How to find local, first-party sources to ramp up your reporting

By   |   May 4th, 2017   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Digital Journalism

content strategy, social media monitoring, content discovery

Why is it worth incorporating first-party sources into your reporting? Here’s how staying ahead of local sources can make your stories stand out.

There’s no dearth of challenges for the modern newsroom. With questions of fake news, how to be the first to breaking news stories, and how to differentiate your content, it’s hard to find the magic formula for all of these.

One tactic that hits these is using first-party sources in your storytelling.

Last week, NewsWhip Spike launched custom panels for all fifty states in the U.S., making access to first-party sources easier than ever. With these dashboards, it’s quick and time-effective to see the latest reports and news from primary sources in the U.S., over 10,000 police departments across the fifty states.

california first party reporting primary sources journalism

We can see what’s being reported within minutes of publication, and how local audiences are reacting. These social signals can clue us in on what could be a big story, or what that audience specifically cares about.

How does this initiative benefit publishers across the board, from the hyper-local sites to big regional names and even national publications?

Be first to breaking news

As we mentioned, we can sort these panels by the most-recently posted stories and announcements. This can alert us to any breaking news stories, well ahead of other media outlets.

Along with these updates, there’s an added bonus here. One primary source leads to more primary sources. As the community responds to the post and it gains traction, reporters have a wealth of reactions and local comments to cite. These comments can add context, other angles, or even bring in the perspectives of those involved.

Take the above story, about two missing preteens. The updated post about locating the girls is straightforward, just giving information.

But diving into the comments reveals insights from one of the girls’ guardians on why the girls ran away. The reason, which was that the girls weren’t allowed to date, could easily lend itself to a longer story, on preteen relationships, runaways, or LGBT youth.

While the benefit to local publishers is clear, there’s also an advantage for bigger publishers that can use recent breaking news stories to build out larger ongoing news themes.

For example, stories about environmental concerns, race issues, education, immigration, and more. These local stories and statements can bring new life to an older story, add human elements, or provide additional context.

An easy way to fact check


Discerning what’s real and what’s fiction has become a pressing concern for newsrooms. A recent report shows that since the election in November, readers are still the ones sharing disreputable news on the platform, not bots.

Using first-party sources can help navigate that.

It’s a basic tenet of journalism – knowing where your information is coming from. By using sources like local government institutions and real people, you’re adding a layer of verification to your reporting.

In addition to the written facts, law enforcement often has access to exclusive photos, video footage, and other media that can bulk up your storytelling. This all can help give your readers a story they know they can trust.

Find original stories


While the police blotters of print papers may be archaic these days, they did often offer snippets of  weird or wacky occurrences that are often only found in small towns. (Or Florida).

This is another value of staying ahead of what’s being published by first-party sources, and what’s stirring up engagement on social media. You can find wonderfully weird stories that are begging for the chance to go viral.

There are often positive stories too. Positive stories do well on social — publishers like the Dodo and LittleThings have seen their success come from the sharable nature of happier stories.

Police stations are eager to share these stories too, it seems. There are plenty of spotlights on more lighthearted moments and cases with happy endings. These posts also tend to do well on social, which helps signal them out through all the noise of other content.

What to know

So how can first-party sources help your storytelling? Let’s recap:

  • Add more detail, first-person narratives, breaking news to your reporting
  • Provide accountability to articles
  • Be a source of original stories

Going straight to local sources helps you cut through other filters and layers of reporting, and can make your storytelling more genuine as well. As social media favors authenticity and having a conversation rather than be lectured to, incorporating actual people can help.

Try our first-party source panels and stay ahead with your storytelling.

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