Published On: Fri, Jun 21st, 2019

The trouble with sources

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

When you publish a story about a rather sensitive subject – like plans to sell the port of St. Maarten to a third party, combined with whispers about the formation of a broad coalition – it tends to spread like wildfire.

Is it true? Is it melee? And who on earth leaked that information?

It is all understandable because this is human nature: we like to know things and if we don’t know them we make them up.

So it went with the story I wrote under the headline ‘Global Ports Holding eyeballs the cruise port in St. Maarten’.

That the story spread like wildfire is a good thing. This information had to come out in the open so that citizens can express their thoughts about it. Let the games begin!

As an independent journalist I rely heavily on sources that are prepared to share information with me, most of the time under one condition: it is off the record.

Off the record does not mean that you cannot use the information. It means that you cannot use the information in such a way that it can be traced back to the source. That’s part of the code of ethics of professional journalists: you protect your source. Always. No matter what.

It is obviously rather inconvenient if gossip mongers point to the possible sources of your story. Those people (the possible sources, not the gossip mongers) could get in serious trouble – and for no reason at all.

Defending yourself against such rumors is near impossible. After all, melee is about what you want to believe – not about what is actually true.

One piece of feedback I received was: “the story is completely accurate.” That shows that my sources are good. And obviously, I am not going to tell my readers – or anybody for that matter – who my sources were.

But I am prepared to reveal who they were not:

They were not members of parliament.

They were not civil servants.

They were not investigators of the Anti Corruption Task Force TBO.

They were not affiliated with any local political party.

And no, it was not André Bosman nor Ronald van Raak.

They were not members of the government.

If anybody is still interested in finding the sources for my story: good luck to you, but you won’t find them. Not. Ever. You don’t even know where to look.


Related article:
Global Ports Holding eyeballs the cruise port in St. Maarten


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