Reporter’s Notebook: How The Accountability Project finds sources
In this edition of The Reporter's Notebook, Bria Lloyd gives us a peek into how we find our sources for The Accountability Project.
An important part of a good story is a strong character. Journalists want to tell stories about important issues through the eyes of the people impacted by them. Finding good characters can be challenging at times because you may not know where to look. But sometimes if you’re lucky, they’ll find you.
That’s what happened with the first story I did about a waste facility in Fairfield Beach. We got the story idea through a tip sent to our firstname.lastname@example.org email. One local resident was upset about the unordinary rotten smell coming from a waste facility located in the middle of their neighborhood. That resident was able to put me in touch with other residents who told us how this smell had impacted their quality of life.
Through my reporting, I was able to find out what was causing the smell and hold those accountable who were responsible for fixing it.
For the story I did about Connecticut’s paid leave program denying a third of applicants within its first year of sending out checks, I needed to find people who had been denied or experienced difficulties applying to the program. Since the state’s paid leave program provides leave for caregivers and new parents, I decided to reach out to caregiver support groups and new parent support groups. I asked the leaders of those groups to pass along my contact information and ask group members to contact me if they wanted to share their story.
I didn’t have much luck with the caregiver groups, but emails from new moms came pouring in about their experience with the application process and some shared their husbands' experiences as well.
I found this much easier than walking around aimlessly asking people passing by if they happened to have applied for paid leave sometime within the last year.
When I started reporting for our Slack the police story, I wanted to speak to someone who really understood the impacts of gun violence in Hartford. As the city was investing in efforts to reduce gun violence, I needed to see what it looked like through the lens of the community.
One of my colleagues who had previously done reporting on gun violence in Hartford told me he found compelling voices by walking down Park Street and talking to people. So, I set out to do the same. I decided to start at the Mi Casa Community Center because what better place to learn about the community?
It was pure luck that the person at the front desk pointed me to Brian Sullivan who works upstairs running a program for Goodwin University out of the same building. Sullivan has firsthand experience with gun violence in Hartford and has lived there his whole life.
The moral of the story is, sometimes the sources will come to you and sometimes you’ll have to find them. But there are so many people around us with incredible stories just waiting to share. If you have a good story, please email us at email@example.com