In the midst of the chaos that ensued Thursday in Washington, D.C. after the police chase and shooting incident forced a lockdown on Capitol Hill, someone asked me how journalists were still collecting information (granted, some of it was inaccurate) about the situation despite the panic and confusion.
"How?" I repeated. "Sources, that's how."
A journalist's job hinges on many things: a curious disposition, writing talent, a keen eye for newsworthy material, and a determined spirit, among other traits. But above all, a journalist's job relies on the ability to network and form meaningful connections with sources.
You may not think that chatting it up with the local office secretary or store manager is high on a reporter's list of priorities, and on most days, it's not. But as breaking news unfolds, contacting the right people is crucial to execute our most important function: get the story, get it soon, and get it right.
That's where sources become invaluable to the journalist, and that's why reaching out to key community players often (even on those days when you have absolutely no time, or when there is quite literally no news to report) is so critical. You never know who you will have to rely on in the heat of the moment, or when that moment will come.
I try to keep a mental catalog of virtually every person I come across, whether I'm on the job or not. I try to remember when we met, what we have in common, and how our relationship can be mutually beneficial. At The Ramapo News, we can't count the number of times doing this has helped me out of a serious jam: a last-minute text to an athlete produces a photo from an away game to fill a hole on a page, or a late phone call to an SGA representative straightens out the facts in an article.
And then, of course, there are the sources who not only come through in the clutch, but who serve as extra eyes and ears in the community, reaching out when something they heard doesn't sound right or when an important story is about to drop. We rely on the administrators, professors, student leaders, and staff who know us and value our work enough to pass along story ideas, suggestions, feedback and the all-too-important news tips that keep our operation running. We cannot thank these people enough.
After the House of Representatives reconvened following the shooting scare, the legislators gave the Capitol Hill Police a standing ovation for their service. In the same vein, I propose that journalists extend a standing ovation to our sources for their service, not just for their help in times of need, but for their continued support of what we in this business do.
That's all the news for now-Nicole