Time is always of the essence in news. Having a well-organized directory of sources, information officers and other contacts is key to saving time.
Certainly the power of internet search engines has drastically increased your power to find experts anywhere in the world, but you will still want to have your own in-house system of contact management.
There is no need to invent anything new here. Contact management software is easy to find and afford. If anything, some reporters who insist on maintaining paper rolodexes may need some convincing to switch over. What is important is that all news team members use the same system and dutifully update their contacts to a central database.
As smartphones become standard in newsgathering, you’ll be able to sync your portable device to your central contact database. For saftey, back-up your contact files. You may even wish to generate a paper print-out.
It may be necessary to code some entries as “private” — to indicate a reporter’s exclusive access to a special source. However, as much as possible, contacts should be shared by the news team and easily findable. (Some systems allow coding for shared and personal contacts and easy navigation among them. Again, try to build a shared database as much as possible.)
Be sure to fill in as much information as you can when you enter or update your contact record. Name, title, company, address, phone and email are vital. Adding keywords, associates and alternate contact info is also helpful.
The key to good contact database management is consistency. Managers set this as a priority and teams share the responsibility. Time needs to be devoted to upkeep. And corrections need to be made promptly.
It should go without saying that contacts gathered for journalistic purposes should not be exploited for any other purpose.