Source Issues Part 1

I’ve decided to entitle this “Part 1,” because I’m sure there are plenty of source challenges that lie ahead, waiting to be blogged about. This particular source just happened to be the first one to give me trouble in my time at the Missourian.

As I worked on my Boy Scouts Story, which took far longer than it should have, I came in contact with a source who gave me some trouble. As he vigorously demanded anonymity (hence the trouble) and it was eventually decided to leave him out of the story, I’ll refer to him as A. I called A, a former Scoutmaster, to get some opinion or reaction about the lifting of the ban. As it turned out, he felt very strongly about the issue. A was extremely disappointed that the Boy Scouts had lifted the ban and proceeded to tell me how he felt it would affect the community and the future of Scouting. A’s comments were, as a whole, very negative towards the LGBT community and framed homosexuals, and frankly himself as well, in a very poor light.

The next morning, at 6:57 a.m., A texted me to request anonymity. I got back to him later that evening after talking to Scott and told him the Missourian has a strict anonymity policy and I could not extend it to him. He asked to be removed from the story. A lengthy phone conversation ensued in which I tried to persuade A not to retract his statements and A went off on tangents about communists and militant homosexuals. Somehow, by the end of the conversation, we had reached an agreement: A had (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to allow his name and statements to be published and in exchange I would send him an email with the information I was attributing to him in the story as well as a warning before the story published.

The next day, I emailed A with the information I was attributing to him in the article. He responded by informing me (again) that he wanted both his name and comments removed from the article. This time it was decided to let him go. Had the story gone to print with A’s name and commentary, I highly doubt that A would have suffered much harassment for his comments, maybe an unpleasant phone call or two. I think leaving A out was the best choice in the end, though. And I learned volumes about how to deal with needy sources and sources who want anonymity, things I have had limited experience with in the past.

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