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Book on treatment of journalistic sources gathers testimonies of 20 recognized Ibero-American journalists

The recent book “Háblame de tus Fuentes” (Talk to me about your sources) is a reflection on the relationship between the journalist and their flesh-and-blood sources. The research, which began six years ago, gathers experiences and lessons from 20 leading investigative journalists from Latin America and Spain.

It all started as a thesis in 2012 in the classrooms of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP, for its initials in Spanish), in Lima. Luisa García Tellez, the young Peruvian journalist who authored this book, attempts to take the reader on a tour through stages that a journalist goes through to get a source, to establish and maintain a professional and trusting relationship with them, and to ethically respect the conditions of this relationship.

For her research, García sought journalists like Marcela Turati (Mexico), Gustavo Gorriti (Peru), Francisca Skoknic (Chile), Luz Mely Reyes (Venezuela), Javier Darío Restrepo (Colombia), Daniel Santoro (Argentina), Eva Belmonte (Spain), among other journalists who have had notable careers in investigative journalism.

"When I started in 2012, I wasn’t even close to having the conclusions that I reached by the end of the research process. It was a whole process that if it had not lasted the six years, I could not have achieved it," García told the Knight Center.

In her book, García gives one definition of “sources” in her book as “people who decide to get involved in the process of seeking the truth that leads the reporter.”

Some of the main issues that García addresses in the text through interviews are the following: how to build trust in the relationship with the journalistic source, with what attitude to approach them depending on the context, what security issues to consider in order to publish what they said, where to propose a meeting in order to safeguard the identity of the source, how to handle the ethical aspect in the management of the source and their information, what role the editor plays during the investigation.

Based on the lessons shared by her interviewees, García concludes by way of a check-list that the people who become sources acquire rights by assuming that role, such as receiving fair treatment from the journalist. And that the dignity of the sources and the truth of the information must be preserved, as suggested by Javier Darío Restrepo.

According to García's book, Edmundo Cruz, one of the most respected investigative journalists in Peru, also mentioned a series of ethical principles of journalistic exercise regarding the journalistic management of sources.

There are four principles: independence, which explains that there should never be any conditioning on the information given; the truth; responsibility in terms of what the journalist will report based on what was said by the source; and respect for the privacy of the sources. Cruz characterized this fourth and last ethical principle as "vital."

Concerning contacting prominent journalists for her research, García said that there were some interviewees who took years to interview, like Restrepo, whom she tried to contact starting in 2015. "I was very happy that (Restrepo) is the last one (interview) because the further along you are there are better questions and conclusions,” García said.

The journalist currently combines teaching at PUCP’s journalism school with her collaboration as a freelance investigative journalist at IDL-Reporteros, and other media.

There are 500 physical copies that have been printed in this first print run, and the digital version of the book is already available for free at this link.

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