By Gregg McLachlan
There are two sides to every story.
It's a cliche, yes, but it's a piece of wisdom that can be forgotten by reporters.
Years ago, I remember some young journalists questioning the need for more than one source in stories. I used every piece of ammunition I had: It's Journalism 101, there are two sides to every story, different viewpoints engage the readers. . . Etc.
In the end, the most powerful tool proved to be a challenge I issued to the reporters: If you feel so strongly that one-source journalism is acceptable, you're invited to host a workshop, Why One-Source Stories Are Good Journalism, at an upcoming journalism career development day at a university. Each reporter received the telephone number of the professor hosting the event . Not surprisingly, no reporters accepted the challenge.
Fact is, we know multi-source reporting is essential. But sometimes one-source stories still get filed. Maybe it's the end result of our hectic days juggling multiple assignments.
When starting your reporting, develop a list detailing the sources you need to contact to write a balanced story.
Your credibility as a reporter hinges on your efforts to produce balanced copy. Readers can't make informed decisions about a topic if they are not given both sides of a story.
Remember, readers are skeptical about what they read, hence the cliche: Don't believe everything you read. Let's not add to that stereotype by limiting viewpoints in our stories.
Today, getting second, third and fourth opinions is routine. For major home renovations, we get multiple estimates. People get second opinions from doctors. Whether we want a new roof, or knee surgery, we want the facts before we make a commitment. Readers want the same from reporters.
Journalists carry much responsibility with their reporting:
- Unbalanced reporting can mislead
- Unbalanced reporting can create undue fear
- Unbalanced reporting can manipulate
- Unbalanced reporting can harm your credibility
At work or in your personal life, what happened the last time you only got one side of a story? Did you make a decision and then regret not getting more information from another source?
You will only be informed if you seek to get informed. Do it for your readers. Do it for yourself. Do it because a good journalist never believes just one side of a story until he/she checks it out, gets other viewpoints, etc.