Consider the Sources
One lady listens intently as a friend shares a secret over afternoon tea. Hush, says the friend, “Don’t say I said it!”. Quietly the story is passed along. How do either the tea drinker or the eavesdropper know that the secret is true? They trust the source.
When we asked writer Rob Shuter about the sources for his Popeater.com column, he responded that he only takes stories from people that he knows well and trusts. He is mindful of the potential impact of his reports; he understands that the printed word can change careers.
How does Shuter respond when a celebrity challenges the content of one of his columns? He talks to the celebrity or agent and they come to an agreement on how the issue should be handled. Generally, said Rob, it’s not that the star feels that the report was inaccurate, but rather that the facts could have been handled more delicately.
The 2010 American Idol finale featured an extravagant farewell to judge Simon Cowell that included notable Idol winners and finalists from prior seasons. Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert was missing from the show. In his column Rob reported that Lambert was excluded from the show when he failed to appear for rehearsals. That report resulted in an uproar that fills the columnist’s inbox to this day.
So was it true? Shuter says yes; he still believes the printed story was correct. The information came from two independent, well placed sources that he trusts. Rob feels that the everchanging response to the column by Adam’s team (not invited to appear, never planned to appear, invited to appear but on vocal rest) confirms the accuracy of the Popeater report.
Do we ultimately care why Adam Lambert was missing from network television on May 26? No, but it does raise an interesting question: how does the reader reconcile differing versions of this or any other news story? The reporter is dependent on his/her sources to provide factual information. Without access to or direct knowledge of those sources, the reader depends upon the reporter to verify the reliability of what he or she has been told.
When you read different accounts of the same news story, what criteria do you use to separate truth from fiction? Your thoughts and opinions appreciated.