or crucial interview (Nwabueze, 2005, p.59-66). Good interview skills are essential in eliciting newsworthy information from a personal source. Reporters can cultivate sources in their beat. The sources could be confidential (which are often kept anonymous) or sources that could be quoted. Trust, confidence, credibility and integrity are among virtues a reporter should possess in order to develop and sustain a good relationship with a personal source (Nwabueze, 2009).
This is where reporters witness an event or action by themselves and report the incident based on what they witnessed. In this instance, reporters position themselves where they can get the action that matters or the action that is different from what others are seeing (especially where they want exclusive angle to the story). For instance, you don’t stay in the press gallery in a court if you want details of a protest outside the court premises. Nwabueze (2015) writes that a journalist’s ability to describe the action, the people, the atmosphere, the mood, the impact etc. is largely dependent on good, detailed and active observation.
(Source: Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Ecology in the Digital Age – second edition, 2021; written by Nwabueze, C.)