Tips to Expand Your Source Network and Develop Great Story Ideas

I’ve lived in Knoxville, Tenn., essentially since 1968 and know a lot of people through my work at the News Sentinel. But earlier this month there was a story on four people recognized in the inaugural Latino Awards by Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, and I had only heard of one of them.

Lourdes 001

Lourdes Garza
(Photo:Diocese of Knoxville)

I was introduced to both Hispanic/Latino and border issues when I lived in El Paso, Texas, from 1996 to 1997 and served as editor of the El Paso Herald-Post. El Paso is predominantly Hispanic and Catholic.

In addition, I take to heart the SPJ Code of Ethics, which addresses the need for journalists to report on all aspects of the community and particularly to “tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.” I review the code once in awhile and always introduce it to students when teaching journalism at the University of Tennessee.

It turns out some of the Knoxville honorees are involved in multiple issues affecting the Hispanic community here, offering a route to interesting stories and contacts. I suspect this would be the case for similar award-winners in any community.

One of the Knoxville recipients was attached to the Catholic Diocese. Lourdes Garza, director of Hispanic Ministries of the Diocese of Knoxville, received the Spirit of Inspiration award for helping Hispanic community members integrate into parish life activities.

I had heard Garza’s name, but I didn’t know the other winners: Jose Luis Santiago, De Ann Pendry, and Santiago Cuccarese.

Jose Luis Santiago

Jose Luis Santiago
(Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Santiago received the Spirit of Transformation award for his work with Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville in helping others solve problems in various aspects of their lives. It turns out he also has become active in opposing Knox County’s possible adoption of the controversial 287(h) federal immigration program, in which local and state law enforcement agencies collaborate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Pendry, the only non-Latino to receive an award, received the Espiritu Latino award for working with the Hispanic immigration-rights movement. She teaches courses in Latino studies, migration and trans-nationalism and similar areas at UT.

Cuccarese received the Spirit of Innovation award for his work with MiBanco and with the Bank of Camden, where he serves as vice president. MiBanco is a Latino-centered bank and actively supports the Hispanic community and its businesses. Cucarese is also active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee.

Santiago Cuccarese

Santiago Cuccarese
(Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Here are some tips to finding similar people in your own communities:

  • The Catholic Church. It’s heavily involved in Hispanic/Latino issues. A starting point for gathering information might be the U.S. Conferences of Catholic Bishops. The organization has a wide network.
  • The Chamber of Commerce. Most communities have a chamber and in all likelihood someone there is familiar with Hispanic businesses or if a Hispanic Chamber has been formed. There’s a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Look over its list of corporate sponsors, including banks. Chances are your local contacts at banks can put you in touch with other individuals and businesses.
  • Universities. There are oodles of resources at institutions of higher learning. In one of my public affairs classes, I needed to know for editing purposes the possession of Muñoz. The AP stylebook didn’t address it. I called a friend who teaches Spanish at UT and she gave me the answer: Muñoz’s. Professors of political science, sociology, religion, business – the gamut – can be resources.

With a little bit of exploration, expanding your sources is easy.

Georgiana Vines is retired associate editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and an active member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. 

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