The Risk of Being Known for Knowing

The Risk of Being Known for Knowing

It's an interesting dilemma I've encountered as a subject-focused journalist over the years: in order to get information, I have to earn a reputation as someone in the know.

However, being known for being too much in the know results in sources assuming your aware of information, and those sources drying up.

Much as I was previously known for my knowledge of Canadian higher education; I'm now known for knowing Hamilton.

In both instances, I strictly maintained only unofficial source networks; I despise the common practice of Access Journalism which grants those in power favourable coverage in exchange for those in power serving as anonymous sources.

The Good of Being Known for Knowing

Prior to becoming a professional journalist, I regularly engaged in acts of amateur journalism blogging about higher education in Canada. I gained a reputation for being the blog that exposed news in student universities and university administrations.

When there was a problem or scandal, the people at the centre of it would regularly check my website - expecting that at any moment I would break the news. In the mid-00s, Canadian universities commonly assigned an Internet IP to each computer, with the DNS name identifying the user.

The frequent visits told me who knew about the issue, where it was happening, and I'd go to work trying to figure out it was they expecting me to report.

More than a few times, I'd hinted at something and pull a bluff saying I'm hearing conflicting rumours about a happening. Those involve figured I knew, and soon enough, thanks to them believing the bluff, I actually knew.

The Bad of Being Known for Knowing

The reverse of this is when sources dry up because they believe you either already know, or a bunch of other people will inform you.

Then, when they don't see you reporting on the issues you're suppose to know about, they begin to wonder about your journalistic abilities.

I've never quite mastered the art of maintaining multiple sources in the same area of information. My current strategy is to ensure they know that even when others are helping me with information, I need their valuable assistance.