How do the local news find stories

If you want to turn to the media,

then for your own safety you should pay attention to a few notes!

If you want to give information and / or documents to the media, the point is that you want to bring three things together:

  • firstly your concern,
  • second, a suitable medium
  • and third, a professional journalist.

In addition, you try - fourthly, so to speak - not to make any 'stupid mistakes'. We give pointers to all of these things. In order to keep our hints and tips clearer, we divide everything into smaller sections. Their order results from a typical sequence as it can usually occur in such situations. This is the beginning of the workflow between the informant and the journalist.

Please note: What you are about to read in detail here is part of the DokZentrum project and can also be accessed via the as General information for whistleblowers can be found on this portal if you call up the relevant aspects on the left navigation bar or if you can do all of this using the link call.

The main differences between "informant" and "whistleblower":

  • Informants contact the media and are legally protected by editorial secrecy: the journalist does not have to explain to anyone who he got his information from. From a legal point of view, this is also called the right to refuse to give evidence.
  • Whistleblowers are people who either give information (first) internally or try to involve authorities or go public straight away. E.g. if they are not heard by the media. They are - in Germany - not protected.

Here is a small diagram that graphically outlines the differences again. The following considerations relate to potential "informants" who (want to) contact the media.

Selection of a suitable medium

The media also have their own 'laws', i.e. rules of the game that are based on their journalistic concept. What they publish depends on who uses this media or who the media really addresses (can or want to). This should be taken into account when looking for a suitable medium for your own information. Print media (newspapers, magazines), television formats, the online portals of these media or independent online portals that see themselves as media come into question. There are differences between all of them that can be significant for your information. At this point we are concerned with some basic considerations when choosing a medium. You can read some more specific information on how to approach the media underWho to turn to (otherwise).

Print media:

A local daily newspaper is mainly read in the catchment area of ​​this newspaper and the readers come from all walks of life. The content-related references of the news and reports are - apart from the general political part - more local or regional.
In the two big news magazines from Hamburg (SPIEGEL) and Munich (Focus), which are read nationwide, there are mainly stories that are either of interest across Germany because their various aspects take place on levels that are interesting for many, or it are stories that (initially) only have a local meaning, but which are so 'hearty' or so unusual that they should not be withheld from readers in other places.

The readership of such national magazines, especially news magazines, is different from that of a daily newspaper - it is mainly readers with a comparatively high income and level of education, academics (including students), so-called decision-makers and of course politicians who base such "news" Use magazines. In addition: Almost all journalists read both SPIEGEL and Focus and are often guided by their topics.
Of course, the two magazines differ in their thematic focus. But if you read both magazines in parallel for two or three weeks and then compare them, you will quickly get a feel for where your information would be best kept.

The weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, for example, which is also read nationwide, has the image of being "serious". What is in there is right from the start as undisputed or 'true' and radiates accordingly. Because the weekly newspaper makers always have a whole week to research and compile their reports and articles, or because a weekly newspaper only appears 52 times a year, many stories also compete for the space that is available in 52 editions. The same applies to the news magazines.

In the national daily newspapers (e.g. Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Frankfurter Rundschau or also taz) it is often easier to include information or stories, because they want (werk) to appear daily and have to fill their lines. It is an advantage if such national or 'only' national daily newspapers (e.g. WAZ in North Rhine-Westphalia or Augsburger Allgemeine in Bavarian) print their own regional editions for certain regions. Then, for example, a story with (initially) local reference has better chances: in the regional or local section. Maybe later in the national edition, if the story "carries" enough.

The situation is different, for example, with the weekly "star". The "stern" sees itself as a magazine and is therefore a combination or colorful mixture of entertainment, beautiful (or 'violent' or haunting) images and news. Background stories in the "stern", if they don't have what it takes to be the cover story or the big topic in the inside section, there aren't any. Above all, 'big' stories that are effective in the media and can also be illustrated well have a chance there. Specifically: the more prominent the name or company, the more scandalous the story, the greater the likelihood of ending up with the star.

In Austria the important magazines that come into question are called News, Profil or Format, in Vienna they are also called Falter. In Switzerland, that's fact or cash. But Swiss (daily) newspapers also bring a lot of explosive information, e.g. the SonntagsZeitung, the Tages-Anzeiger, the Baseler Zeitung, the WoZ (Wochen-Zeitung) or the Weltwoche, among others.

Watch TV:

Very different rules apply to television. The public broadcasters such as ARD and ZDF have a program mandate that is not based solely on audience ratings. That is why these channels are also financed through fees. In the case of private television companies, what counts above all is programs and content (so-called formats) that attract enough advertising customers, because only what makes a quota brings money.

Formats that are interested in information from whistleblowers can therefore be found primarily among public lawyers. Because in terms of the amount (program hours) they make up the largest share of information and documentation formats in the entire television landscape. The political news magazines on ARD that deal with 'hot' topics are called Panorama (NDR), Monitor (WDR), Contrasts (SFB), Fakt (MDR) and Report (SWR, BR). At ZDF these are frontal21, Reporter or ZDF Zoom. But the country index is also part of it.

All ARD stations, even if they do not have an independent Politmagazin editorial team, have at least one nationwide news program that goes on the station before the Tagesschau in the third program. Some of the broadcasters (e.g. NDR, WDR, MDR, SWR, BR, ZDF) also have regional studios in which journalists research and produce information and news from their catchment area - either for the state's own news program or for the nationwide news programs or for the other formats, dealing with explosive background stories and the like. But here, too, it is often more effective to address the editors on site or in the immediate vicinity than the central editorial offices at the headquarters of the broadcasters. Which broadcaster has regional studios and where can be found by calling the head office or on their homepage.

Despite the completely different economic and therefore also journalistic concept: Committed journalists also work for the private broadcasters. And the "private" ones too have critical and / or consumer-oriented formats, which deal with the worries and needs of the “little people”, but also with obvious grievances and the like. Just not in large numbers and often with a different topic preference. And only now and then do the "private" dare to take cover and let hard facts or pictures run over the station, even if the corresponding advertisers are not exactly happy about it (e.g. the format Team Wallraff - Reporter undercover on RTL).

The best way to find a suitable medium is to think about what your own story might look like and then compare where it would fit best and where similar stories have already happened. When making these considerations, however, it makes sense to give priority to the respective rules of the media and not to insist so much on your own wishes or ideas.

Two of the most important 'rules of the game' or requirements in television are - besides the fact that a TV journalist has to be interested in the topic - two things:

  • The topic or problem must also be able to be told in pictures
  • A TV report always has "original sounds", that is, interviews or statements from people who are ready to go in front of the camera. Even if they can (want or have to) be pixelated or otherwise obscured.

The medium of television only works with these two narrative formats.

Online media and platforms:

All of the major newspapers and magazines have long had their own online presence. With different objectives and concepts. It is important to know that the online editorial team in many media works completely independently of the other and usually much larger (print) editorial staff. For example at SPIEGEL, Focus, stern, DIE ZEIT, WAZ and others.

Apart from that, more and more smaller local internet portals are establishing themselves, which report on what the big and established do not (want) to write. As a rule, however, they do not (yet) have as many users as the established ones. For example or our documentation center (DokZentrum And there are a number of other websites, including what are known as leaking platforms. More about the latter on the website (there Chapter 5).

Differences between TV and print

And one more law or rule of the game is important. Print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) mainly print text and, to a certain extent, pictures. Television formats send in pictures, and only in pictures, which are, however, underlaid with text. This has direct consequences for the type of information and the stories that can be created from it.

The television only broadcasts what it can illustrate and where any people are willing to give interviews ("original sounds"). There are no TV reports without pictures or original sounds. And if an informant definitely doesn't want to be in front of the camera himself and nobody else can be found who could say something similar into the microphone, then things can look really bad with television.

A print medium can act differently. It can use words to describe things for which there would also be pictures. Even if photography or filming is not permitted. Text-based media can also describe more complex relationships. Because a reader can determine his reading and understanding speed himself. A television report runs at the speed of the content that the editor determines - after 6, 7 or even a few more minutes, the story is over.

Print media can also bring quotes, statements or excerpts from interviews, for example, without the persons concerned being seen or being described - anonymization is easier to handle in text form than with TV, where (almost) everything always has pictures and / or Must give O-tones.

Another difference is important: readers can read an article in a newspaper all day or a day later. And if you just missed the issue, you can quickly access an outdated daily newspaper edition from yesterday or the day before yesterday (e.g. in the newspaper itself or in the online archive). The same applies to the weekly magazines.
TV reports run when the report is on the air. After that it's all over. Only in some cases can you watch the film reports of the political magazines on the various media libraries or their homepages over a longer period of time. This is possible with panorama (NDR). The other political magazines hold their contributions for 12 months at most before they disappear into oblivion. And ordering a 6 to 8-minute contribution as a VHS cassette or DVD from a television station at a later date not only costs time (calls, written orders, advance payment, etc.), but also money (at ARD and ZDF approx. € 30 upwards, for private individuals from € 120 upwards).

As far as the lasting impact of information-based reports is concerned, the print media have a very clear advantage in this area that television can hardly catch up with. On the other hand, the effective range of television is usually greater, i.e. the number of people who actually see a television report (and not just pick up a printed magazine and leaf through it).

When you think about the media in question, you also take into account that the editorial offices draw a not inconsiderable part of their information from the sources of various news agencies. These in turn maintain a close-knit network of correspondents, suppliers and freelance journalists, which is spread across the whole country. News agencies also get information from almost all areas of life and are therefore also potential contacts. You can find the addresses under Who can be contacted.

Broad public vs. limited target group

If the information about problems, grievances, risks or imminent dangers is only of importance for parts of certain classes of the public or only the specialist public, it can also make sense to choose a medium that reaches these specific parts of the public. For example, many topics with a high economic relevance are preferred in business newspapers. Topics related to problems in sports can be found in completely different magazines, etc.

In such cases, the number of readers is lower overall (compared to SPIEGEL, for example, which is bought by just under a million people and some more read), but the degree of effectiveness is usually greater because one is addressing the 'right' target group. In any case, it is advisable to think carefully about:

  • What medium can you use to achieve this?

Looking for a journalistic professional

Regardless of whether you are still thinking about the choice of medium, you should also think about how you come across a boiling professional.

The search for a suitable medium and a professional usually runs in parallel. Because even the type of information or advice that one would like to pass on and make known can already narrow the range of media in question. And you don't always have the option of actually being able to choose from several media and / or journalists with whom you want to work. Sometimes it is the time pressure that rules out longer deliberations or other preparatory steps.

Observe similar stories in the media. Note which journalists are making these stories that you think are closest to your cause and / or your specific situation. Try to imagine how the journalists were able to make their stories or how the journalists - as far as you can estimate this yourself - probably dealt with their sources and informants. As a test, ask yourself after every sentence you read how you could have gathered this information yourself. You then quickly develop a feeling for how sensitive such stories and the information they contain can be, and how important it is to deal with them just as sensitively.
If you are of the opinion that you have found someone who meets these requirements, then the time has come: you have to establish the first contact.

The first contact

There are several options: telephone, letter or e-mail or anonymously. E-mail addresses can be obtained from the switchboard or there is a general e-mail address for the entire editorial team. In the latter case, write who exactly this message is intended for.

What you do depends on several things:

  • the working conditions to which journalists, and thus also your contact person, are subject
  • the amount of information that you want to convey and the foreseeable expenditure of time that is necessary to explain the story behind your references to problems, grievances and dangers to a stressed journalist
  • whether you appear to the journalist as an information provider or want to remain completely anonymous.

The work situation

in which your potential 'counterpart' is:

Journalists are constantly under enormous time pressure (many stories at the same time, editorial deadline, etc.). Hustle and bustle and stress are normal journalistic professional companions. So always assume that journalists are a little impatient and can rarely listen in complete relaxation, at least not for hours on the phone. Of course, journalistic professionals take their time, but only if they have it. Calling SPIEGEL or Focus on Thursday or even on Friday is the worst time you can imagine, because there is "production" - the editorial deadline ends on Friday and that means stress in its purest form. The same applies to a daily newspaper: the morning is always better than the afternoon and the afternoon is always better than the late afternoon, because at some point even a local editor only works towards the (very last) deadline. If you call Panorama or Report, make sure via your radio newspaper that the same thing is not happening there - you would only be disappointed if you called.

A first call, correctly timed, is primarily used to establish initial contact, to briefly present the topic or problem and to make an appointment for a further discussion. Unless you just want to get rid of a few clues over the phone.

If the

Extensive information

and the story, which consists of your information, is involved or complicated, it can make sense to announce a call in writing, for example by letter or in an e-mail, and at the same time to list a few but typical keywords in this very first contact initiation. that play a role in your story. Such a sketch of the content should really only be very brief. Definitely not more than one page. And it should really only contain the most important things, i.e. what you can describe - briefly - on just one single page.

On this page you should put together the most important events. And do not make any evaluation. Just the sober facts, specifically: the most important incidents with the names of those involved and the respective date.

Such a sketch, which of course should contain the explosive terms or names of the people involved, serves the sole purpose of signaling to the journalist, who does not yet know you, what (everything) is hidden in your story or that your information should actually be of interest to him. Your first written contact serves as an "appetizer", so to speak.
In such a case, you could also proceed the other way round: You ask the journalist to call you back - for example in several time windows that you define (e.g. "Only in the evening between 7 and 8 p.m."): You ask for a call back, for example by no later than a week if he should be interested in your information. You then have a test at the same time to see whether you have chosen the 'right' medium and / or the 'right' journalist.

Set a deadline - e.g. 7 days, within which you can ask for (initial) feedback. If there is no response, you will be reminded of your email after 10 days. If nothing comes up, then you should forget this contact and try elsewhere.

Means of communication: never fax and if telephone, then correctly

When you first contact us in writing, you always reveal initial (partial) information. If you send an e-mail, you give us your own e-mail address. If you send a letter with your own text, leave at least your own personal writing and writing style. In principle, none of this is a problem when contacting the media. You should just make sure that this initial contact takes place the way you actually want it. That is why you can use such means of communication, but you can also use the telephone as well. Or you can rely on personal contact.


There is one thing we definitely want to advise against: the fax machine!
Faxing is not particularly easy to control. If, for example, a number rotates unnoticed (which you will not notice if in doubt), your letter will not get where it should. And if you are unlucky, it will end up where it shouldn't be. In this way, a lot of information has already fallen into the 'wrong' hands.

If you get the (completely) wrong address while telephoning, you will notice it and you can hang up - even if you and the recipient are using an ISDN line: if you are connected incorrectly, nobody will write down a telephone number on the display. And with e-mail you have to enter a description or abbreviation close to the recipient's name, so that the risk of a (completely) wrong error is practically zero.

But there is still one problem with faxing: the identifier. You cannot rule out the possibility that what is printed out from the fax machine at the recipient will be provided with your sending telephone number. If the recipient forgets to cut off this fax ID or to make it unrecognizable in some other way, the sender ID will be further disseminated for every copy that is made of it. And this is what happens outside of your control


You can never rule out the possibility that someone - whoever - taps you on the phone or that official investigative authorities can obtain the so-called telecommunications connection data from the telecommunications service providers (i.e. Telekom, vodafone, O2, etc.). The latter concerns all information that includes the names and addresses of the callers, the time, the length of the conversation and, in the case of cell phones, the respective location of the call participants (catchment area of ​​the cellular antennas). In the first case, the eavesdroppers know exactly what is being said, in the latter case, who has spoken to whom and where they are.

To completely rule out this possible monitoring problem, there is only one possibility: You have to withdraw from the technical and organizational monitoring possibilities of others.

Legally seen there is usually nothing to be done, and if it does, then only afterwards, and this is usually too late.

From a technical and organizational point of view, the problem is much easier to solve, because the investigative authorities can only act within the scope of their technical possibilities (even if they are state-of-the-art) and above all their organizational capacities: listen in on all telephone calls throughout Germany and before evaluating all of the information you are looking for is simply not possible. Means: You have to use the telephone channels that fall into this non-possible area.

In the area of ​​the fixed network, this includes, for example, so-called public telephone booths or telephones. This is exactly what you should use for sensitive phone calls. Because investigative authorities can only monitor those telephone numbers that they a) know or research and which they can then b) control in terms of capacity. Neither of these works with public telephones.

Note on this occasion: Under no circumstances use the company or government telephone! Because in many cases calls or the so-called connection data are recorded and saved. Then you can easily reconstruct who phoned whom and when.

For cell phones:

  • If the journalist has a second mobile phone whose contract is not made out in his name or his editorial office, but which was bought by his cousin in a completely different city, for example, and is also on his account (which, however, the journalist takes over without showing his name) , then even for investigative authorities - from a technical and organizational point of view - it is impossible to identify this cell phone. As a result, such conversations are also safe. Especially when this mobile phone is used a) only rarely and b) only for sensitive missions. The latter is important so that the journalist does not notice surveillance stations because he seldom calls on his regular phone and thus indirectly provides information that he has another cell phone in use.
  • Trick two is even easier: You call with an anonymous prepaid cell phone and change it very often. Criminals, drug bosses and other crooks, for example, practice this with mostly great success, which is why the public prosecutor's office and police can only get ahead with the so-called large eavesdropping (wiretapping with the finest device), which is only permitted if serious criminal offenses are suspected (regulated in Section 100 a of the Code of Criminal Procedure) and must be approved by a judge. This great eavesdropping is more and more restricted by the Federal Constitutional Court and is even expressly prohibited in the case of the press (§§ 100c, 100d of the StPO).

Email communication:

The same applies here as when making a phone call. If you use US providers or services, you are almost automatically subject to the eavesdropping methods that we have known since Edward SNOWDEN are used across the board. On the other hand: Not all information is of interest for certain (skimming) services. This would not work in terms of capacity. Here you have to weigh up.

Much more important is the question of which email address you use as the sender or which account should be used for communication. Under no circumstances use the work address. If you want something more secure, you can set up a temporary e-mail address - for a certain period of time and for specific purposes. For example at or (German provider!). This is easier than you think. If necessary, you can let a third person run everything (e.g. at the beginning) if you can find someone who agrees to do so. And of course you have to be able to trust.

For your own safety:

  1. Ask your journalistic interlocutor at a very early stage how he intends to arrange the technical and organizational security of your telephone or digital communication.
  2. Let him make the specific suggestions for this - he should explain to you how he thinks it. You can then decide for yourself whether this is 'safe' enough for you.

If your interlocutor has no ideas or no specific knowledge, he is not a professional for such things. If you want to bring yourself up to date with an investigative journalist and understand how he thinks and works, we recommend the book by the initiator of this website: Johannes Ludwig: Investigatives Recherchieren, 3rd edition, Konstanz: UVK-Verlag. There is also a website for this textbook which has additional tips and case (Chapter 6) provides information and tips on 'Hot Docs', sensitive data and (ge) secure (t) e communication.

There is also a special chapter about an IT expert and professional data protection officer:

IT & IT security. Detailed additions by Michael G. SCHMIDT

The more you know about these things and know the specific usages of journalists, the better you can assess your potential 'counterpart'.

Personal - pseudonym - anonymous

Of course, there is also anonymous contact. However, the contact is then one-sided. Depending on whether and which options are allowed for a second contact, the journalist has the opportunity to ask questions: things that he does not understand, or questions that arise after reading a sketch of the content or other documents. Since journalists practice their own rules for checking and verifying information and materials, and must do so for reasons of caution and due journalistic due diligence, anonymous mailings without the possibility of further inquiries or without the sender calling a second time are always very annoying . Unless the documents sent are so informative and self-explanatory that the journalist should be able to cope with them in the foreseeable future. In any case, the option with feedback is always the better and more effective variant. Since the informants are automatically protected by the media contacted, this should not be a problem. If you do not (yet) want to identify yourself completely at the beginning, choose a pseudonym ("My name is Miller!").

The (first) conversation and first agreements

When in doubt, the relationship between whistleblower / informant and media representative is always a very individual relationship that must be based on mutual trust. Everything else works more badly than right. It is crucial that everyone can rely on the agreements made with the other one hundred percent.

Of course, the quality of such a 'secret' and therefore very individual relationship depends on the type or explosiveness of the information and on the risk that the informant takes. 'Small' information that can be communicated quickly requires less organizational effort and fewer concrete agreements than a more in-depth and extensive exchange of information.
Regardless of what is going on, you should in any case agree on specific terms and conditions during the first detailed conversation

  1. concerns the function of yourself and
  2. what quality your first conversation should have.

What yourfunction As far as that is concerned, you are either a tipster or a whistleblower and leave everything else to the journalist. That would be one extreme. Or, a completely different alternative: You have more information and / or documents - and, in case of doubt, you are ready to vouch for the authenticity of your materials and information by means of a written "affidavit". In case of doubt, such a declaration would be included in the trial files if the opposing party filed a lawsuit after publication. The opposing attorney can then easily get an idea of ​​this affidavit and your undersigned, and pass this information on to his client, who in case of doubt is your declared opponent.

Between these two extreme cases there are several possibilities, in between, so to speak, how you can or want to 'get involved'. And that is exactly what you should talk to the journalist you have chosen from the outset.

The following typical situations can be arranged:

  • case 1: You You appear personally with your story or the information that you add to an ongoing story - in the case of print media, for example, with names and quotations; on television with name, picture and original sound (interview). So you identify yourself as an informant.
  • Case 2: You stay in the background and only the journalist knows your name, your telephone number, your professional position and your concerns. In such a situation there are several variants that you also need to clarify. The conversation is initially a background conversation and serves to exchange information or to hand over information and / or documents. Depending on what they are, the information and / or documents can be used in one form or another.

    And depending on what you agree on, your name will not be named, but you may be roughly described as a source, but not exactly definable, with regard to your position and professional function (e.g. "a chemical engineer from a large pharmaceutical company in a managerial position"). How far you can or want to go will depend on the extent to which one can draw conclusions about their source from your information and / or documents, if they are published. You can judge that best. A journalistic professional will be able to advise you on this. He can and will also make his own thoughts about alternative solutions. The most cautious option would then be
  • Case 3: It is also a background conversation, but you will not appear at all in the subsequent use of your information, not even as an anonymous source - regardless of what information you have or give.

    In addition to these 3 variants, there is a further, a fourth case, and you should also take this situation into account, although this is the most unfavorable variant for journalists:

  • Case 4: It is often the case - and this is very important for understanding the journalistic research and work process - that a journalist can also work with information and / or documents without using them in any way. If he knows what is going on, he can try to research or verify this very thing in a completely different way. He just has to know what to look for or what to look for.

    Example: The informant has documents that, contrary to the regulations, a company does not correctly declare hazardous waste and b) then dispose of these toxic substances in a normal landfill. The informant's documents prove this.The journalist can now, for example, take his own samples at the landfill and examine them in a laboratory without directly evaluating the documents, and lo and behold: the information from the whistleblower is correct. The story starts rolling without the informant showing up in any way.

    For this reason, information or materials that cannot be used directly are useful aids: They either broaden the starting point for further research or narrow down the search in a more targeted manner. However, this is the most labor-intensive variant for the journalist of all. And whether this works depends on their interest, time budget and other capacities. As a rule, such arrangements are designed for the long term, if a media representative should, can or will gradually familiarize himself with a new or specific subject.

Depending on what a) you want yourself and b) what the journalist would like from you and c) depending on how you both then come to terms, the

Quality of the (first) conversation

possibly only provisional work character: Everything you discuss takes place "off records", ie the journalist cannot use any information and / or documents - at least not as long as you have not given her "ok" to have. Or you can already exchange information and / or documents that can be quoted and / or used during this first conversation, because more or less everything can be discussed and (temporarily) clarified on this occasion.

No matter how: You should clarify the situation clearly from the beginning: 1) your role and 2) the quality of this conversation. The best way to do this is to take the floor first and say clearly what is going on and whether the journalist can live with it, without much back and forth and without first drinking a beer (and then another, etc.) . He will be able to!


The informant "Deep Throat", unknown until May 2005, whose first vague hints and later more concrete tips and information got the Watergate affair rolling in 1972, always had an underground car park all in one as a meeting point with the Washington Post reporter Outskirts of the US capital selected. And this at night or between 1 and 3 o'clock. The journalist should even change both the taxi and its direction of travel at least once on the way there in order to shake off any pursuers.

It doesn't have to be that dramatic, at least not always. Nevertheless, some precautionary measures are also appropriate in this regard, because life also lives from coincidences or, in the worst case, from 'stupid coincidences'.

The fact that you do not meet a journalist at work in your own company about whom you want to pass on information does not need to be mentioned. On the other hand, the fact that one is confronted with a coincidence at other locations can never be completely ruled out. In such a case, you should choose places for your meeting point that are completely unsuspicious because someone who sees you there with anyone else does not give any thought to them. For example, if you often go to a department store restaurant to eat or have a coffee after your shopping, this is the place to choose. If your work colleagues, who might be watching you, even know that you do this more often, so much the better. Nobody suspects. You can just as easily do this in a train station restaurant or a motorway service station in your immediate vicinity if you cannot arrange the appointment in your apartment or if you do not want to go straight to the journalist's office. No matter what you do, make sure that it looks as normal as possible.

Often the journalist will make you a suggestion (e.g. a hotel, hotel restaurant) who knows about your problems. And actually he should then ask you whether you can agree with what he proposes to you at meeting points. This would also be a first test of how seriously the journalist takes your situation and your risk.

Who pays the bill in the restaurant?

If you want to be on the safe side, the answer is clear: yourself.

The problem is that even a journalist or a media company can only deduct "entertainment expenses" if there is an official invoice for them, and the name of the "entertaining person" must then also be on such receipts - for the purposes of tax verifiability . If such an invoice goes through other hands (bookkeeping, auditor of the tax office), then in the worst case under "hosted person" there is not the general note "informant" or something similar, but a real name. Precisely that cannot be in your interest.

Only when you can feel absolutely confident about speaking to professionals can you be sure that such carelessness will not happen. You can trust journalists who come from the media or from editorial offices who regularly bring explosive information to the public with the help of informants. You can be invited by such professionals without any worries.

The situation is different in situations in which you are not absolutely sure that your name is (not) on the expense report. Not all daily newspaper journalists have experience with such things and not all publishers or broadcasters or their accounting departments handle such documents accordingly, so that no conclusions can be drawn from them about the "people entertained". Therefore, the same applies here: a little more caution is always better than a little less caution. And the bill can't actually get that high, because you don't meet for a leisurely 'dinner', but rather to 'work'.

Tips for exchanging information in conversation

If it comes to such a meeting and you want to convince a journalist of your concern, i.e. the importance of your information or the drama of the grievances, then it is usually the most effective way if you consider the following points:

  • Before you tell your whole story in detail, prepare a written summary. And as short as possible. Try to achieve this by writing down the most important keywords and names (of people or companies) on a single A4 sheet of paper before the interview (if possible several days in advance). These are the key words that you definitely don't want to leave out. It is different if, as described above, you have already sent such a sketch to the editor beforehand.
  • Assume that a journalist will immediately ask very specific questions in order to get an impression for himself and to clarify any ambiguities that he did not understand. The shorter you keep your story, the more effective it is for him.
  • It is extremely helpful - for you and the journalist - if you add a one-page keyword slip to a schedule in which the most important events and processes are again listed chronologically and clearly. Firstly, this helps you (everything will be a bit more concise and therefore shorter for you too), and secondly, it helps the journalist, who can quickly understand the story and its contextual links based on the events over time. You can see what such a timeline can look likevia this link Experienced. And here there is Template in Word formatthat can be used to fill out.
  • Don't be surprised: because time is a journalist's most precious resource, he or she may keep interrupting you with questions. Don't take this as a sign of disinterest or lack of credibility. Its main purpose is to get a coherent overview more quickly.
  • Don't overdo it when presenting your facts. A journalist who has to do with facts and strange things because of his job and who can therefore quickly assess what can be published and under what conditions, will quickly assess your importance, but will also quickly notice if something is exaggerated is pictured. Exaggerations and incomplete or incorrect facts gnaw at your own credibility - not good for your cause.
  • If you have had bad experiences (several times) in connection with your story and your concern yourself, or if you have been treated injustice, or if you have been treated badly and unfairly and you have every reason to be offended or feel improperly treated: For the time being, hold back your personal feelings and concentrate fully on the individual incidents that you want to convey. The journalist must first know the facts. After your personal assessment and your personal well-being, etc., he will automatically ask for it. He just has to know the facts beforehand before he can understand how you feel about it and how you must have fared.
  • If you are a specialist in your field and you are using a specific technical terminology, if all things in your field also appear completely clear and coherent to you, then please remember that the person you are talking to is not an expert. Just take into account that you have to explain a lot of things that the journalist must first a) understand objectively, then b) understand the content in order to c) then really be able to assess how big the problem, the grievances or the potential dangers are, of which you want to convince him. Use simple comparisons for difficult explanations. The faster the journalist will understand, because understanding quickly and drawing conclusions from facts is his daily job.

Documents and other documents

If you have documents or other documents with you that should prove your story, think about beforehand (!) How you want to deal with them. Either you take them with you right away, then the journalist will insist that you take them with you right away. From his point of view and way of working, this is absolutely understandable. If you want to approach the whole thing a little more carefully, i.e. more slowly, leave these documents (initially) at home or in an absolutely safe place. Do not hand over these things until later, e.g. after this first personal interview you are sure that you want to work with this journalist and this medium. Or you just bring a sample with you the first time. Regardless of how you decide beforehand: Talk to your counterpart about it and make clear agreements.

Two more things should be just as important to you:

Documents that you have 'got out' from somewhere and that are important and regardless of whether they are paper or digital files, should definitely be backed up once - and only then and there when and where you are out of the 'danger zone' . You should also securely deposit a complete set of these documents or materials (if possible) in a completely different location. Security - from loss (fire, theft or whatever) is one thing; the security of knowing what exactly one has passed on is the other. The latter can sometimes become important afterwards. And if, for example, you reproduce documents a second time in a copy shop, be careful not to accidentally leave the 'originals' lying around - if it is a friendly and service-oriented copy shop, it would Send the papers (back) to the person who is identified there on the letterhead or as the addressee or in some other way. That might not be what you want.

Second aspect: documents and records are usually always provided with some additions: receipt or diary numbers; Abbreviations or notes that should mean who should be aware of everything or who already has knowledge of it; Remarks from a person in charge of what should be done with it; Recommendations or other comments and so on and so forth. Such often cryptic abbreviations, numbers or digits can often be used to identify who a) had or could have had access to such a document at all. And who already had this document in their hands. And so on. In other words: such abbreviations, numbers and digits often have a 'tell-tale' character. Very bad when such 'smuggled out' documents get back to where someone could miss them or who have absolutely no interest in further dissemination via some path and / or stupid coincidence.

For this reason, you should carefully consider whether you - initially - do not simply 'remove' such things from the set of copied documents that you want to pass on and leave everything in your original or security set of copies. Talk to the journalist about whether such handwritten or other 'ingredients' on the documents are important to him. And only when he can convince you that he can handle it absolutely professionally, you should give him a set of copies with all the 'ingredients'.

But still: Always keep a set of safety documents in a safe place yourself. And he should be so sure that nobody guesses that he exists. It is easiest if you deposit it with a reliable friend. First of all, he does not have to know why he should keep a thick envelope for you, and secondly, if the going gets tough, no public prosecutor would get a judicial search warrant for the apartment of someone you are friends with. Such a search warrant is only valid for the person to whom it is issued, but this can also mean that it also includes your girlfriend or partner and their apartment. You should definitely take this into account, and therefore under no circumstances should such documents lie dormant there.

In addition: 'Removing' things on paper copies means exactly the following: Blacking - with a marker or something similar - is not enough. You have to blacken it properly, preferably by cutting it out, and then photocopying it again. Only on this new sentence is there really nothing left to recognize (for 'experts' who are really familiar with such things). In the case of digital documents, "redacting" only works if you do it with suitable software, and once you have redacted it, it is no longer possible for anyone to undo it. The Acrobat Pro (Professional!) Software has such a function.

If the journalist, at the first (covetous) look at your documents and in response to your specific question as to how he intends to deal with them, goes into everything you read here and draws your attention to the same or similar problems and therefore with Tells you about it too, then you can assume that it is a professional. Then you can also respond much more flexibly to his wishes. Or you come together much faster when it comes to handling your documents safely.

Trust and agreements

The basis of trust that is necessary between the informant, i.e. the whistleblower, on the one hand and a journalist on the other, usually has to be established relatively quickly. Otherwise, at least information and stories that are current or urgent will not work. This assumes two things:

  • clear agreements as well
  • The reliability of such agreements.

In plain language, this means that as a whistleblower who - in case of doubt - takes the greater risk, you should insist on clear agreements: What exactly will happen to your information / documents? When and how should they be published? How do you show up in the publication - in the background or not at all? And so on. Second, you should make it absolutely clear that there cannot be any unilateral change in these agreements. Only then will you have reliability and be able to better calculate your own precautionary measures (e.g. vacation during the publication).
If you have the feeling that your counterpart, the journalist, is not playing along or is evading your ideas, then you have come across the wrong person. Break off contact and look for someone else.

The showdown

When the time comes, i.e. the story is about to be published, it may be useful to draw up a kind of 'battle plan' for different situations, to agree on specific rules of behavior with the medium so that there can be no confusion. But that depends on what reactions the published information (can) trigger. And depending on this, you could then agree on alternative options for action, but just beforehand. Specifically, the question of how to proceed afterwards should be identified. In other words, whether contacts should be possible afterwards, via which means of communication these should run, at what times best, or whether one should not stay in regular contact with one another at all for the time being.In addition, if the date of publication is not (exactly) fixed, it can make sense for the journalist to inform his informant or the whistleblower in advance about when and when the story should be exactly. And so on. It is simply an advantage if there is clarity for both sides as to what needs to be done and what not for this time period.

After that

Even 'after' is not over. Imagine the following simple situation: you meet 'your' journalists at some occasion, a reception, a party, in the department store or anywhere else and you cannot be sure that you are not being watched by anyone. Any unnatural action (you don't greet him, you turn around suddenly, etc.) would be noticed immediately. Hence the recommendation: You should already talk about it during your joint work process with the journalist. He will probably recommend what we want to do here, too: In such cases, behave as you would without having a 'secret' relationship. If you didn't know him otherwise, then you don't know him at the party either, and you ignore him. And if you would otherwise greet him from afar, then do it here too. The motto is not to attract attention, but to act as usual.

Because that is the last recommendation that we can give here: in the future, as a rule, almost everything will continue as before for you: You are not known as the source and behave as you have always done. And if you've always been a bit critical and bold, keep that attitude going into the future. And if you were rather silent, then you will remain so in the future. In no case should you use any gestures, facial expressions or even hidden hints to indicate that you yourself were the trigger for the publication in question and the changes that it brought about. If you really want to remain anonymous, this is the greatest challenge for you: that you cannot be praised for your actions. At least not right now.