In the wake of the Arizona shooting, a woman named Caitie Parker announced via Twitter that “I went to high school, college, & was in a band with the gunman.” Reuters reporter Anthony De Rosa was the first to jump on the opportunity to interview Parker — publicly, over Twitter — followed by a deluge of requests (over 60, including Facebook and e-mail requests) that so overwhelmed the source that she tweeted “I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again I AM NOT DOING & WILL NOT DO ANY MORE INTERVIEWS. Please leave my family, & home, alone!”
The NYC The Blog created a Facebook page photo album full of screenshots of each media request Parker received, including those from CNN, the AP, New York Times and Fox. (The vulture comparisons that can be drawn from this album are enough to make even a reporter cringe. On the plus side, it’s a veritable Roladex of reporter contacts.)
Nieman Journalism Lab looks at some of the tactics reporters used to get the coveted interview with the suspected gunman’s former classmate — an interview that used to require gumshoeing and phonebook combing to come up with. They included name dropping (“How can ABC news get in touch with you?”), suggestions of empathy (“I know yr overwhelmed”) and what Nieman calls “Playing the local card” (reporters from local Arizona papers and radio stations played up their localness in attempt to compete with the national media. One LA Times reporter told Parker he “went to school at UofA”. Other reporters skipped the formalities and asked her questions outright in hopes of sniffing out some new info.
Editors Weblog notes that “This over-accessibility of the source means that journalists need to make sure that they steer clear of harassment.” Parker was certainly overwhelmed, which led to her withdrawal as a potential source. Editors Weblog points out the potential harm this accessibility could cause by asking “What does this mean for the journalist-source relationship?”
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