A student stayed after lecture to talk with me about the story she is working on – complications from having wisdom teeth removed. The story assignment for that week’s lab requires at least three sources. She has two: an oral surgeon and a UF student who has had his wisdom teeth removed.
“What I really need is someone who had problems having their wisdom teeth removed,” she says. “The student I interviewed didn’t have any problems.”
“So how can I find someone who had problems having their wisdom teeth removed?” she asks as if the task is a huge puzzle to solve.
By now, students for the next class are walking into the auditorium and sitting down.
I turn to the students sitting near where my student and I are standing –- probably about 20 students.
“How many of you have had your wisdom teeth removed?” I ask in a raised voice.
About 10 students raise their hands.
“How many of you had complications related to having your wisdom teeth removed?” I follow up.
Two raise their hands.
“There are two sources,” I say to my student.
She is wide-eyed as if I had just pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
Sometimes to find a source, you need to think of ways to find experts on a topic –- looking in the phonebook or reading a news release that quotes a source or using an expert list (like UF’s http://experts.ufl.edu).
Sometimes you can use the matchmaker approach. Once you’ve found a source, you can ask that person to recommend others who could be sources for your story.
But sometimes you just need to ask people you see around you –- standing in line in the food court, walking on campus, locking up a bike at the bike rack. You just need to reach your hand into that magic hat to see what rabbits you can pull out. That’s part of the challenge and the fun of reporting.