The 10 commandments of source cultivation

Hark, ye scribes and journalists, and ye purveyors of digital tales, and heed these words of wisdom, for they shall guide you in the art of cultivating sources, a skill as essential as your quill and ink or your cybernetic quill, your image-capturing box, or your ear trumpet.

Thou shalt persist diligently, for sourcing takes time.

Do not be discouraged by initial setbacks in thy pursuit of sources, for the cultivation of trust requires patience and perseverance. Let thy perseverance be thy compass, guiding thee through the labyrinth of sourcing to the treasures of information that lie within.

Thou shalt not deceive or conceal intentions.

Let thine intentions be clear, outlining thine objectives without equivocation. Deception and concealment breed distrust, eroding the foundations of rapport and collaboration. Be open and forthright in thine interactions, for sources are more likely to engage when they feel respected and valued.

Thou shalt not be transactional.

Verily, heed this counsel, ye journalists: Approach relationships with thy sources authentically, valuing them for more than just the information they can provide. Let not thy interactions be governed by a quid pro quo mentality. Instead, strive to cultivate relationships that are rooted in trust and reciprocity.

Remember the humanity of thy sources.

Let not thy pursuit of news blind thee to their human needs and emotions. Seek to understand their perspectives, their motivations and their challenges. Remember that sources are individuals with lives beyond the realm of news, with families, friends, and personal struggles.

Honour thy sources’ identities, that thy work may be done with integrity and trust.

Trust is the foundation upon which thy work is built, and without it, thy reporting shall lack credibility and impact. Let not the pursuit of a fleeting story compromise the trust upon which thy profession is built. Protect their privacy with utmost diligence, for a breach of anonymity can have far-reaching consequences. Employ discretion at all times, ensuring that their identities remain confidential.

Thou shalt not burn bridges.

Uphold thy agreements, fulfilling promises made and honouring commitments entered into. Remember that sources are not mere means to an end, but individuals who have entrusted thee with their information.

Thou shalt maintain ongoing communication.

Cultivate enduring bonds with thy sources, nurturing these relationships through regular communication. By keeping thy sources informed and engaged, thou shalt strengthen the rapport that is essential for fruitful collaboration.

Thou shalt not disregard feedback from thy sources.

Hearken to their insights and perspectives, for they hold valuable knowledge that enriches thy reporting. Listen attentively to their critiques, for they may reveal blind spots in thine understanding or errors in thy reporting. By acknowledging the value of thy sources’ feedback, thou shalt not only demonstrate thy respect for their expertise, but also enrich thine own understanding of the world around thee.

Thou shalt not misuse information.

Verily, heed this counsel, ye journalists, and handle with utmost care the information entrusted to thee. Deceit and distortion shall have no place in thy craft. 

Thou shalt not compromise fairness.

In thy interactions with sources, let impartiality be thy guiding principle. Present all sides of an issue with equal weight, avoiding bias or favouritism. Let not thy personal beliefs or allegiances cloud thy judgment, for thy duty is to present the truth objectively, without prejudice or favour.

Go forth, ye scribes and journalists, and cultivate sources with care, for they shall be the keepers of your stories, the guardians of your reputation, and the partners in your pursuit of truth. Let your quill and ink be guided by these words of wisdom, and your reporting shall flourish, enriched by the depth, credibility, and human touch that only trusted sources can provide.

ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]

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