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3-2.  Sources and Tools

No matter what kind of news gathering system is used, the reporter must first find the background information and the facts of the current event or person, before he can begin to write.

The writer is not simply one who puts words on paper.   A Journalist is NOT expected to know everything, but he must learn where to find the information on most any topic.  The reporter must therefore be an adept researcher.

Among his primary sources of news the journalist should have personal contacts throughout the community.  This does not mean people who secretly let him in on what's going on, but people who know him and understand what he's looking for --people who like to talk.  These contacts can keep the Journalist informed about training, people's hobbies, upcoming community events and the concerns of the local parents' and teachers' organization, for example.

Through these contacts the reporter keeps track of the ebb and flow of community life and can advise the PAO of problems and successes in public affairs programs, and the concerns and interests of community members. 

Telephones are essential to a journalist's writing.  They are used to obtain facts when face-to-face interviews are not required.  Interviews are arranged by telephone (most journalists avoid dropping in on the people they need to interview).  Telephoning saves time when people aren't in their office to be interviewed, and it displays respect and courtesy towards the interviewee.

Telephones also provide access to the Army's Public Affairs "USA Network" through which the Army News Service (ARNEWS) may be obtained.   USA Network is a computer information service offered through International Telephone and Telegraph Dialcom, Inc.  Computers and telephones also offer other information services through which one can access news services, libraries and encyclopedias.

Story ideas can also come from the office future file.   The future file is a suspense file of sorts.  The newspaper staff places announcements of upcoming events in the future file under the date of the event.   Reviewing and updating this file daily can help the reporter and editor in finding or assigning story ideas.

The future file is sometimes a collection of file folders, each containing advance information that comes into the office about a particular event.  The future file can be as simple as a calendar pad with enough space in its blocks to write reminders to the editor.  It can be a large wall calendar under glass or acetate with information written in with grease pencil for a month in advance or more.

The future file may also be set up in an accordion file, with article ideas or topics filed for the next 31 days.  At the beginning of each newspaper week the editor reviews the file for the upcoming week and assigns reporters to cover the events.

The "morgue" is perhaps the most indispensable aid for gathering news, especially under tight deadlines.  The morgue is a collection of information (clippings from previous issues of the newspaper and other sources) a reporter can use to supplement his coverage of events and to provide depth and background in his stories.  The best way to organize a morgue is alphabetically by subject, with the material filed in folders or manila envelops that are clearly labeled.  Morgues should NOT simply be file copies of each issue filed by issue, unclipped, although such copies should also be maintained.

A morgue might include folders labeled: "Memorial Day," "Traffic Safety,"  "Youth Recreation," "Youth Sports," "Theft."  If many VIPs visit your post the morgue may include their biographies.  A topic such as "Youth Sports" may be further divided into subcategories such as "Youth Soccer" or "Youth baseball."

Ideally, a tour-drawer file cabinet would be the minimum facility needed.

It is vitally important that a morgue be kept up to date.   By checking the morgue before going out on a story, the reporter will be able to cover the event with a fuller understanding and write the story imparting this background to the reader.  Reporters, however, would do well to double-check morgue information so they don't reprint an error contained in the previously printed article.

Libraries have numerous materials such as "Facts on File" which can give the writer a good idea of the current issues and thoughts on a number of topics.  Librarians can also be valuable allies in finding background information quickly when under deadline pressures.

As good as these information sources are, they often lack a local or timely angle, the factors which gives a story immediacy, proximity or consequence.  The writer will often have to localize articles by interviewing people, the topic of the next lesson.

The Internet, and its World Wide Web, is virtually unlimited in the scope and depth of information. The journalists not only learns to use the Internet effectively, but also learns to distinguish quality and reliable information from false and misleading information.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

Copyright   SweetHaven Publishing Services
All Rights Reserved

Revised: June 06, 2015