How journalists can offer expertise and be an even better journalist

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

Some journalists out there don’t want to analyze and interpret as the expert – even when they know the answer.

Even though they know the answer, they need another non-journalist expert to say it so they can quote them. Nothing wrong with getting sources to flush out a stories. At all.

But do I really need a source to tell me the sky in front of me is blue? Nope, I can see that it is. I may even be able to tell you why it’s turning dark out – a storm is coming.

Now, I may need a source on why the storm is coming but some things we know.

Use an umbrella to not get wet while outside!

Another example – highly silly – came to mind when I was sitting in the Dallas airport with a friend.

I’ve flown enough now that I know what a good strategy is on when to go to the bathroom.

If a flight is delayed, go as they are deplaning the inbound passengers. When I flew Air Choice One from Mason City to Minneapolis I had to time it even better as there are no bathrooms on those eight-seaters.

I’ve done this enough now that I don’t have to call the Head of Bathroom Strategy at the airline to get a quote. Here’s my experience and what had worked.

That doesn’t mean I can’t add other voices. But there’s a difference between adding and just transcribing what they said.

Does this work for every story? Nope. Some are traditional reporting – certainly.

But others can be our analysis of explanations. For any journalist that has been in an industry for a while this is doable. They know.

I know it wasn’t accepted in the olden days. When I was a police reporter, I often knew what certain police movements usually indicated. But then I would never imagine saying what that means.

I’d wait for the official word.

Of course, the line to speculation can easily be crossed and we see people cross it on talking-heads TV all the time.

Try not to. And I’m not saying we should. This – like many other strategies – are implemented in the grays and not in the black and white.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But make it part of your reporting tool belt. Whatever gets the story told, do that.

It’s taken me a while to embrace this kind of storytelling, so it’s okay if it doesn’t happen overnight. But it can help us get stories out quicker, with more voices and also helps journalists build their brands. And the best journalists are great and trusted brands.