Warming up to sources

I spoke with a business owner this week in Mexico, MO for an upcoming story regarding EEZs. However, I knew something was up when he kept pressing me to tell him what kind of story I was working on. I at first repeated myself a few times in case I wasn’t making myself clear. When he asked me a few more times I tried to rephrase how I am looking at a few of Missouri’s other EEZs to understand how effective/beneficial they have been.

Then he told me why he kept asking me the same question. After about 5 minutes of rehashing the same topic, he told me he really just didn’t want to talk to the media. So in typical journalist fashion, I asked if he could tell me why. His reservations about the media come from this KOMU story. He was upset because of the way the story was publicizing his temporary lay-offs. Frank Cordie, the owner, told me that every winter construction drops so he has to downsize. I can’t speak on behalf of the reporter or Cordie, but it seems like this could be a case of unwanted publicity which resulted in a reduction of business for Cordie.

Cordie said he shortly after started getting calls about companies asking if he was closing and other companies wanting to handle the liquidation of his inventory. He also said companies expressed interest in canceling their contracts with his business.

After hearing his story, I told him how I would run all the facts and quotes by him before publication. I also told him the story would be more beneficial than harmful, if at all. The story is about how his business utilizes the EEZ tax credits and wouldn’t have any impact on his business. Nevertheless, I tried to be as accommodating as possible. The conversation ended with him letting me know he’d sleep on it and give me a call back. Now comes the question of how long to wait? I talked with him on Wednesday and am unclear on how long to wait. I think waiting until Monday would be best because he’s already a little tentative with any media outlet.

I think this is a case where journalists have to walk the fine line between being overbearing and too passive. His business would be a great addition to the story and I would love his input, however it’s not integral and the story’s publication doesn’t hinge on him speaking with me. Most of the time people will talk with you, but sometimes you have to keep in mind how they might have felt wronged by other members of the media in the past and express some level of sympathy toward them.

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