Today I was searching a new angle in my story about a specific neighborhood while on the website Every Blocks. Since I had been forgotten by a politicians aid in contact references, I took matters into my own hands. I wrote a post requesting information on a subject that, I would later find out is quite scandalous.
I was not until five posts later from residents in the neighborhood that a certain anonymous source messaged me. He was very kind and extremely informative about the person of interest in the touchy subject I was to write about. While I was just going to write a little features piece about this person’s project that has been claimed nationally, this source brought an entire new angle to my story.
Foaming at my mouth wanting more about this scandalous angle to approach, it wasn’t until seconds into our phone conversation that the person on the other line of the phone was going to drop the worst phrase in journalism history, “This is off the record.”
Why? Seriously, this would have been the perfect source to get the angle and tie into the subject I needed. He just had to pull that stunt. I won’t lie I growled a little into the phone when he said that, but I respected his wishes and went off the record. Although I took thorough notes on what he was saying, I knew I could not use him as a source.
I thought about returning to my previous fluffy feature on this person’s project, but then the man on the other side of the phone peaked my interest when he said, “I will give you names of people to talk to.” Light bulb back on!
He listed many people off to me. I had a good number of sources to contact because this source. Although I was frustrated, and a little mad, that he would give me an angle like this with no on the record, I respected him for helping me in the end. He knew I was a student and this is for a class, I think deep down, he wanted this story to come out and to have someone fresh cover it, like me.
I thanked him for his help and tremendous amount of knowledge he gave me. Right before we ended our phone call I asked, “Can I keep you as a resource? I mean, for the future, if I need someone, can I count on you?” And you know what he said?
“Hell yeah hun, only if it’s off the record.” He laughed, and so did I, and we said our good-byes. So, just like that my new investigative piece unfolded before my eyes. Mr. Anonymous, I salute you for making journalism all the more enjoyable!