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Chapter 11








Establishing and maintaining professional relationships with sources on a beat that you cover can bring up issues of conflict of interest, or just the appearance of a conflict of interest.  For each of the following scenarios, write a paragraph that identifies a potential conflict of interest, describing why it is one.  Then propose a solution to mitigate the conflict, and describe how your solution does so.


a.  You cover the education beat, and the student Wellness Club is sponsoring a speech by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  The speaker is your good friend’s mother.


b.  You cover the campus sports beat, which includes Intramurals.  You’re checking in with the captain of one of the intramural basketball teams to see what’s new and what’s on the horizon. She says she was just heading over to the cafeteria to grab some lunch and suggests you two talk there. 


c.  You’re on the campus crime beat, and you’re checking in with the police chief.  He says a crisis drill is coming up on the next school break.  The drill gathers all area law enforcement to campus to practice their response in the case of an emergency such as a bomb threat or violent student. The police chief thinks it would add a dose of reality if your news organization participated in this drill by acting as if you were reporting events live—it would force participants to deal with journalists doing their job.  He asks you to support him when he proposes this to your editor/producer.




Select a beat from a local news organization’s website or use one assigned in class.  Look through archives and take notes. 


  • Are there trends that keep repeating?

  • What are the biggest stories?

  • Which places would you put on your list to check in with?

  • Which terms do you need to become familiar with?  

  • Any standard operating procedures you need to become familiar with?




Select a beat from a local news organization’s website or use one assigned in class.  Look through archives and take notes. 


  • Look for the names of sources in these stories.  Remember, because they were willing to talk with your predecessor, they’d likely be willing to talk with you.

  • Are those sources still employed?

  • Identify the first two sources you’d schedule an interview with for a meet-and-greet. 

  • Why did you select them? 

  • What are five questions you’d ask each during your interview?

  • Remembering Sigal’s criticism of the convention of authoritativeness, which people other than officials might you cultivate as sources?

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