While we appreciate any feedback from sources, some are often more helpful than others. They are the “super sources,” the go-to scientist who can offer a concise, comprehensive, even unexpected, comment. Super sources often have experience with the media and understand the basics—the time constraints we work under, the need to maximize clarity and minimize jargon, and the reality that, even though their insights helped shape the piece, they may not end up quoted in the final piece.
Douglas Fox (bio) likens super sources to FBI informants. They are well-positioned to comment on new scientific findings as well as alert journalists to politics, feuds, or personalities that have shaped how a specific scientific field has evolved. They can be junior or senior, Ivy League or land grant university researchers.
Not surprisingly, journalists cultivate a steady supply of super sources. “I rely on people who can talk to me in a way that delves deeper than the published papers,” says Fox. “Building these relationships involves building a lot of trust–often after spending solid time out in the field together.”
So, super sources, we salute you! We can’t do our jobs without you.
In the hopes of encouraging more scientists to become super sources, I surveyed Scilancers about the most appreciated super source traits.
Here’s the run-down:
BONUS: Sources willing to let you see their private lives a little bit because it really lets us show the human side of science, which is usually way more interesting than just the facts.
Emily Sohn (bio): They respond to calls or emails quickly and either make themselves available to talk on short notice—or send me 2-3 names of colleagues who might be available or even better to speak on a specific topic.
BONUS: They alert me to potential stories when they know a paper I might be interested in is soon to be published.
Monya Baker (bio): Super sources realize that not everyone knows the subject as well as their colleagues and that you may not be aware of broiling controversies and crucial background that is essential to tell a story.
BONUS: They warn you of common misconceptions or easy errors to make—without being pedantic.
BONUS: They convey emotion and passion when talking about their discoveries and fieldwork.
Image credit: Pixabay