Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee.
She writes daily for BusinessJournalism.org specializing on best practices from business journalists around the United States. I recently asked her about what she has learned by keeping an eye on reporters on the business beat. Follow Rosland’s daily posts.
1. You are always looking at ways other reporters find and tell stories. What practices or patterns come up over and over? Or what practices do you think the best business journalists around the U.S. have in common?
Rosland Gammon: Attention to details. Reporters say stopping to see and record the scene have had tremendous impact on their stories. The best business journalists have great BS radars. Business reporters have to avoid the “court reporter” syndrome. Question everything and keep rephrasing until you get a good answer.
2. What single best tip do you have for taking a story beyond the obvious?
Rosland Gammon: Don’t stop reporting until you’ve made one more call or interviewed one more person. By pushing ourselves to think about what other voices a story needs, we often find the missing piece of the story.
3. How would you advise reporters to find good stories with fewer and fewer resources?
Rosland Gammon: Pay attention during your off hours. As a beat reporter, you’re technically never off the clock. Talk with other dog walkers, parents, Laundromat visitors, etc. These ears on the ground can clue you into trends or contacts. Also keep an eye on other papers across the country to see what’s going on.
4. What do you wish you knew when you started in this business that you know now?
Rosland Gammon: I wish I had learned earlier in my career how to build sources. I always kept a very distinct line between my professional and social lives because I thought that’s how we were supposed to do it. But having social connections with sources can help get you in the “club” and get information you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Social media sites have made sourcing easier. You can also force yourself to do a certain number of meet and greets each month. Keep in mind that these meetings don’t have to be fancy. If you’re grabbing a sandwich, invite the person along.