Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

The Informed Commitment Model: Best practice for journalists engaging with reluctant, vulnerable sources and whistle-blowers

Volume 17, Issue 1

May, 2011

From page
67
to page
89
Hollings, J. (2011). The Informed Commitment Model: Best practice for journalists engaging with reluctant, vulnerable sources and whistle-blowers. Pacific Journalism Review, 17(1): 67-89.
MIJT 2010: New Investigative Journalism Strategies
Author(s): James Hollings
Publication date: 
May, 2011

Investigative journalism is often said to be based on two pillars of information gathering—documents and sources. Yet while document retrieval and analysis has received much attention in recent years, particularly with the advent of computer-assisted reporting and Freedom of Information legislation, remarkably little attention has been given in the journalistic literature to best practice for developing and maintaining sources, especially vulnerable sources with high-risk information. This study analyses four high-profile examples of New Zealand investigative journalism based on revelation by vulnerable and reluctant sources. Using interviews with both the sources and the journalists who persuaded them to speak out, it draws on persuasion and social psychology theory to explain the decision-making process of the sources and establish a model of best practice for journalists wishing to persuade reluctant, vulnerable people to speak out safely and effectively.