Mexico: “How Attentive Are Journalists in Considering the Privacy Of Our Sources?”

September 3, 2017

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – When I began reporting this story about the increase in shopping centers in the country, I thought the easiest part would be conducting interviews and taking photos inside the shopping malls. It would be just like doing the same things in a park or any other public space, I thought.

Instead, it proved difficult to find a mall where a manager would allow me to photograph. When I finally secured permission, one condition was that my work would not affect the consumer’s experience. The mall manager was concerned about how people would feel while engaging in what those directors try to market as a fun, safe activity.

This request got me thinking: How attentive are journalists in considering the privacy of our sources? Do we place a similar level of care for sources who don’t have anyone to look out for their best interests?

At Global Press, we know that in addition to always disclosing to sources that we are journalists, we also have to ask for their names so we can identify them correctly in published stories. Sometimes people are skeptical of our motives and refuse to be quoted. In other cases, people agree to be interviewed but not photographed, or they’ll give us information but be reluctant to provide their names.

As journalists, we constantly try not to be frustrated by what feels like rejection. It’s a constant learning process to generate confidence in potential sources and explain to them why their identities are so important in establishing a story’s credibility.

Encounters with sources are often by chance. We approach strangers in the street; we knock on the doors of homes; we interrupt them in their daily activities. And we expect them to speak with us and share their stories and opinions.

This is all in a day’s work for a journalist. We are generally very comfortable approaching strangers and we’re confident asking them tough questions.

But I have to remind myself, and sometimes my colleagues, that it is also our job to be conscious of and empathetic about what we’re asking of our sources, especially when so many of the stories published on Global Press Journal are about people living in vulnerable circumstances or who’ve had their rights trampled.

This seemingly small interaction for a story on shopping malls forced me to consider how much I have asked of the people who make my stories possible. I refuse to accept that the only people who deserve care and attention to their privacy are those within an enclosed space, such as a shopping mall.

Natalia Aldana, GPJ, translated this blog from Spanish.