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Consider the Sources

LIFE Magazine cover 3/23/22: Norman Rockwell original

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.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. juliegr #

    I think the fact that Rob invites the parties mentioned in his columns to discuss disagreements on story lines shows the difference between his approach to the business and that of the other “gossip” columnist. At least it appears, Rob returns to his sources to verify the information and even states that the subject and reps have been contacted and given a chance to comment. Plus, Rob doesn’t “pile on” to make the column more inflamatory.

    Kudos to Rob and THN.

    July 16, 2010
  2. jerseyirish #

    I would tend to take Rob’s word over other sources. He has proven to be a good honest source when reporting, he has a great work ethic and folks respect his written word. always enjoy reading his columns.

    JI

    July 16, 2010
  3. tishtx #

    If there are different versions of the same information, I usually believe the columnist that has a track record of printing the truth or printing corrections and/or updates when the facts have been questioned.

    I haven’t read Rob’s columns for a long time, but I do like the way he presents stories with just enough spice to make them interesting without stretching the truth.

    July 16, 2010
  4. Louise #

    Entertainment reporters have it tough. They are closer to the star than the fans and depending on what the reporter reports, some fans will believe what they want to believe whether the reporter has 100 sources and quotes from the star.
    Rob is fair-handed and not over the top except for his encouragement of stars who have fallen off the wagon or had mishaps. He’s a compassionate man who cares about who he reports on, IMO. If a fan doesn’t want to believe what is reported as true, nothing can be done. Why wouldn’t they invite Adam Lambert? Shy about what he’d do onstage? Nah. Besides Carrie Underwood, Adam would draw a lot of people to that show which = $ which =what that show likes to see. JMHO.

    July 16, 2010

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