How to get a reluctant source to talk on the record
Yardena Schwartz of the Columbia Journalism Review writes about how New York Times business reporter Emily Steel got a woman sexually harassed by Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly to speak on the record.
Schwartz writes, “Then one day, says Walsh, ‘She tells me, ‘You have to go on the record. We need a face.’ I said no, I don’t need this nonsense.’
“On their next call, Steel told Walsh that she wanted to visit her in LA.
“‘I told her I had a Pilates class,’ Walsh recalls. ‘Next thing she’s flying to LA. She gets a hotel right across from my Pilates studio, shows up next to my Pilates mat, and asks me to get coffee afterwards.’
“This was in November, a few weeks after their first phone call. Over breakfast after Pilates, Steel made her case. ‘I told her that she doesn’t have a confidentiality agreement, and could have a powerful voice since she could talk on the record.’
“Walsh was torn. Her friends, she says, told her she shouldn’t speak out. ‘They said it’s not worth it, you don’t need all this negative publicity,’ Walsh tells me. ‘I won’t lie to you. I was absolutely terrified.’
“But Steel’s instincts were right.
“‘She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘These other women are silenced, gagged, and bound,’’ Walsh recalls Steel saying, referring to the women with confidentiality agreements. ‘You’re the only one who can actually tell your story,’ Steel told her.”
Read more here.