Archive for November 23rd, 2007

When I first became a journalist, I couldn’t imagine writing the seventeen or eighteen stories per month that I do now. With effort, I could manage just under half that. But, over the last few years, I’ve refined my work habits. I’ve also developed such a strong sense for possible stories that the problem is less finding topics than choosing which ones are most newsworthy and personally interesting. However, the change is not due to me alone. A good deal of my ability to cope with my present work load comes from the network of contacts I’ve developed.

I learned about the important of contact networks when I was a communications and marketing consultant, and about four-fifths of my income came from them. But it was only this month that I realized how large my network as a journalist has become. This month, five of my published stories so far have been from leads given me by other people. By the end of the week, that number will rise to seven. I’ve also had another four or five leads that I may very well follow next month, and several more that I appreciate, but probably won’t use for one reason or the other.

Some of these contacts are the normal accumulation in the address book of my mail browser, and from my participation on Facebook and Linkedin. Others are the result of deliberately requesting leads in a story about marketing free software projects that I did last year with Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier. A few are from people I’ve come to know in the free software community around Vancouver.

However, the largest proportion comes from strangers who have either enjoyed one of my articles (I know because they write and say so when they make their suggestion) or people whom I’ve interviewed in the past. While I suppose that hearing from past interviewees could be taken as a sign that I’m too accommodating and not critical enough, naturally I prefer to think that my efforts to report fairly and ensure that my editing of quotes doesn’t remove the sense or the context. I’ve yet to get the sense that any of the past interviewees think of me as a fan-boy who will write articles slanted the way they’d prefer.

Instead, I take these leads as a sign that I’m at least intermittently doing my job properly. So, to all those feeding me tips, my thanks for your help. I can’t always use your story ideas, but you make writing easier, more varied and – most important of all – more interesting for everyone.

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