But We Really Want To One Source It! by Russ
March 4, 2009, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Russ | Tags: , ,

With all that said… it’s not impossible to have a one-source item.

There are some instances when you are focusing on a single person, who is speaking very personally about who they are and what they believe. Who would the second source on that be? We did eventually decide to publish a few of the profiles that stuck closely to that format and were as close to safe as we could get with a one-source story. But, as Wendell Cochran advised Anna and I this week, something like that really deserves to be clearly marked and formatted as one person’s account, preferably in a simple question and answer format.

Here are two good examples of how proper context and format can make a one-source item okay to use and even a bright point:

  • “Questions For…” – the New York Times Sunday Magazine weekly feature. As you’ll note at the bottom of each entry it clearly states: “INTERVIEW CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED BY DEBORAH SOLOMON.” It’s deceptively simple, but Solomon knows how to ask questions and she knows how to properly edit them to great effect. Sometimes she asks the questions and gives the space for a subject to be funny, and sometimes her questions help it be informative, without getting too heavy. Even on heavy subjects. And sometimes things just get combative.
  • “5 Questions” – The Concord (N.H.) Monitor’s regular feature is more akin to what appears in the average newspaper, though few do it with the skill that the tiny but prestigious Monitor does. Straying from the straight profile format, the Monitor uses “5 Questions” to explore just about any issue. It’s a quick, but reputable, one-source way to explore the story-within-the-story as they did yesterday morning. It’s also good for a quirky, but relevant moment – like fist-fighting New England town officials or controversial historically-themed Bobbleheads – that might not warrant a full-blown article but readers shouldn’t miss knowing about.

With their quick-hit style and personality-oriented subject content, these types of items lend themselves to the online, multi-media format that we’re trying to work in.

I think it would be worth trying something along these lines – trying to find a key character in a story or an issue that we’re trying to build into a package, and briefly shine the spotlight on them, and only them. But do it right, with proper context and format.

It could add some color to our coverage and thanks to the brevity of the format, it won’t kill us trying to put it together

Cross-posted at Blog/19 and AmericanObserved.


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[…] the Observer. I responded with some more discussion of the problem with one-source stories and some thoughts on when we might actually want to use a one-source item and how to make it […]

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