The Source Whisperer

Image courtesy of Mario Sixtus released under Creative Commons

Sources are one of the most valuable resources for a journalist. Without sourced information, the reports produced may end up being padded with rumour and personal opinion. The following is my tip sheet - "The Source Whisperer" - where I set out how I have interviewed suspects or criminals in the course of my investigative journalism in order to unearth valuable information.

20 source scenarios

Or, the importance of not giving up - but please stay safe.

  • He gives you videotapes of the crime taking place, confesses on camera and names his accomplices.
  • She confesses on camera, names her accomplices and takes you to the scene of the crime.
  • He confesses on camera and names his accomplices.
  • She confesses on camera and takes you to the scene of the crime.
  • He confesses on camera with full face.
  • She confesses on camera in silhouette or otherwise disguised.
  • He confesses off camera and gives you permission to use the confession.
  • She gives you important information about the case, but off camera.
  • He goes on camera, full face, but doesn’t confess. He either lies or refuses to answer.
  • She goes on camera in silhouette or otherwise disguised, but she lies or refuses to answer.
  • He allows you to videotape him walking or working, but doesn’t sit down for an interview.
  • She provides you with photographs or video of herself and gives you permission to use them.
  • He confirms information unrelated to his actual involvement, i.e. information about others.
  • She confirms that, indeed, there’s an investigation, but will not comment on it.
  • He will not talk on the record, but draws you a map that leads you to important information.
  • She will not talk on the record, but confirms that she is, indeed, the person you’re looking for.
  • He will not talk on the record now, but leaves the door open to talk later.
  • She will not talk on the record, but will allow you to call again.
  • He will not even talk to you, but doesn’t threaten your life.
  • She will not even talk to you, except to threaten your life.

Image courtesy of Mario Sixtus and released under Creative Commons

Don RayDon Ray is a seasoned broadcast and print investigative reporter. He has worked worldwide for IREX and many other training and consulting organisations. All his tips, techniques and modules can be reused under the terms of Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0. You can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want his help.



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