Working with sources

Reporters and editors should approach hunger from many angles in order to see the entire picture.

  • Identify the available resources that intersect the hungry population in a community.
  • Find individuals who experience hunger directly.
  • Look at poverty, employment, demographic and geographic influences.
  • Use local and national data to back up findings or add context.

Tips on approaching individuals as sources (click each for more detail):

Clearly identify yourself, your publication and your purpose.

Introduce yourself at the beginning of an interview and explain your purpose, which will open the door for sources to share their stories. Declaring your name and the name of your publication must happen at the outset to prevent any mistrust. The journalist is in a position of power, and vulnerable sources can be suspicious about being misused.

Treat sources with respect, and begin the interview by engaging in everyday conversation that will break the ice.

Ask potential sources if they would be willing to talk about the topic of hunger and explain your intentions in detail. Remember that hunger is likely to be the result of personal issues that sources may be reluctant to talk about. Easing into the interview will make them more comfortable.

Don’t act as if you know what it’s like to be in the source’s shoes — unless you really do. No amount of research can equal what it’s like to actually experience hunger.

Clarity and honesty with sources are essential when reporting on hunger. Do not assume that you’ve done the research and can report accurately on hunger without the perspective and insight from someone who has actually experienced hunger.

Sell their stories to them. Explain why first-hand perspective matters and what it would bring to your work.

Each source will have an original story that can add depth to your research.   Building confidence about the importance of each perspective will lead to a better relationship with a source — during the interview and beyond.

Ask sources to define hunger from their perspective. This could shed light on their personal experiences and may lead to quicker, deeper conversations

Ask your sources to define hunger to get a better idea of the ways they experience it. Hunger is something we acknowledge but don’t always define. Two people experiencing hunger may have completely different descriptions of what that means, so asking them to define it will shed light on their individual experiences

Finally, make no assumptions.

Don’t take anything about your source for granted. The way something seems isn’t always how it translates to real life. Be willing to ask uncomfortable questions. Here are questions that need to be cleared up during an interview:

  • To which demographic does this source belong? Do not make assumptions, because asking is always better than guessing.
  • Does this source share any the larger trends of hunger? For example, is the source a single parent or caregiver?
  • What other issues are in play within a source’s life? Is he or she employed, a veteran, disabled? While these may seem intensely personal questions, they may be asked in polite, compassionate ways. Always ask the source if these matters are private or whether they can be revealed