The same old sources…


Over at University and State, which I didn’t realize was covering local issues anymore, the Critical Badger brought up an important point about sources used in city reporting, or lack thereof. To prove his point he uses three articles by Isthmus writer Joe Tarr, who on three different occasions uses Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway as the “opposing viewpoint” on whatever issue is being discussed.

This is a problem that every local reporter (and independent blogger) faces: resisting the go-to source for a certain opinion, party or expertise. Just about any state article in the Badger Herald is sure to have a quote from Rep. Steve Nass, and many city articles have quotes from Mike Verveer. It’s usually much easier to spot in local reporting, but the problem exists at the highest echelons of the media: remember Judith Warner? We don’t even need to include cable news in the discussion.

The limited sources are just one symptom of an increasingly marginalized local media, however. As the media loses money, it cuts staff and loses its coverage capability. Reporters are over-extended and they can’t keep in touch with as many contacts as they should have access to. Instead of having several reporters working the halls of the Capitol, the State Journal may have one over-worked writer make a few desperate calls to somebody they know will answer.

I try to get in touch with as many sources as possible but it’s tough, especially when there are officials who simply aren’t interested in talking. As a result, there are certain readily accessible sources who I will naturally favor if I want to find something out. I would bet that local reporters like Joe Tarr face the same dilemma.

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