Guidelines for first-hand reporting

A reporter interviewing a protester outside Calgary's U.S. consulate. PHOTO: Robert Thivierge (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Global Voices is mostly a second-hand reporting site–we curate from sources that live on the internet and quote reporting done by other media outlets. But sometimes we do engage in first-hand reporting.

Whenever we do, there are a few ethical principles we should follow:

1. Obtain consent from the source to be quoted specifically on

  • The way people talk to a reporter is not the same as the way they would talk to a friend in an informal conversation.
  • Therefore, when interviewing someone for a story, you should ask them very explicitly if they agree to being quoted on a public website that can be potentially be read by millions. Also, bear in mind that in some cases you could be putting your source at risk.
  • When reaching out to somebody for an interview, state very clearly your role in that conversation: e.g. you're a contributor for Global Voices, you're working on a story about X and would like to interview them for, and quote them on, that story.
  • If you've spoken to someone in an informal setting and discover later that you want to use material from that conversation in a story, reach out to them again and ask permission to publish their views on GV.
  • If you've talked to someone on a different capacity (e.g, as an academic researcher), reach out to them again and ask permission to use those quotes on GV.
  • Never assume that someone will agree to being quoted on Global Voices, even if you're confident that you're not misrepresenting their views.

2. Disclose your relationship with your sources

  • If the source is a family member or a close friend, you should disclose this to the readers.
  • One common way writers often do this is by noting it formally near the beginning of the story, but you could also look for a creative way to incorporate it into the text.
  • Bear in mind that for some readers, the idea that a writer has a personal relationship with her subject might lead them to assume a lack of objectivity or cause them to cast doubt on the rest of your reporting. So you should weigh carefully the pros and cons of interviewing someone with whom you have a personal relationship.

3. Keep your notes

  • This is important for the rare occasion on which someone might ask you about your reporting methods, or dispute some aspect of your story.
  • If you're interviewing someone in person, by phone or on a video chat platform like Skype or Zoom, use a recorder whenever possible.
  • If you're taking handwritten notes, type them up and organize them in a digital document as soon as you have access to a computer. Don't wait a whole week to do this — do it while your memory from the conversation is fresh.
  • If you're talking to your source by e-mail or instant messaging applications, save screenshots of the conversation.

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