Journalists: Why did a confidential source decide against sharing something with you?


For the journalists in this forum: This may or may not apply to your experiences. Was there an instance in which you've cultivated an off-record, anonymous, deep background type sources who at some point in the process decided against sharing some data, files, confidential details with you? What was the reason, or fear or rationalisation for this?

Be generic as you need to be. DM me if you don't want to post to the public forum. Was there anything that could have changed their mind but just wasn't accessible or possible? This doesn't have to be a technical thing, but something that you knew would have made them feel more comfortable in giving you this information that wasn't there at the time.

Asking for a friend... or surreptitiously scoping out a possible project. Who knows?



. . .

Not really the cloak and dagger example you're looking for, but may serve others to shake out some low hanging fruit.

Quite a few years back, got a tip-off that a senior official was paying themselves through a backdoor.

Sent off questions to said official, asking them about the allegations, and followed up with a phone call, to which the official responded: "I don't want to talk to you."

Hmmm. I tried ringing around staff members in the Office of the Prime Minister, especially the ones who I knew loathed their Chief of Staff. But they were all too terrified of losing their jobs, even when I suggested 'cunning plans' for emails, faxes, paper drops etc. So, no evidence, no story.

Hmmm. In the end, my breakthrough was quite simple. Had an 'aha' moment, rewrote the questions addressing him personally to general questions about "anyone" in his office making backdoor payments to themselves.

He again refused to comment, so I quite happily wrote a "refusing to comment" story on the allegations, which caught the eye of the chief auditor, who ordered in the forensic investigators, and the Chief of Staff got de-staffed, eventually getting a two year prison sentence.

In my haste to be an investigative whizz kid, I had forgotten good ol' KISS. Got the job done, without endangering any sources.

. . .