My digital allotment

Tensions with sources: a complaint about your report


Imagine that a source is unhappy about your news report.

Describe how you might respond and handle the complaint. 


First of all, I would ensure that I remained calm and collected in order to be polite, sincere and thankful to the source for contacting me with their feedback or criticism. This is essential to remain professional and keep the best possible professional relationship with your sources to retain a trusted and credible reputation. I would also make it of utmost importance to record the details of the complainer and a summary of their complaint for future records. This may involve keeping copies of letter, emails or even taking notes/ recording a telephone conversation. It would be very useful to keep these records even after the complaint had been resolved in the event of a further issue.

After making sure I fully understood the details of the complaint, I would decide on the seriousness and complexity of it in order to make a decision on the resolution. If the complaint was regarding a simple factual error then I would make the change immediately and keep a record of this or if it were a similarly simple resolution I would carry it out. However, if the complaint was a more serious or complex matter then I would be obliged to pass this to my superior or editor.

Should the complaint be specifically that the source is unhappy with the angle or overall content of my report then I would take the following steps:

  • Politely and sincerely thank the source for contacting me and making their views know. Also thank them for acting as a source and providing the information they did. 
  • Explain that the newspaper/ newsroom follow processes which involve other reporters and editors who are involved in the creation of news reports. 
  • Explain that the organisation value the information that they receive from sources. However, that the duty and responsibility of the organisation is ultimately to their audience and ensuring that they receive a fair and balanced news report.
  • Be polite but frank in explaining that our relationship is professional and apologise that they feel unhappy about the contact, explaining that the news audience get to make up their own minds based on the fair and balanced report.

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This entry was posted on January 4, 2017 by in Journalism Course and tagged , , , , .
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