Finding sources

Have you ever wondered where journalists find their stories? The answer is: from many different kinds of sources. A source is anything that provides information.

Journalists all have a ‘contact book’ full of people in their local area that they can call on for information and comment. Over time, journalists build up their contacts.

A contact might be an important or official person, like a police officer, politician, trade union official or business person. It might also be a shop keeper or taxi driver.

Anyone can be a source of information. Official documents or reports and press releases are also sources. Social media and blogs are used by journalists to find potential stories and make contact with news sources.

Photograph of an ambulance

The emergency services can be a source as they are often one of the first people on the scene of an incident

Journalists should always check their sources for credibility (is it true?) and accuracy (is it correct?). A good way of doing this is to cross-check one source with another.

For example, imagine you read on Twitter that a local footballer has been selected to play for Northern Ireland. Before writing about it, you need to check it is true.

So you phone his club to make sure. Generally, if a source is found online, you should make direct contact with the person.

The more sources a journalist can find for a story, the better. Several sources help make sure that the story is as balanced and objective as possible. Two is the minimum.