Journalism is not only about gathering information. There is a lot that goes behind the scenes. The information should be factual as much as it may be from reliable sources. The job is a workflow in this order of priority
A simple mistake from a journalist costs huge financial loss to the media company. It involves a costly legal battle.
We want to look at creative ways of gathering information from the public. You have just received a call from an unknown person at the scene of an accident that has happened miles away. By the time you arrive at the scene.
The police have done their job. You have an hour to report to the news desk about what happened. The only source of information is either the police, survivors, eyewitnesses or fellow journalists who probably were at the scene earlier than you.
Your work as a journalist is to use your writing skills to make a coherent report for public consumption.
Here are some of the creative ways you can relevant and unbiased content
- Conducting direct interview
One-on-one interaction with the public is among the most recommended ways of gathering information. It is a crucial skill that needs tact and wisdom. The possibility of getting participants who give you a hard time is very high.
Consider some of the following factors for a successful interview with the public
- Set a goal of the information you need
- Repeat questions you think we’re not well answered
- Control the interview using your well-designed questions
- Be friendly and assertive
- Use the open question to trigger an interactive session
- Get a neutral location where possible
Tailor your question with these factors in mind and you enjoy your interview with participants.
- Taking photographs
Media personnel has to go out of their way to get information including photojournalism. Writing alone is monotonous. Photographs engage the eyes and trigger the curiosity of the story behind the pictures.
Images speak volumes and never lie. However, journalists must differentiate between real photos and photoshops.
The public can be cunning in that they retain a crucial photo which is evidence of a story. You have to go out of your way and provide incentives just to get the image. Some scenes of crime can be hostile to a point taking a photograph that can cost your life.
Why not invest in hidden cameras just for you to get the image? Why do magazines accompany their stories with images? Apart from just the captivating nature; it captures a reader’s attention. Moreover, it makes the story real, away from a journalist’s point of view in writing or reporting.
- Telephone interviews
When getting a crucial contact for a one-on-one conversation proves futile, and then a telephone interview is the best option. What if they agree to conduct a phone interview? Yes, you are on the right track.
You only need to have some tips to make the interview successful. Remember, you are there to get information. How you conduct the interview matters on what information you get. You are miles away; someone can just give you any information for you to leave them in peace.
Do they care? of course, not. What should you do in preparation for that interview?
- Record the telephone conversation
- Research about the interviewee
- Ask leading questions to avoid irrelevancy in content
- Listen more and interrupt the silence
- Make your questions short and precise
- Let the interviewee feel your friendliness from the phone
- End the conversation with a “thank you” note
- Consider these factors and trust me, you will love telephone interviews in your journalism career.
- Direct observation
If there is a strength a journalist should capitalize on then it is the observation skill. Look at the example of a live event broadcasted from different TV OR Radio stations. You notice the difference in reporting based on the observation skill of the journalist.
The secret to excellent observation skills is to act as an investigating officer. Look beyond the pictures and get information based on that.
- Conducting research
When you get to a scene of the crime without research of the information you need, you will change roles. The participants become a journalist while you become a participant. Your vast knowledge comes in handy to enhance your research skills.
As you use this form of information gathering, take care of protocols. In case you were to invade people’s privacy, like going to homes with tight security. You need to consider the financial loss from the legal battles. On the other hand, you can also choose from other research personnel with less bureaucracy.
- Tape and video recording
Audio and video stories speak volumes. It is a form of information gathering based on a case-to-case basis. When you have limited time or the environment is not conducive for live reporting then multimedia channels come in handy.
It is the best way not to miss any information such that when you now make your final report the information is inclusive.
The social media pages of most media stations use video and audio recording to disseminate information. It is also classified as an evidence-based form of reporting away from the usual write-ups.
All you need is a good video and tape recorder which can last for hours without going off. A backup plan is crucial, especially when going to remote villages with poorly developed infrastructure.
Journalists are at work all the time. Be it at home or on vacation or away from the office. In society, they are called society’s investigative officer. In case of anything, people rely on your information for they believe it is true and factual. Yes, you may have the skill of formal education. It is not enough; on-the-job training and experience dictate your success or failure as a journalist. Take advantage of the resources you have at hand and make good use of them to get information from the public. They are your second office.