Thursday, March 01, 2007

When a Source Wants a Preview

I'm curious how you handle sources who want to see the final version of a story before it goes to print. I've had one particular source who has been really insistant on it, and I don't know what to tell him.

Ugh, isn't it the worst when sources become pests? (Most don't, however, and are nothing but helpful and lovely.) I had one who would just NOT leave me alone, and finally, I had to send him a very curt email telling him to take up whatever else he needed with my editor. And I then blocked his email addy.

Source requests to see the final article actually aren't that unusual - they often don't understand that it's not within our right to show it to them. So, when a source asks me to email them the copy, I always simply tell them that while I can't do that, what will happen is that a fact-checker will be in touch to go over any and all pertinent quotes, and that they can rest assured that they'll have a chance to review what they said. I empathize, I do. I just did an interview about TDLF, and I'm 100% certain that I said a few things that will make me sound like an idiot, as I stumbled my way through some answers. But that doesn't mean that I (or a source) get to impose some sort of control over the story or the editorial process.

If your source isn't placated by the old "fact-checker will be in touch" route, I suggest you simply refer him to your editor, telling him you don't have permission to share the story, but the editor might be able to help. Let your editor do the dirty work - it's not your obligation to do so.

So readers, how do you handle pushy sources?


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I've run into this a few times. I always tell them it's unethical for a journalist to preview a story to a source because it is -- nothing should get in the way of the truth. One man was particularly insistent and then called after the story was published to claim I misidentified the name of his project and misquoted him. Of course I had my notes, but even better, I referred him to his own website where he had both the project and his motto -- correctly identified in my story.


Anonymous said...

You can always go through the piece over the phone and paraphrase the quotes or ideas that are attributed to the source.(as that's what a fact-checker will eventually do). This usually satisfies them.

Dawn Papandrea said...

I agree with Amy. I've run across this several times, and usually if I just paraphase a couple of the quotes I might use and/or double-check the factual information, they're more than satisfied. The next step is to say that's the best I can do, citing "publication policy" and passing the buck to the editor.

Alison Ashley Formento said...

I agree on passing the pushy source back your your editor. I have done a few celeb interviews in which the person insisted on seeing the piece before it went to print. I obliged--it was the easiest way. Luckily, they liked what I had written, so it all worked out.